The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for The Positive Leadership Approach  

There are many models for leadership. Let’s consider one of these approaches.

Good leaders are often like good parents. They are positive and predictable. They also enable motived people to achieve peak performance.

Difficult leaders are like difficult parents. They are negative and unpredictable. They result is that people feel unsure and unable to do their best.

Good leaders are credible. Whilst being positive, they are good at explaining challenging situations and the possible solutions. People see them as truthful and also sometimes inspiring.

They are predictable. They explain the principles they believe in following and they aim to be consistent. People know what to expect and this helps to create a feeling of predictability.

Good leaders each have their own ways of enabling people to do their best. Depending on their strengths, they may be good at inspiring, educating or a creating a framework in which people can do great work.  They do have one thing in common, however, when taking this step.

They create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Looking back, can you think of a positive leader who demonstrated some of these qualities in their own way? How did they translate these into action? What happened as a result?

If you wish, try tacking the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a leader who was positive, predictable and enabled motivated people to achieve peak performance.

Describe the specific things they did to demonstrate these qualities.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Different leaders follow these strategies in different ways. Let’s explore some of these ways.

Positive

Imagine you lead a team. On a scale 0-10, to what extent do you believe people perceive you as positive? What can you do to maintain or improve the rating?

Why pose the question this way? Some leaders see themselves as positive, but the way they behave towards other people can come across as negative.

Positive leaders act as good models and create an encouraging environment. The ways they behave can affect people throughout an organisation. Here are two examples that I witnessed.

Let’s return to your own work. Looking at the people you lead or work with, to what extent do you think they rate you as being positive?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the extent to which you believe other people see you as positive. Rate this on a scale 0-10. 

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Predictability

Good leaders are predictable. People know what to expect from them and the guidelines they can follow in their daily work. They don’t have to spend time guessing how the leader will behave that day.

Negative leaders can be unpredictable. They can veer from being stable to being sarcastic, ranting or cruel. People spend time guessing the leader’s mood. This does not help them to do good work.

Good leaders are caring rather than callous. They aim to build a positive culture where people are clear on ‘the way we do things around here’. They therefore take the following steps.

They communicate the required professional standards and give the reasons for these standards;

They personally follow these professional standards and keep sharing success stories that highlight how employees are translating the standards into action; 

They act immediately to maintain the professional standards and protect the culture if somebody chooses not to follow these standards.

Good leaders sometimes go a step further. When taking over a team, for example, they explain their leadership style. People then know what to expect from the leader rather than spend six months guessing.

Different leaders do this in different ways. The following section describes an exercise I have used with leaders to help them explain their leadership style to people.

Afterwards the team members often say that it is good to know what they can and can’t expect from the leader. They can then take a stand towards how they respond.

Imagine that you are taking over a team. Here are some steps you can take to communicate your leadership style to people.

Clarifying Your
Leadership Style

This exercise invites you to clarify and then communicate the following things to people.

* The things you will and won’t do as a leader. 

* The Dos and Don’ts for working well with you. 

* The consequences of your style.

Be very honest when completing the exercise. This is about your actual leadership style. It is not your aspirations.

Remember, there are not necessarily good or bad styles. But there are consequences. Below is the exercise. This is accompanied by an example of what one person wrote when communicating their leadership style.

Communicating
Your Leadership Style

If you wish, find an appropriate time to share your leadership style with your team. I have often invited leaders to do this during a leadership team workshop, but other times can also be appropriate.

Providing it is communicated properly, the response is normally positive. People like to know how their leader operates, so it’s good to make the implicit explicit. They can then take a stand towards how they work with you.

This exercise also works with leaders who have been with a team for a long time. After one such leader shared it with their team on a workshop one person gave the following reactions.

“We have been working together for 5 years, but this document sums you up, warts and all. For example, it took me 6 months to figure out that you have a memory like an elephant, even though you seldom write anything down.  

“At first I thought you weren’t paying attention during our conversations, but later you could recount every detail. Now I tell new starters to ignore your body language, which can be a bit disconcerting.

“They need to know that you notice every detail about them and the conversation. Some people find this intimidating, but most eventually get used to you.

“I wish somebody had told me your rules when I first joined the team.”

The leader who gave the examples mentioned above later met with me. They explored how to build on the pluses and minimise the minuses of their style. They explained this in the following way.

“Building on the pluses, I will continue to provide direction and give people the tools they need to do their jobs.  

“Aiming to minimise the minuses, I will spend one hour with each person each month. Ahead of the meeting, I will ask them to do some preparation. 

“I will provide them with a framework they can use to send me an email describing: a) The specific things they have done well during the past month and how they can build on these; b) The specific things they can improve in the future and how; c) The plans they have for the next month and the practical support they need from me.” 

“We can have some quality time together. I will aim to help them to keep developing and also make their best contribution to the company.”

Team members often appreciate the honesty a leader puts into this exercise. Some leaders also invite their people to do a similar exercise about themselves.

This can form the basis for helping to build on their strengths. Here is a link to this exercise called My Preferred Working Style. 

My Preferred Working Style 

Good leaders are predictable. Even though, in some cases, this means that people know that the leader is sometimes unpredictable in a positive way.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking at yourself as a leader, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe the extent to which you are predictable. Rate this on a scale 0-10. 

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Peak Performance

Good leaders often combine personal humility and professional will, says Jim Collins. Writing in his book Good To Great, he says that such people – whom he calls Level 5 Leaders – often get the best from people. They also create a positive legacy.

Such leaders enable motivated people to achieve peak performance.  Different people do this in different ways. Depending on their strengths, they may be good at inspiring people, educating people or a creating a framework in which people can do great work.

Some lead a team that focuses on its purpose, follows its principles and achieves its picture of success; 

Some lead a team that focuses on its values, translates these into a clear vision and does valuable work; 

Some lead a team that enables people to flow, focus, do fine work, finish and find fulfilment; 

Some lead a team that encourages people to build on their strengths, do superb work and achieve ongoing success; 

Some lead a team that follows Robert Greenleaf’s approach to servant leadership – they serve the people who aim to serve a particular cause.

Good leaders realise that they are judged by the performance of their people rather than just by their own performance. This is an obvious but often overlooked concept that can come as a profound realisation to some leaders.

An organisational leader is judged by the performance of their people. A soccer coach is judged by the performance of their players. A teacher is judged by the performance of their students.

Benjamin Zander, the conductor, described his own insight regarding this concept. This came when he was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. Here is a summary of what Benjamin said.

“Walking into the auditorium for the first rehearsal with the orchestra, I had a realisation about my role as a conductor. This came as an epiphany, because in the music world the conductor is seen as all powerful.   

“My realisation was this. It did not matter how much I waved my arms around. The audience was going to judge my work by the performance of the musicians in front of me.”

Many leaders are promoted because they are charismatic, good implementers or technically brilliant. They may therefore have both strengths and weaknesses.

One approach is to help the leader to build on their strengths. They may, for example, be able to become a superb thought leader. They can also be helped to build a good leadership team that can compensate for any weaknesses. Tom Rath, an expert on strengths leadership, explained this approach in the following way. His findings have shown that:

Great leaders are not always well-rounded, but great leadership teams are well-rounded.

People leaders need to develop certain skills, however, to create superb teams. This calls for crossing an emotional Rubicon. It means realising that they will be judged by their people’s performance.

One rising leader I worked with in a giant tech company had such an epiphany. Here is the gist of what he said.

“For me this will mean changing my mindset. I have got to this stage of my career by being driven and hitting certain targets.  

“I now want to be a good people leader. Whilst I have some of the necessary skills, I want to learn how to create a framework that helps other people to succeed.  

“I’m not sure how this approach will be perceived, however, because we are still an organisation that rewards individual performance. But I want to help the people in my part of the business to thrive and perform at their best.” 

Imagine that you lead a team. How can you continue to be positive and predictable? How can you enable motivated people to achieve peak performance?

How can build on your strengths as a leader? How can you work with other people who provide complementary strengths? How can you then follow your chosen approach and guide the team to success?

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you do the following things.

Describe the extent to which you enable motivated people to achieve peak performance. Rate this on a scale 0-10. 

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>