We are getting smarter about work and people and the intersection between them. More and more, working people are telling the truth about topics that they were afraid to talk about openly before. One of the stickiest topics is the quality of leadership found in large and small employers.
We are starting to tell the truth about the fact that most people in leadership positions are lacking in critical skills.
They don’t know how to talk to their employees and they don’t know how to listen. If they received any management training at all, they were probably trained to dole out work assignments and evaluate people. They don’t know how to probe for understanding or how to create cohesion on a team.
Here are seven leadership skills most managers lack.
A good manager can take another person’s perspective, whether the other person is a customer, the manager’s boss, or an employee on the manager’s team. Strong managers can see the world through someone else’s eyes. Unless managers talk through situations and gain perspective on them, they will not easily grow this skill on their own.
The skill of allowing is the ability not to react in the moment when you hear bad or startling news, but to keep breathing and give the situation time to unfold. Too many new and even experienced managers freak out whenever they hear something they don’t like. That is not a trait that strong leaders possess.
Real leaders allow people to be who they are, and they allow all the good things and bad things that happen in any workplace to happen because they know that they and their teammates can solve any problem if they keep their cool and resist the urge to place blame.
Curiosity is one of the most important skills for a leader to cultivate. Curiosity requires us to ask questions. Instead of saying, “That’s not the policy” or “I hate that idea” or “That’s not your decision to make!” a strong leader will say, “Tell me more. I want to understand your thought process!”
Critical thinking means thinking beyond what we’ve been taught. It means looking at situations from all angles. We don’t teach kids much about critical thinking in school — we test them to see whether they’ve memorized a bunch of useless information that we’ve pumped into their heads instead. Critical thinking is important for everyone, and it’s especially important for people who are put in charge of teams!
Connecting The Dots
Connecting the dots means working out problems in time and space. Chess players connect the dots better than most of us when they plan their possible moves three, four and five steps ahead. We all need to connect the dots at work, rather than seeing issues and problems as equations to solve.
It is tempting as a manger to pick up the hammer and exert your authority whenever something goes wrong at work, or when you just want things to go your way. Strong managers resist the urge to use force and power to get things done. They are humble. They don’t believe that they have all the answers or that they are smarter than the employees on their teams.
Coaching is not the same as supervision. Coaching doesn’t involve telling employees what they need to start doing and stop doing. Coaching is all about listening and empathizing. Strong managers focus on the coaching side of their job more than the giving-orders part. Here are some of the coaching questions strong managers rely on:
• What do you need from me?
• How can I help you surmount that obstacle?
• What have you learned lately?
• What can I do to be a better manager for you?
• What parts of your job are most interesting for you?
• What do you think we should do about this issue?
• What are your goals in your job? What are your ideas for reaching those goals?
• What else do you want to talk about?
Old-fashioned command-and-control management is disappearing and giving way to new-millennium trust-based leadership. Is your organization keeping up with that trend? If not, these topics are great conversation-starters to being turning the tide!