Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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Fostering A Work Environment Where Leaders Can Thrive.


The long-standing debate: Are leaders “born” or “made”? We all can recognize some people who appear to be “born leaders”, but many leaders are made. If you have employees who have the potential to step up as leaders but haven’t done so, there are several things you can do to help them develop.

Provide employees with decision-making opportunities

Good leaders have the confidence to make decisions on their own. One of the best ways to build up this confidence for other employees with leadership potential is to give them the power to make some important decisions on their own. Not only does empowering employees to make decisions boost confidence, it allows them to think critically and in the best interest of the company.

When an employee is responsible for making decisions without relying on a manager, it requires them to weigh the best interest of everyone involved and become more in tune with the project or organizational goals. The responsibility of decision-making gives employees a greater sense of ownership and accountability over his or her work, which leads to better employee engagement. The next time an employee asks how he or she should move forward, instead of giving them the answer, ask, “What do you think we should do next?”

Encourage employees to pursue their passions

There is no better motivation to accomplish great things than loving what you do. Another way to shape employees into leaders is to talk to them about what they are passionate about and where they would like to see themselves, their department or the company. Allowing them to see projects through that, will help accomplish that goal demonstrates your interest in their vision and that you value their input.

Revealing what excites and motivates your employees and giving them the chance to follow through with those ideas can help them feel more fulfilled. Even if what an employee is most interested in is something that would occur outside of the office, such as participating in sports or volunteering, encourage them to organize these activities and get co-workers involved. Satisfaction with one’s accomplishments is not something that can be taught, but it is a feeling that can spread to and motivate other employees.

Facilitate learning

Knowledge builds confidence and empowers people. Good leaders are continually learning and questioning how things can be done better. By suggesting books, articles and blogs to read, employees can become motivated to learn on a regular basis. Encouraging employees to attend webinars, watch videos, go to networking events and workshops can also help emphasize the importance of learning. The more experiences and knowledge employees gain, the more they can contribute to the growth and success of ideas and their work.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Acknowledging your employees’ hard work not only builds confidence, it also fuels a sense of pride in what they are doing. Investing time and money into staff well-being and happiness will also strengthen the company culture and bring out leadership skills. Whether it’s public praise at a staff meeting, an award at a company gathering or a gift card, tokens of appreciation are encouraging ways to assure an employee that he or she is on the right track. Additionally, if your employees notice you praising others, they may be more open to peer encouragement, which will continue the cycle of positive reinforcement and the behavior you want to see in a leader.

Good leaders, whether they are born or made, are often at the crux of a successful company.  Whether you are a manager or an executive; it’s important to foster a work environment where leaders can thrive.


Emotional Awareness

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others.  If you have a high emotional intelligence you are able to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others and engage with people in a way that draws them to you.

Learn to recognize & accept your emotions

Emotions play an important role in the way we communicate at work and at home. It’s the way you feel, more than the way you think, that motivates you to communicate or to make decisions. The way you react to emotionally driven, nonverbal cues affects both how you understand other people and how they understand you. If you are out of touch with your feelings, and don’t understand how you feel or why you feel that way, you’ll have a hard time communicating your feelings and needs to others. This can result in frustration, misunderstandings, and conflict. When you don’t address what’s really bothering you, you often become embroiled in petty squabbles instead—arguing with your spouse about how the towels should be hung, for example, or with a coworker about whose turn it is to restock the copier paper.

Emotional awareness provides you the tools for understanding both yourself and other people, and the real messages they are communicating to you. Although knowing your own feelings may seem simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. But your ability to communicate depends on being connected to these feelings. If you’re afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on communicating only on a rational level or only via e-mail, it will impair your ability to fully understand others, creatively problem solve, resolve conflicts, or build an affectionate connection with someone.

How emotional awareness can improve effective communication

Emotional awareness—consciousness of your moment-to-moment emotional experience—and the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately is the basis for effective communication.

It’s hard work and practice, but emotional awareness will help you:

  • Understand and empathize with what is really troubling other people.
  • Understand yourself, including what’s really troubling you and what you really want.
  • Stay motivated to understand and empathize with the person you’re interacting with, even if you don’t like them or their      message.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively, even when delivering negative messages.
  • Build strong, trusting, and rewarding relationships, think creatively, solve problems, and resolve conflicts.


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Transitioning from peer to boss

Why, for most that enter it, does management present so many surprising hurdles and frustrate so many presumptions and expectations?

First, management is different from anything you’ve done before. Becoming an effective manager is difficult because of the great variance that separates the work of management from the work of individual contributor.

Many managers think at first that managing others will be an extension of managing themselves. They assume they will be doing what they did previously, except they will exercise more control over their work and the work of others. Instead, they find they must make a great leap into a new and strange universe unlike anything they’ve encountered before.

This is especially true if you’re a producing manager who must combine the roles of individual contributor and manager. At first, you naturally tend to think the managerial role is simply a broader version of managing yourself. Only with time and painful experience will you discover it’s totally different.  Becoming an effective manager requires that you not only acquire new skills and knowledge but also undergo difficult personal change.

Those who become managers must learn to see themselves and their work differently. They must develop new values, deeper self-awareness, increased emotional maturity, and the ability to exercise wise judgment.

Many managers, for example, are accused of being control freaks because they don’t delegate. But a desire for control often isn’t the problem.  Instead, it’s an issue of identity. They haven’t yet changed how they think about themselves and their contribution, the value they add as managers. They resist giving up the role of doer because they believe, if only unconsciously, that’s who they are. They have not learned to see themselves as the leader.

In fact, becoming a manager requires so much personal learning and change that it is truly a transformation, similar to the transformations required by such life events as leaving home, finishing school and beginning a career, getting married, or having a child.

Like these profound inflection points, becoming an effective manager will call on you to act, think, and feel in new ways; discover new sources of satisfaction; and relinquish old, comfortable, but now outmoded roles and self-perceptions. It requires you to consider anew the questions: Who am I? What do I want? What value do I add?  Take some time to answer these questions.

Progress will come more quickly and easily to those who understand the challenges they face.  I coach a lot of new managers and this post and several to follow is dedicated to their successful transition from employee to manager.


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What Dysfunctional Leaders Can Teach Us

When I began my career I was lucky enough to have some great mentors.  However, as I began to progress I began to encounter executives who exasperated me. In most cases they were nice people and I would have to be fair and say that “most” meant well.  However, in my view they were completely incompetent as leaders and managers.  As my experience grew and my exposure to senior executives and other leadership styles increased, I realized this scenario was all too common.  In speaking to many of my clients, colleagues, friends and family I often hear war stories of their inept manager.

Unfortunately, there are many leaders with obvious dysfunctions and yet they manage to rise to and remain in prominent, senior roles. Working with them can be frustrating and disheartening, especially to those who clearly demonstrate excellence and are looking for mentorship to grow their careers.  I have heard the hopelessness in people as they criticize, complain and nag the ear off anyone who would listen.  It was a way to make it through the next day.  But after the initial whining these inept leaders forced me into the process of self-analysis; what kind of leader did I want to be, or more importantly not want to be.

The wisdom of this process was that in hindsight, I learned far more about great leadership from a few of the dysfunctional leaders than I ever learned from the excellent ones. The distress they caused me was a strong learning stimulant for the following lessons:

Self-Motivation – Nothing like a dysfunctional de-motivator to force one to drive oneself to continue to succeed in spite of the roadblocks.

Keep True to Yourself – Don’t change your core values and beliefs to grow your career.  Integrity and self-respect are much more important and will triumph in the end.

Patience – This is probably the biggest lesson I learned and is an essential leadership quality.  Patience under poor management does not mean I am waiting for them to act, it means I am persevering despite their actions.

Positive Attitude – Prevailing wisdom and much research show that having a positive attitude improves the likelihood you will achieve your goal, speeds your progress and, perhaps most importantly, makes you more resilient – All of which help you overcome obstacles and remain persistent in pursuit of your goal.

Let it Go – dealing with the stress of working under this dysfunction taught me to be less judgmental and more inclined to give support. If you take the good and throw the rest away, so to speak, it makes it easier for you to move forward.  It is actually better to trust that everyone is doing their best within their capability.  This mindset can often defuse a lot of your frustration and makes you more compassionate and forgiving.

So if you find yourself one day working for a dysfunctional leader, take heart. Set your intention to being grateful for the wisdom and leadership tools that you will learn through the process. You’ll be glad you did.

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Not all Leaders are CEO’s

Not every leader can be a CEO, just like not every CEO is necessarily an effective leader. However, even if an employee doesn’t have the potential to become the next CEO it does not mean that their leadership skills can’t be developed and nourished.

 Successful organizations seem to have ability and a passion for leadership development throughout their organization. One recurring theme in this type of organization is the fact that they hire well and they fire better. Generally their managers have been trained on the interviewing and hiring process.  Unfortunately, not a common practice. Ask yourself how many of your managers have really been trained on the interviewing and selection process? Companies that actually do train their managers have a high success rate for finding and keeping good employees is above average. Recruitment and retention becomes part of their culture and the responsibility of everyone. Leadership is more than just a word in these companies and leadership potential is sought out, encouraged and developed.

Every successful leader I have ever known has taken direct responsibility for the development of leadership in others and some have not had  official leadership roles.

It’s never too late to accept the responsibility for your personal leadership development or the development of leadership skills in your subordinates. One of the biggest needs today in the majority of organizations is the unique leadership ability to transform the organization to win in tomorrow’s environment. This is not just the responsibility of the CEO. Leaders at all levels of the management hierarchy need to develop this type of leadership. Then and only then can an organization create and maintain a competitive advantage.

An effective leader must be able to interact with employees, peers, seniors and many other individuals both inside and outside the organization. Leaders must gain the support of many people to meet or exceed established objectives. This means that they must develop or possess a unique understanding of people. The ability to coach-mentor and teach leadership skills to others is the driving force that will create a winning organization. Being an effective leader requires the understanding of the principles that govern employee behavior. Accomplish that and success is imminent.

If you can teach and develop leadership in your employees, your personal leadership effectiveness will improve. That old saying; “If you want to learn something fast — teach it.” holds true for leadership development.

There has been much debate about being a “Born Leader” vs. “Learned Leader”.  I won’t get into that, but I will say that either way, effective leaders go through a never-ending development process. You never stop learning, you never stop growing and you should never stop teaching and developing leadership in others. So read, attend classes, hire a coach, do whatever you can do to develop yourself and those around you.