5 smart leadership strategies that successful leaders take for granted

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Conversations that don’t go as you planned, an overflowing email inbox, and the feeling of being constantly responsible for everything. And there’s always time missing. Leaders know the dilemma.

I asked the top leadership experts in my network what they recommend to executives. For example, how to have good conversations, lead teams in an agile way, or even how to organize yourself as a leader. Here come 5 smart leadership strategies to make your leadership work easier.

1. He who feels — leads!

I beg your pardon? Shouldn’t it be: He who asks, leads? It’s true: If you formulate a (good) question as a manager, you can use it to control communication in a targeted manner. Sometimes, however, it will happen that you don’t reach your goal despite all your finesse in formulating questions.

Pitfalls of “good” communication
Whether it’s a goal-setting meeting, a departmental meeting, or the weekly one-to-one with your employees: If you spend a lot of energy and attention on what you want to achieve with your counterpart in the conversation, there is a high risk that you will miss the target. What happened? By focusing on WHAT (What needs to be clarified in terms of numbers, data, facts? What are the operational targets that need to be achieved?) and the HOW (How do I respond to possible opinions, objections, questions?), you quickly lose sight of the essentials.

Less is more
If you allow yourself to think less about what might happen next in the conversation, you will make an interesting observation: You can become more involved in what is happening right now. How is your conversation partner doing at the moment? And how are you feeling yourself? What may feel unfamiliar, perhaps even unprofessional, is actually the basis of what makes good leadership. You enter into a relationship with the people who work for you. Not reason or good questioning techniques, but feelings are the soil on which relationships can grow.

2. Self-leadership: 5 amazingly effective tips for leaders.

I almost couldn’t believe it. In a follow-up workshop of leadership training, a manager said:

“Yes, because of all the day-to-day business, I couldn’t implement the upcoming employee reviews and team meetings. You can’t do that with all the work”

Many managers are not aware of this, they act as functional area managers*. A dilemma. The manager is a disguised administrator. The side effects in the team are fatal: resentment about decisions not being made, too little progress in projects, unresolved expectations, a conflict in the team that has been smoldering for a long time about unequal workloads.

How do managers get out of this dilemma? How do you meet the professional tasks and goals on the one hand and the other hand take on the so important leadership task?

5 mini practice tips for self-leadership

1. Clarify your own understanding of leadership:
What are my most important values as a leader? What do my team and each individual in the team need? How can my leadership work be exemplary?
What could this look like in practice? Think of small steps.

2. The principle of writing:
Write down important events and your perceptions every day in a personal notebook. Then everything is in one place and you can reflect on it at the end of the week and consciously decide on an action.

3. Week Re-View:
Reserve about 30 to 60 minutes on Friday and consciously close out the week. Reflect on what was important and what you accomplished, including leadership work. Make a note of it and then conclude.

4. Week pre-view:
What does the next week look like, what do you start with on Monday morning, what do you specifically intend to do in your leadership work? You make a binding note of this. At the end of the week follows the new re-view with your conclusion for the following week.

5. The direct conversation:
A conversation is valuable. Even if time is short and difficult issues need to be clarified, it should be conducted appreciatively and constructively. Conducive conversations need time. But not talking to each other creates great discomfort and conflict.

3. The way of the empty hand: a tribute to doing nothing

How can I be sure which seminar participants are managers? Those who come in, shake my hands right away, offer solutions immediately, along the lines of: “I’ll quickly get…”, “I’ll do that…” even before I have expressed a possible need.

As a manager, you don’t have to do everything yourself
My tip would be: Wait. Wait until you are asked. Ask when you can’t wait any longer. But please don’t do it all “swiftly” on your own because you are so used to shaking solutions out of your sleeve. Take a break in which the shaken reptilian brain can sort itself out again, the autonomic nervous system can switch back to “safe” mode instead of “threatened.” Wait until empathy, creativity, and solution orientation are possible again.

Let your employees find their own solutions
A little appreciation or empathy can do wonders, and instead of fight and flight, the relationship is possible again. Prof. Steven Porges has explained this wonderfully in his Polyvagal Theory, how important the relationship with the leader is, in order not to create stress, which simply destroys all the wonderful power of thought. Relationship with the leader, being empowered to find your own solutions, backing, clarity, and consistency would enable a safe relationship system. Our autonomic nervous system has only one answer: social engagement, connectedness, and empathy. And we need more of that right now than ever.

Waiting and listening. Underestimated leadership skills.
Wait. Take a breath. Wait until all the rightness has faded. Listen to what the solution wants to be, not what the problem is. Be clear about what you want and not what you don’t want. Wait. Listen. And make, if anything, an almost hypnotic formulation of the desired behavior. Without blaming or shaming the other person. Invite him into the patterns of success, and wait. A breathing space, every 2 hours for 3 minutes. This will certainly do you and your employees good.

4. Agile Leadership — Leading Teams Agilely

VUCA — The world in rapid change
We are now in a rapidly changing VUCA world, which means increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (ambiguity of information). Companies are increasingly dealing with digital audiences to the point of questioning whether the current business model is even sustainable. For many, structures, procedures and processes are still (too) little agile and customer or employee-oriented to be successful in the long term.

Agile Leadership — a smart answer
My hypothesis and experience are that agility and the agile leadership approach are the central answer to these changed conditions and requirements. The transition to a more agile way of working is a very big challenge for employees, but also for most managers, as they have to redefine their leadership role and lead the teams more into self-responsibility, for example.

Agility strengthens employee motivation
A first way to develop the company further is to design and implement an agile pilot project. The idea here is to set up a cross-functional agile team and thus create a learning and experimentation space for shaping the digital transformation. The experience gained in this “think tank” has a very positive impact on the entire company and also leads to increased employee motivation. And, of course, numerous approaches for future products/services and optimization processes or forms of collaboration emerge.

In addition, there are numerous ways to determine the agile maturity level of the company in terms of strategy, structure, processes, leadership, and culture, and then to define and implement development steps together with all those affected.

5. How bottlenecks help your team and your strategy

Do you have new goals in mind? One of them should be to work with your team to expand the part of your value chain that is currently limiting you. Because something is always the bottleneck!

For example, your computer:
- Almost everything is fine, only the hard disk is full. New big hard disk!
- Almost all good, just a bit slow. New fast processor!
- And so on.

The “bottleneck theory” (“Theory of Constraints” by Goldratt) states “In every value chain there is exactly one system that determines the performance of the whole a unique bottleneck”.

The “recipe” to increase value chain performance:
1. “identify the bottleneck
2. “Fully utilize the bottleneck”.
Make sure that on the one hand there is enough work and on the other hand only what is really essential is done at this point.
3. subordinate everything to the utilization decision”.
Make sure that the bottleneck is served optimally, in the right quality.
4. “Eliminate the bottleneck”.
Only now take the more costly steps, for example increasing capacity.
5. “start again at step 1”
And now it’s the turn of the next bottleneck!

To identify the bottlenecks for the start, visualization in the team with a Kanban board is a good idea.

The simplest version: Attach the individual steps in the process as columns on a board and then enter the orders, customers, etc. on sticky notes and track them. Now it quickly becomes visible where the flow falters!

This is the first step towards systematic process improvement in the team, from interfaces with customers and partners to a “pull system” and “flow management”.

Which tip appeals to you in particular? What do you want to try out right away? Write me your experiences, thoughts, and ideas.

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