Six (easy) ways to become a better leader

A bit of advice and perspective from Jody Glynn Patrick at InBusiness

When transitioning from nonprofit leadership to corporate executive management, I purposefully chose a mentor; my more experienced role model immediately suggested two fundamental “do it today and everyday” hints for successful management:

1. First, Marty Kane suggested I practice “management by walking around” – getting up from behind a desk and walking through the building at least once a day to show interest in what others were doing.

2. Marty next suggested that I put five pennies in one pocket. By the end of the day, all five should be in another pocket, each one moved when I honestly complimented someone for making a contribution to the company’s product line, bottom line, or its reputation for service. “It’s important for you to know and acknowledge how many ‘pennies’ people are investing daily in the company,” he explained.

Since then, I’ve added more tips to my “today and everyday” list:

3. Bill Haight, another mentor, once advised that my opinion, by virtue of my title alone, meant more to employees than I ascribed to it myself. “When they ask for your advice, it’s an opinion to you, but an answer to them,” he explained. Since then, instead of automatically suggesting what to do in a tricky situation, I ask what course of action the employee is considering. It’s easy (and ego gratifying) to be “The Thinker,” but the company is richer with differing perspectives to choose from.

4. I’ve learned (the hard way) over time not to confuse office friendliness for outside-of-work friendship. For example, I don’t ask to join employees’ Facebook friends lists, and don’t invite them to view my page. Do you really want to know who your direct reports’ friends are, or what they do outside the office? Do they really want to censor who or what they “like” due to your political, religious, or generational sensibilities?

5. I also try to remember that communication is a two-way street. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar asserts that 85% of personal success depends on relational skills versus training or talent. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, business guru Stephen Covery noted, “Communication is the most important skill in life.” Yet we distance ourselves from people whose names aren’t directly linked to ours on the company organizational chart. How important it is to keep in mind that every staff person is contributing to the company’s success – or his or her position could (and should) be eliminated. It behooves us to know them, talk to them, and show them the respect of acknowledging their contributions.

6. Too often, particularly when we are not particularly fond of a certain employee, we “listen to refute” rather than to understand. My husband, a national sales manager with superb “people skills”, mentored me on this: to be more open to LISTENING to consider a point, versus listening for gaps in the other person’s logic so that I might further debate or defend my own point of view. He’s reminded me also to give anyone I listen to the respect of my full attention (I have ADD and so tend to be doing other things while listening, which gives the impression of not being “vested” in a conversation). I now purposefully face a speaker, look them in the eye (a friendly, inviting gaze, not a stare-down challenge), and tilt my head slightly. Assuming this posture does, believe it or not, automatically increase the likelihood of a fairer discussion.

I invite you to try the penny tip for a week, and the other tips as well – at work, at home, or wherever! – and then check in again for our next discussion next week: How to make LinkedIn work for you.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses — the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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