Being a Great Leader: the fine line between Confidence and Skepticism

You’ve probably heard, over and over again, about the importance of self-confidence for a leader. Confidence gives you charisma. It makes people follow you. It makes friends trust you and enemies fear you.

It’s pretty hard to imagine Caesar or Napoleon telling their people “Well, we could try this, but I don’t guarantee that it’ll work.” So why should you, if you aspire to become a great leader?

But let’s leave confidence aside for a minute. There’s another element which most leaders of today are lacking. Have you ever had a boss who thought he knew all the answers to every question? Who never admitted he was wrong or, even more, that idea didn’t even cross his mind? Of course you did. In one word, do you know what that guy was missing? It was skepticism. Will all the praise of confidence and self-esteem, almost everyone forgot the importance of a certain dose of self-doubt.

Being a little skeptical about your own opinions is such an important factor these days. While everyone has an opinion (and everyone thinks that their opinion is the right one), those who can be skeptical about their own beliefs have a great advantage: when a problem arises they won’t take anything as given, but they will try to make up their mind, starting from zero, about what would be the best solution. That includes asking every employee’s opinion on the subject matter, because the skeptic knows that he is just a human being, fallible like any other. From this type of behaviour, two big advantages emerge: the employees will appreciate their leader for respecting them and the final solution to the problem will have a much, much higher chance of being the right one.

Well, but it seems pretty impossible to be skeptical and confident at the same time, right? Indeed, but that might not be needed. Here’s my piece of advice: whenever a problem arises, adopt this two-step approach in solving it:

Step 1– Total skepticism.
Do not take anything for granted. Search the internet for similar problems that other companies had and look at how they’ve handled them. Take notes. Now take what you’ve learned about it and present the information to your employees. If possible, ask each and every one of them how would they handle this. Finally, make a decision based on all of their insight.

Step 2 – Total confidence.

Once you’ve made that decision, stick with it until the end. At this point, you know you’ve done your best, so there’s no reason to be insecure. Your people also have to feel they they are going in the right path, so make sure you radiate confidence. Act like nothing can stop you and your people anymore from reaching your objectives.

Doesn’t look so hard anymore, does it? And while this two-step approach is meant specifically for leaders, it can be a great idea to use the same pattern in making any kinds of decisions, the results will be great nevertheless.

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Successful Brainstorming: Possibility or Hoax?

In terms of brainstorming, people often tend to forget that in order for it to be achieved the answer is quantity, not quality. Brainstorming represents the essential first step in early stages of a new project, so it is crucial that everyone understands how important it is to be open towards all ideas and variables. Naturally, issues occur when team members feel the need to filter themselves from potentially good ideas that they may seem far-fetched or just simply because they are afraid of rejection and embarrassment.

Another common misconception about brainstorming is that employees and managers alike believe it can be done only in a certain way: the evergreen group discussion with everyone involved. It is not necessarily the worst idea, but it can have major drawbacks from a creative point of view. There is a general tendency that during these meetings, the first two ideas that get bounced around tend to be the focus of the entire meeting. In a recent study on traditional brainstorming methods, it has been discovered the fact that only a handful of people do approximately 60-75% of the talking. Logically, it can prevent other ideas from being discussed.

How to Make Brainstorming Better

There are many ideas through which brainstorming sessions can become more practical, based on individual creativity, idea generation and a better meeting experience. The following strategies will help your organisation’s brainstorming.

1. Select only necessary employees: Choose the people you need for a brainstorming session. If the meeting is filled with people who have no relation to the nature of the discussion, their contribution and participation will be zero. Moreover, more people mean a higher level of difficulty in passing along ideas given the fact that people may exhibit anxiety in explaining their ideas. A manager’s best bet here is the creative individuals who can actually carry the discussion in a productive manner.

2. Brief sessions: It is as clear as day that shorter meetings are more efficient. The current tradition is for a meeting to last for an hour. However, shortening the meeting time will entice people to bring ideas to the table much faster with a healthy disregard to keeping some ideas for themselves. Normally, a meeting shouldn’t be any longer than 30 minutes. Managers can always do follow-up meetings to discuss leftover ideas or if the schedule is too hectic then the recommendation is individual brainstorming time.

3. “Bad” ideas are welcomed: Managers should encourage their employees to speak their mind. Good ideas “happen” after a lot of other ideas have been bounced off at the meeting table. People should understand the fact that there is a very fine line between good and bad ideas. From a managers point of view all ideas are welcomed given the obvious fact that it will lead to the best solution in the end.


Read also: What Makes a Great CPO


4. Brain Writing: The general principle of this technique is to separate idea generation from actually talking. The manager shares the topic with the team, and the team members individually write down their ideas. This helps eliminate anchoring and encourages everyone on the team to share their own ideas. It also gives everyone more time to think over their ideas, which is especially helpful for your introverted participants. This brainstorming technique works best for teams who seem to be greatly influenced by the first ideas presented during a meeting. When you get your team to brainstorm ideas individually, away from distraction and public opinion, concepts are generated that may not naturally surface when in a larger setting. Individual brainstorming techniques such as this will often give you more unique ideas than when the group is left to think up topic ideas.

 5. Online Brainstorming: These days, virtual teams are becoming more and more common across all industries. The evolution of email and collaboration tools makes working remotely the norm in some organisations. Having a central location online where team members can collaborate is crucial for these virtual teams — talking here about cloud-based document storage or an online collaboration tool. One of those brainstorming exercises for groups involves using an online mind-mapping tool to answer very specific questions or simply to generate ideas that might be tangential to the main problem. What other ideas surround this concept? Map these examples out, visually.

 

We have an impressive assessment library with hundreds of dimensions that can be leveraged in creating a custom skills-based assessment that supports your organisation’s specific competencies and unique vision. Please contact us if you need to measure the engagement level in your company.

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Sources:

https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/

https://www.inc.com/larry-alton/5-strategies-for-team-brainstorming-to-use-in-your-next-meeting.html

https://www.inc.com/kat-boogaard/4-easy-tips-to-improve-your-brainstorming-sessions.html

How to keep your Employees energised

Top organisations around the world are starting to manage employee energy like a highly important strategic asset. They know that the ever-increasing pace of advancements requires more and more human energy. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it takes a tonne of energy to grow and build a business. The key is to manage it; sometimes you have to exert energy, other times you need to conserve it to go the extra mile, and after a sprint you need to replenish it. When teams are energised, they feel like they can achieve almost anything. But when there’s an energy gap among employees, it’s up to you the leader to bring back the necessary level of energy. You have to show the kind of energy you want to see. At the beginning it’s important to assess where your employees stand. Think about when they were at their highest energy levels, when they had a perfect day, what does the average day look like. These things will help you take things forward. Here are some of the best hacks in order to maximise human energy:

1Spend time engaging with people.

Say hello in the morning and goodbye at night. Be approachable. Ask about their families and show them you care about other things besides work. When they miss work because their baby is sick, ask how the child is doing when they come back. Also, enable your teams to enjoy and get to know each other. One great and very simple way to do this is through team lunches and dinners.

2Honor special occasions.

Celebrate every new hire. Acknowledge special occasions and make people feel special. For example, IBM used to give a gold watch to celebrate 25 years with the company, but most people don’t stay that long anymore. Don’t wait 25 years! You can celebrate every year and every other milestones in small ways by recognizing employees’ achievements in meetings or writing them personal thank you notes.

3. Careful with work hours

In the U.S. employees who are earning a salary of less than $47,476 must track hours and be paid for overtime. It’s wise to start enforcing this rule and discourage employees from doing work off the clock. Try and explain to your people that work-life balance can and should be achieved. Talk to each and every one of them individually to show them that you really care and you may see shifts in attitude towards themselves. It is also recommended that they take regular breaks during office hours in order to unwind. Encourage them to leave their desks, go out for a walk, stretch or even find a quiet space where they can relax.


Read also: Preventing Burnout in 5 Easy Steps


4. Allow creativity

Employees need to be reminded that there is no such thing as a bad idea. Even when an idea is not pursued, it can shift ideas into new territories.

From how employees decorate their desks to how they complete assignments, allow creative freedom, as long as standards of work are met. Encourage employee input, and, however possible, provide time and resources for meaningful, work-related smaller projects.  Nowadays, companies now set aside time each week when employees can work on their own projects, as long as those efforts further the company’s goals.

Employers can’t remove all the stress of their employees’ lives, but they can make the workplace a source of purpose, focus and togetherness that can help prevent employee burnout.

5. Celebrate wins

Do fun things with and for your team. Take a break and take the team to a movie, or do some charity or volunteering work together. This can be achieved very easily and here are some examples:

  • LiveOps have random Nerf arrow attacks and paper airplane contests.
  • At AdMob and Everwise, the sales teams ring a gong when a big deal is done.

It’s especially important to do this even when times are hard. At eBay, there was a day in which they started to do a free listing day. Users were thrilled about it—they stayed up all night posting listings. The increase in volume was immense – a year ahead on volume projections. Although a great marketing ploy for the company, it was a nightmare for the people running the system. They worked tirelessly to make it through capacity problems, and when they finished they had a parade and turned the relief into positive energy.

It is essential that employees understand the long-term winning strategy you are trying to implement. Run the positives and negatives by them in order for them to analyse and understand why there is a change in policies.

We have an impressive assessment library with hundreds of dimensions that can be leveraged in creating a custom skills-based assessment that supports your organisation’s specific competencies and unique vision. Please contact us if you need to measure the engagement level in your company.

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Sources:

https://www.inc.com/alison-eyring/these-5-strategies-will-keep-your-employees-energized.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/maynardwebb/2016/08/23/7-ways-to-re-energize-your-team/#5aad4d267349

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9711-prevent-employee-burnout.html