A Leadership Skill Everybody Needs – And 90% Of Managers Lack
There are good reasons it’s easy to find lousy managers in virtually every industry and function.
It is no surprise that nearly every working person has one Bad Boss story ready to share, if not a collection of them.
New managers typically receive little to no training in “people management,” although it is the crux of their job.
HR people describe how their training budgets are slashed further every year, and “soft skills” training is the first item to go when budgets get tight.
It’s not only managers who are thrown into the deep end of the pool in a new job and expected to swim. Senior leaders don’t know how to lead any more than their subordinate managers do.
Most of us struggle with higher-level communication skills like conflict resolution, negotiation, argumentation and persuasive communication. If it were up to me, every kid would learn and practice these skills starting in kindergarten.
At the moment things are not up to me so young people hit the working world with a limited understanding of interpersonal communication — and the problem only get worse from there. Many people thrown into supervisory positions get no coaching or support for their new role.
Of course managers thrown into the deep end of the pool become fear-based bosses. They have numbers to hit, and no leadership plan or philosophy to deploy beyond “We have to hit these goals, no matter what!”
Some managers have never experienced mature, trust-based leadership themselves. They don’t know what a trust-based team looks like — much less how to shift their own management style from fear to trust.
The first step in building your leadership muscles, whether you currently manage other people or not, is to cultivate a skill most managers — and indeed, most people — lack.
The skill is called perspective-taking.
To be an effective team member, communicator, salesperson, or manager at any level you must be a proficient perspective-taker.
Here are three ways to get started.
1. During a typical work day, you will participate in conversations — face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, email exchanges, Slack discussions and text convos. When you find a conversation difficult or puzzling, make a note of it. At the end of the day, look over your notes. Think about the parts of your conversations that frustrated you. Try to get out of your own head, and ask yourself “Why did my coworker, boss, client or vendor take the position they did? How do they feel about this topic? Where does their viewpoint come from?” When you take someone else’s perspective, confusing and frustrating problems begin to clear up.
2. The more often you consciously step out of your own perspective to take someone else’s view, the more powerful you will become. You will realize that people come to their opinions through many influences. Someone who disagrees with you isn’t evil or stupid because they don’t see things the way you do. To get better at perspective-taking, get a journal. Write about the frustrating conversations you’ve had with people at work — and about situations where you took someone else’s perspective and surmounted a communication obstacle.
3. When you have no conflict with someone, take their perspective anyway. Get used to looking at people around you through the lens “I wonder what that person thinks about Topics A, B and C.” Perspective-taking is the basis of good selling, good marketing and good customer service skills as well as capable leadership. When it hits you that we are all salespeople, customer service people, marketers and leaders, you realize how critical a business skill perspective-taking is. Sales training gurus talk about “Getting inside the prospect’s head.” We can all learn to do that — whether we’re selling a big idea to the boss or selling our sweetheart on a vacation destination.
“Okay, this interesting. Here is Charlie Tuna, the Director of IT at Acme Explosives. Charlie is the guy who will hire me at Acme if I end up working there. Let’s see here — Charlie has been in the job six months. He’s brand new! I wonder what’s on his agenda. Acme acquired ToonTown Industries back in October — that’s nine months ago. That definitely created a lot of work for Charlie and his team. “If the deal closed last October they are probably still integrating systems. Maybe that’s a problem for Charlie — it usually is. Acme also has resellers who distribute Acme’s products outside North America. I wonder how seamlessly those systems work together — or not. Charlie has his issues for sure, like every manager does. Looks like the CFO is new to Acme, too — and he’s Charlie’s boss. “I’m going to reach out to Charlie — there’s no reason not to. I’m going to mention in my letter how difficult post-acquisition integration can be and empathize with Charlie regarding that issue, as well as Acme’s global expansion and the need for close coordination with international resellers. I can see Charlie’s pain, or some of it — he has a lot on his shoulders!”
Practice perspective-taking and see how huge your muscles become!
Source: Forbes – Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap.