Spring is the season of renewal and change in nature. For many people, spring cleaning is a part of their household routine. You may have a habit of reorganizing your garden after winter or starting to plan for the summer.
Today, I suggest you use this season of the year to renew your leadership. According to author John C. Maxwell “leadership is influence.” Our ability to influence others is an important capability. Like any capability, it can be improved and developed further. Yet, many refuse to pause and seek out ways to improve.
Let’s think on these findings and observations:
- “Three-quarters of respondents reported that they have worked at an organization where the leadership team was out of touch and operated as though it was stuck in a bubble.” (American Management Association)
- ““Fresh air” is important to the make-up of leadership teams to prevent their perspectives and decision-making capabilities from becoming stale… 41% of the top-performing companies (but just 20 percent of low performers) have introduced executives from other industries into their leadership team.” (Accenture)
- “Lose Weight and Getting Organized” are the top most popular New Year’s resolutions according to research from the University of Scranton.
There is a connection between the personal achievement and organization of leaders and their ability to lead others. The following seven strategies will help you to renew your personal effectiveness and leadership capabilities.
1. Review The First 90 Days of The Year
By April, we already put ninety days of the year behind us. While winter is one of my favourite seasons, it is a challenging time in some respects (e.g. less natural light). Our enthusiasm to accomplish more will go a long way in January. Unfortunately, we may have lost track in February or March.
To review your progress for the year, ask yourself the following questions:
What am I most proud of so far this year in my professional life?
What habits did I want to establish this year (e.g. a new health habit) and what has gotten in my way?
Imagine you are about to depart on summer vacation: what accomplishment would give you piece of mind (and perhaps a need for some relaxation)?
2. Review Multi-Year Goals For Relevance?
Working on a single goal over several years is challenging. Simply keeping up the energy year after year becomes challenging. If you are struggling with a multi-goal, spring is the time to take a new perspective.
First, reassess whether the goal is still valuable. Business conditions may have changed. Your personal responsibilities may have changed. Ask yourself, “does it make sense to continue working on this goal with the information I have now?”
Second, if the goal is still worthwhile, reiterate why the goal matters in writing. In researchers at Northwestern University found that hat human beings—even rational ones—have a limited capacity to remember the original reasoning behind their decisions. If that capacity is exceeded, the information could be lost—so we need a mental placeholder that can remind us of why we decided something, just as tying a string around your finger reminds you that you need to pick up milk on the way home from work.
3. Are Your Management Skills Supporting Your Leadership Vision?
In reading and reflecting on leadership, one often gets the impression that management skills get little attention compared to the glory of leadership. However, management skills are what enable you to translate your vision into reality.
Take time this spring to check whether your management skills support your leadership:
Does my vision have support from people in my department and elsewhere in the organization? How would I know? (e.g. are people volunteering to provide help?)
Do I sometimes feel stuck in the clouds?
4. Read A Good Leadership Book
One of my favourite quotes on reading comes from Charlie Jones: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It is an excellent observation. Over the next few months, I encourage you to read a book on leadership.
There are two ways to approach reading to grow your leadership: biography and leadership models.
For years, I have been a fan of leadership. Over the past few years, I have read three biographies of leaders that I have found highly valuable:
- Churchill: A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr by Ron Chernow
- Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
For more inspiration in biography, look up Ryan Holiday’s excellent article 25 Recommendations For Life Changing Biographies For The Voracious Reader In You.
Regarding books on leadership models, there are several approaches to consider. You can read about a specific leadership skill set (e.g. presenting or communicating: last year, I read “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo). Alternately, you can read a book such as “Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow” by Tom Rath to obtain a whole new model.
5. What Have You Done For Your Network and Allies?
Are you a “net giver?” I recently heard this phrase from a friend who mentioned that it was a criteria to join a high level Mastermind group. In essence, a net giver is someone who gives more – information, introductions, resources, advice etc – to their network than they ask in return.
As leaders and project managers, we can only get work done through other people. However, much of the time it is necessary to get help from people in different departments or organizations. That means we need relationships with those people. Spring is a great time to review your professional relationships and see what you can do for others.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways you can help other people in network:
- Make an email introduction. I have recently introduced some people I know through my volunteer role at the University of Toronto. I have also asked for introductions – my expectations were surpassed! In both cases, excellent conversations were had and networks deepened.
- Invite a friend or colleague to an event. From time to time, I have extra tickets to film festivals and other events. In those cases, I look to give them out to friends who might appreciate them.
- Take someone out for lunch. This part of the wisdom covered in the classic networking book “Never Eat Alone.” I don’t do this as much as I would like.
- Take someone out for coffee. It’s simple and affordable. Many people emphasize this approach to meet new people but you can also use it to strengthen existing relationships.
- Send a thank you card. Sending a thank you card – preferably via postal mail – is an excellent way to make an impression on someone. In less than 15 minutes, you can make someone’s day and cultivate the gratitude habit at the same time. (Tip: Manager Tools has published good guidance on thank you notes: How To Write A Thank You Note).
Question & Action:
What action will you take in the next month to refresh and renew your leadership this month?
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