If you want to be a better golfer what do you do? Practice. How about if you want to be a better musician? Practice. If you want to be a better leader, what do you do? You get the picture. So what’s your daily leadership practice?
To improve our leadership, we read leadership books, attend seminars, observe famous leaders, even look at our bosses and swear we will never be like them. But do we have a conscious leadership discipline that we practice every day? Based on my observations (including exhaustive research on myself), most leadership is fairly unconscious, so here are three tips to come up with your very own leadership practice.
What’s A Leadership Practice?
It is a leadership behavior or behaviors that you choose to practice consciously every day. Here are several criteria for an effective leadership practice.
- Keep it Simple Limit your leadership practice to 2-3 behaviors and no more so that they are simple, easy to remember, and easy to put into action.
- Make it Stretchy Make sure you have one leadership practice that you work on that stretches you outside your comfort zone, that helps you grow.
- Make it Fun Find a leadership practice you love to do that brings you energy and joy and then make sure you practice it every day.
What’s the Right Leadership Practice for Me?
There’s not a one size fits all leadership practice. What’s right for you may be very different for what’s right for someone else. Here are four simple questions for picking a leadership practice for yourself. They require some reflection and self-awareness to answer.
1) What is a behavior that helps me express my strengths? Practicing a behavior that reflects a strength is important because your greatest strengths help you be most successful. To discover your true strengths, read more here. For example, one of my strengths is seeing connections. When meeting people, I can see how a person can benefit from knowing another person, so a natural leadership practice for me is to make connections for people that they can mutually benefit from.
2) What one change in behavior will help me accelerate my impact or meet my goals? I was recently coaching a senior executive who has strong strategic thinking skills and drive, but has a hard time enrolling others to follow. The feedback from peers and direct reports is consistently that this person is so focused on their agenda that they do not listen. A simple leadership discipline this person chose was to practice active listening and ask at the end of each one-on-one discussion, “Did you feel heard?”
3) What core value is most important to me and what behavior demonstrates this core value? I recently met with a senior leader and although the meeting was a short half hour, the impact was strong. I felt tremendously energized from the conversation and asked this woman if she had a leadership practice. She said her leadership practice was to be present with people so they felt more comfortable in their own skin after they met with her. So reflect on your own core values (for more on this read here).
4) What is one behavior that always motivates or energizes me? We underestimate the importance of motivating ourselves and keeping our personal energy up. Staying personally energized is a huge foundation of our leadership. So pick a leadership behavior that you know always lifts you up and practice it every day. It is very hard to lead others if you are depleted yourself.
One that I love and employed at one point in my career was to at least thank one person a day for a job well done or a strength that I observed in them. It always made me feel good and it engaged others more deeply in the organization and in their own contribution.
How Do I Stay On Track?
You know yourself, so pick a way to motivate yourself to stay on track. Here are three ways to stick to your leadership practice.
- Keep Score. It’s the Weight Watchers Points method, except more points are better. Calculate each day how many times you took the opportunity to practice your leadership practice.
- Make it Public. Let your friends and colleagues know your leadership practices so they can give you feedback, hold you accountable, or publicly shame you (this works often with teen kids).
- Keep Reminders. On your desk, in your to-do list, in your car as you go to work. Make up a mantra that you repeat to yourself before heading into meetings. You get the idea.
By the way, I have three leadership practices I am working on these days. Here’s your opportunity to hold me accountable:
- Assume that “people do the best they can under the circumstances” no matter what their actions or behaviors, especially when I have to have tough conversations (which I historically tend to avoid). This is my stretch area.
- Ask “How can I help you?” when meeting with others and to take notes on this to follow through. I’ve learned to temper this with being able to learn how to say a “guilt-free no” when I’m asked to do something I can’t take on. Every leadership practice has boundaries.
- Remind myself of three things I am grateful for every morning and journal about them. These leadership practices help me create all kinds of great opportunities for my company and build toward great relationships with others. They make me a happier, more energized person too!
Just like music class or golf, don’t move to a new leadership practice until you’ve nailed one already. Research says it takes 21 days of repetition for a behavior to become habit so keep up your practice. Your brain takes 3,000+ thoughts to rewire its natural instincts so keep up your practice.
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This article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach & speaker. She works with women leaders to help them be successful, deeply engaged, fulfilled, and out of that create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, engagement, growth and meaning in the world. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, Home Depot and others who deeply care about growing their female leadership talent. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here.