Should Leaders Strive To Be Liked?

I was reading an article in the Denver Business Journal that talked about the 10 competencies of a good leader. While I was perusing the list, I saw the usual suspects like having vision, being inspiring, strategic, good communication skills. Then I saw a word I wasn't expecting on this list.

The author of that article included "Likeability" on the list of competencies. 

This got me thinking and is the subject of our #BraveTalk discussion for today.

Is likeability a sign of a good leader?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 
Use #BraveTalk on Twitter.

Background on the #BraveTalk discussion:

It is a comment challenge where I ask a question, present a point of view, or share an idea and you tell me your thoughts on it. There are no right or wrong answers. I just want to stir up an intellectual conversation with my community. By participating you practice key communication skills like giving feebdback, writing clearly and concisely, paraphrasing what others said, etc. Participate and share.

Now that you know what's in it for you and what responsibility you have, let's get started!


Here Is Why Communication Is MY Business!

"Whether you are communicating with one person or a thousand, in this information-saturated, attention-deprived age, you need to earn the attention of your audience as quickly as possible--then hold it."  
 Nick Morgan, How to Tell Great Business Stories
In my last post I urged leaders to tell their stories to their people. It was my most popular post this year. Thank you for commenting and sharing it. I also promised that I would share my story. There are no bullets or lesson points in this post. Just a story.
photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc

I learned the power of story telling from my mentor. She once told me when teaching and training on communication skills, the learner has to feel the impact and stories do that. 

Nick Morgan put it this way: 
"[b]y drawing them in [with a story] you will increase their emotional investment and help them remember your message."

John Maxwell says "everyone communicates. few connect".

Don't you find it ironic that in this digital age, where we have multiple ways of connecting with each other, people are more disconnected now than ever before?

Why is that? This was my question back before the internet was a part of everyday life. I was a bullied child, and I found myself sympathetic to my tormentors. Don't misunderstand. I hated my tormentors and hated myself even more for sympathizing with them. [I've since forgiven us both]

But the truth was, the very girls who caused my life such distress, were in fact hurting themselves. I remember one of my regular elementary school bullies, (let's call her "Nancy"), hit me in class. After I told the teacher, (yeah I snitched) we were both taken outside in the hall. The teacher stepped back into the room and told us when she returned she would be calling Nancy's mother. As soon as the door closed, Nancy turned to me with such fear in her eyes and begged me to plead to our teacher on her behalf. She apologized profusely and begged me not to call her mother, as if the action was left to me. Sympathetically, I agreed; and when the teacher returned, I somehow persuaded the teacher not to call Nancy's mother. I believe it was because I showed Nancy the mercy she was never given.  She never bullied me again...in fact, she made sure no one else did either. 

In his book, Be A People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships John Maxwell makes one of the most profound insights I've ever read.

"The key to relating to others is putting ourselves in their place instead of putting people in their place."

So often we aim to put people in their place. We call it "checking someone"; "reading their mail"; "putting them on blast"; "keeping it real" or a myriad of other euphemisms to basically keep people in place.

Here is the problem. If we spend all of our time systematically placing, moving, and replacing the people in our lives, when do we actually have a relationships with people? 
photo credit: nestor galina via photopin cc

All of this contributes to the BRAVE Communication LLC Story.

I decided to call my company BRAVE Communication for two reasons. The first is because I knew that stepping out into entrepreneurial waters was a big step for me.  For so long, I looked for validation from others. I needed it. I needed to be brave enough to,  in the words of King David, "encourage myself". Being an entrepreneur is a scary place at times. But I knew I had to do it because I had a mission.

That mission is the second reason I started my business and called it BRAVE Communication. The real, genuine, heart felt connection that people long for, only comes when one is brave enough to communicate openly and skillfully. A lot of peoples' problems are traced back to poor communication. 

Small irritants, not dealt with, become large offenses that threaten relationships.

People really want deep meaningful relationships with others. A relationship built on trust. A relationship free of fear. Free from jockeying for power. Free from "one upping" one another. Free to make mistakes and learn from them. Free to just be. Relationships that make us better instead of worse. I mean even as I write these words, my heart soars to think of it. Who doesn't want a relationship like that?

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc 

But because of not knowing how to have such relationships, we roam about doing the best we can. Because of fear, we only strive to have shallow relationships that only magnify the void in our lives. After all, shallow relationships are safe. 

A ship in harbor is safe but that's not what it was built for.

My mission with BRAVE is to help people with the how. I like training groups of people on communication skills. But I LOVE coaching people one on one because that is when people can, as Nick Morgan says, feel the return on the emotional investment in open and skillful communication. I also love coaching because it takes people from the how to the actual do. It is safe to learn better ways to communicate when you work with a coach who genuinely cares about you.

Good communication skill is needed in all areas of life. However, I focus on building these relationships at work because it is almost non existent there. Work has somehow been diminished into a place where everything that makes us humane, is asked to be checked at the door for the sake of the bottom line or being professional. 

Managers are bullying and abusing their teams because they are finally in a position of power and think that is the only way to get results. Like my elementary school bully, who feeling powerless in one place came to school to exert power over others; leaders are throwing child-like tantrums and calling it leadership.

photo credit: Microsoft clip art

Leaders are afraid that they can't produce results and be kind and considerate or dare I say it...be NICE! Leaders don't trust the people they lead and why should they when they only strategically place, move, and replace people like pawns on a board? 

Let me be clear about the word nice. Nice doesn't mean you don't set high expectations. It doesn't mean you don't set boundaries. It doesn't mean you don't fire someone. It just means you aren't a jerk about it.

Leaders have to be bold enough to be the best they can. Jack Welch and I will never be the same. I am made differently but I can still be just as effective in business. But I will never be effective as long as I am trying to be the next Jack Welch or Sara Blakely or [insert the person you admire]. God didn't make me Jack or Sara. God made me...Julia.

And it is by fully accepting myself and being secure in myself that I as a leader can help someone else do the same thing. I issue that same challenge to you. If you are reading my blog, then you are interested in leadership on some level. So I ask you, are you trying to fit the mold of leadership laid out by others? Writing your story, and rewriting your story, helps you remember why you are doing what you are doing. It also gives you the courage to keep doing it so you help someone else find success.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
~Jack Welch


What's Your Story? 3 Reasons Leaders Should Tell Their Stories

photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc
Everyone has a story about how one came to be in his or her profession. As leaders, our stories are apart of us and help shape our choices and influence our decisions. But have you ever told your team your story? Don't think you have a story worth telling? I challenge you to reconsider. Leaders should tell their stories to their teams in order to harness 3 benefits.

I was reading the latest issue of Inc Magazine about how several companies got their start. The writer, Adam Bluestein, suggests that every company should have a well crafted founder's story to help connect your business with investors, employees, and customers.

Sara Blakely cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose and came up with the idea for Spanx.

Jerry Murrell's mother told him one day that if he didn't study, he'd be flipping burgers. He never forgot that and when his sons expressed no interest in going to college, they opened Five Guys.

A Columbian aerobic's instructor forgot to bring his traditional aerobic's music to class one day. Instead of cancelling class, he made up dances to his favorite songs that he has on his personal device. That is how Zumba Fitness was born.

Every successful company has a founding story. When you are starting out, the only thing you have is your "passionate why"? Your "passionate why" is the reason you are pursuing what you are doing.

Even if you don't own a company, as a leader, you still need to have and craft your "passionate why" and then tell your people.

How to start writing your story

When crafting your story or your "passionate why" think about these question

  • What life experience(s) has prepared to do what I am doing?
  • Why am I in this line of work?
  • What world changing impact do I hope to leave as result of my work?

3 Reason You Should Tell Your Story to Your People

Let's be honest. We all have had leaders who either are or seem to be unapproachable. We see them in passing but we never really get to know them. As a leader, you are in a perfect position to change that and telling your story or laying out your "passionate why" is an easy way for people to get to know you.

1. It Humanizes You.

As a kid, I remember the first time I saw my teacher, Ms. Dunston, at the movie theater. I was literally shocked. I thought:  She is my teacher. She doesn't have...a real life. I was so used to seeing my teacher in her role as teacher that it never occurred to me that she was a real person.

Leaders are people. But sometimes our titles can make our people think we are inaccessible. Telling your story of how you struggled, the mistakes you make, the fears you overcame, and the issues you are still working on erases the cloudiness and allows people to see the real you. This relaxes them to a degree that may be willing to take those risks you have been encouraging.

2. It Builds Trust. 

Your team is looking for ways to connect with you. They are looking for commonalities. When you tell your story, you are showing your team a vulnerable side of you. When you extend vulnerability, you are extending trust. When you extend trust, you are showing that you can be trusted. Think of it this way, the act of extending your hand to shake another's automatically prompts them to extend their hand to meet yours. As leaders, it is your responsibility to initiate trust. Telling your story is one way of doing that.

3. It Motivates. 

I fell in love with communication skills development because of mentor's founder's story. She was a stay at home mom whose daughter was asked to study competitive gymnastics. Not knowing what that meant, in detail, she began visiting the competitive gyms in her city to see how the kids were taught. What she saw broke her heart. She saw kids being belittled, embarrassed, and disrespected. She decided she wasn't going to submit her child to that relationally toxic environment. So she started a gym with the sole purpose to treat kids, and adults, with respect, value and worth. She used communication skills to do it and it changed an industry. After working in organizations, where the people are treated like disposable rags, I immediately understood my boss's motivation. and worked diligently to further the mission. Your story could do the same for your employees.

"...the origin story can serve as both a road map and moral compass. Keeping that story alive, keeping it true, and keeping it relevant--these are the challenges more mature businesses must contend with."  ~Adam Bluestein

Sharing your story is powerful yet simple tool you can use to encourage the performance and growth you want to see among your people. Wouldn't it be cool to get their stories too? With this information there are no limits on where an organization can go.

So what's your story?

I'll share mine in the next post.


Fake It Til You Make It: 3 Things You Should Fake

There are certain qualities that we can and should fake until they become a natural extension of us.
Photo Credit: itamaryu via Compfight cc  

I am a member of Toastmasters International and am active in a local Toastmasters group. In the Toastmaster's International magazine, I came across an article called "Fake it 'til you make it." 

It was one members recount of his first Toastmasters speech. He wasn't a seasoned speaker or naturally gifted but instead of letting his novice shine though, he told himself that he'd fake confidence until he actually had it. That mind trick helped him achieve his first Toastmaster's award.

That got me to thinking. What are some communication or leadership qualities that are OK to fake until you actually have them?


What Is Unique About Your Brand of Leadership?

I took on a challenge at the beginning of the year. On Day 2 of the #Blog4Biz challenge, I had to do some research on USP. No, not UPS the shipping company.  USP is a marketing term that means “unique selling proposition”. In short, a USP is what makes a business, product, or service stand out from the crowd. 
photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

Every leader needs to have a personal “unique selling proposition”...a unique selling proposition that highlights what makes you different from all the other fish (or leaders) in the sea. 

Perhaps, you are applying for a new role. In other words, what is unique about your brand of leadership?

Let’s look at my business as an example for a second. BRAVE Communication is an executive coaching consultancy. Big deal! There are tons of executive coaches out there. 

What makes BRAVE different from other executive coaching firms?


Are You Marching to Your Drum or Someone Else's?

Photo Credit: trini61 via Compfight cc 

One of my gifts is that I can easily identify when things are unbalanced. It is what makes a great coach. It is always what makes me a great leader...although it took me years to understand it. If you are tired of being carried away by the winds of popular culture and you are ready to get off the boat and start mapping your own course, this post will give you 3 ways to do that!

I am literally laughing at all the chatter around New Year's and setting goals. My social media friends are forecasting the social media trends for the upcoming year. My fitness friends are rolling out their fitness challenges. My business coach friends are rolling our their new products and services. My leadership coach friends are asking us to think about what changes we want to see in our teams this year. Everyone is posting their resolutions and their goals. It is both inspiring and...comical. Comical to me because I don't see the balanced perspective; so I am going to offer one.

Have you ever felt like everyone has got their "stuff" together and you are always playing catch up?

I feel that way sometimes. I think "it is New Year's day and you are having an online seminar?!?! Really?!" It is the 3rd of January and you are rolling out your new product. "

Here is what I say to those thoughts. GOOD FOR THEM! 

I honestly mean it. I am happy others are doing and planning what they need to do....but that has NOTHING to do with me. It is fun to get caught up in the excitement of the new year and if we are smart we can parlay that excitement and see some amazing results.

But a lot of us aren't acting smart. We aren't doing the work to make sure we succeed. The surest way to completely devalue and short circuit your success is to compare it to someone else's.

Stop comparing your start to someone else's middle or finish.

At the beginning of the year, I encouraged you to set your goals in a new way. Did you read that? Click here and here to read it again.

Here is why. If you don't take time to establish what is important to you, you will be jumping on the band wagon of every seemingly neat idea and never accomplish much. Take time to consider your strengths and weakness when you set a goal so that you aren't beating yourself up when it doesn't happen.

I was working with a client who wanted to be more neat. She decided she was going to put everything in its place right away. She wanted to be like her ultra organized friend. She tried and failed and eventually gave up all together. During one of our sessions, I asked her a simple question. "Do you know what neat looks like for you?" She pondered on that for a while.

It was very clear that she new what neat looked like for her friend and that became her standard. It was a standard that didn't fit, compliment, or empower her at all. So why was she doing it?

Why are you trying to fit into a mold that doesn't fit you?

You see my clients personality was the polar opposite of her friends and no matter how hard she tried she would NEVER be neat like her friend.

My client found empowerment when she became the best neat she could be. That wasn't an excuse to stay disorganized. Using her personality, her values, what is important to her, she found exactly what mattered to her and lived that way. She no longer defined herself and her abilities according to someone else's measuring stick.

Are you measuring yourself by someone else's measuring stick?

If so, you will always fall short. 

(Note: at this point, people usually object. Sometimes our goals are set for us. Our jobs or our family, set goals for us and we have to deliver. I get that. But can't you be yourself, use your strengths, AND still deliver? Yup. You just need to figure out how.)

Mapping your own course and marching to your own beat starts with honesty. Be honest with yourself. 

If you haven't been in the gym in a long time, why set your goal to go everyday? Who says we have to carry out all of our goals and resolutions by January 31st? Do you want staying power or a quick flash in the pan?

I suspect you want staying power. I do too. We all have to be BRAVE enough to find our beats and then start marching to it.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. 
 ~Henry David Thoreau

Are you willing to step to the music that you hear? Leadership is about taking the time to hear the other beat, marching to it, and inviting others to join you.

3 Ways To Find Your Leadership Beat

Ask more questions. The act of asking questions makes our brains automatically look the answer. Ask the right kinds of questions and you set yourself on a course to discover the answers.

Listen to your instinct. Do you favor other's opinions over your own? As a coach, I value getting advice and counsel from others. There is an appropriate time to do that. But you have to be careful that you lose the ability to hear your own instinct.

Validate yourself. Instead of waiting for validation from others, get in the habit of validating yourself. Will you be wrong once and a while? Yup! But confidence isn't about being right. It is about being ok even if you are wrong. Women leaders especially have a hard time with this. Not all...but a lot. 

Don't you think its time to stop second guessing yourself? To stop being tossed by every new fad or wave that rises? Take a stand. Listen for and march to your own beat. The weirdest part is that someone else is waiting for you to do it.


When to Keep, Tweak, or Abandon Your Goal

I like watching the Biggest Loser. A couple seasons ago a player choose to leave the ranch. What a BRAVE act! 

Most people berated her because she “quit”. I think she had the courage to  say this isn’t for me. 

But when do you abandon a goal verses just tweaking or recommitting to it?


7 Ways To Set Goals You Will Actually Keep: Part 2

In part one, we discovered the origin of New Year's resolutions, their abysmal success rate, and the first 4 strategies that will help you set goals that you will keep. In part two, we continue with the next 4 strategies that will help you beat the odds.