On Being Persuasive

According to Carmine Gallo, Instructor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Executive Education Department and author Five Stars: Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great (2018), the ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the one skill that can be depended on to confer a competitive edge in the knowledge economy. Successful people in nearly every profession are typically those capable of convincing others to take action on plans and ideas. If you want to achieve anything of substance in life, learn to be persuasive.

Aspiring entrepreneurs persuade venture capitalists to provide financial backing for their new ventures.  Salespeople persuade customers to buy products. Freelance consultants persuade clients to hire them to provide professional services. In short, persuasion is no longer considered merely a “soft skill,” but rather a leadership skill, that enables those who’ve mastered it to attract investors, sell products, build brands, inspire teams and activate social or political movements.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined a formula on how to master the art of persuasion in his work Rhetoric.  Throughout history, statesmen and salesmen have used Aristotle’s guidelines when preparing speeches or talking points that brought history-shaping ideas and ground-breaking products to the world.

Your words and ideas have the potential to make you a star in your field, if you can persuade others to join you and act on them. To become a master of persuasion and successfully sell your ideas, use these five rhetorical devices (as interpreted by Mr. Gallo) that Aristotle identified in your next client meeting or sales presentation:

ETHOS (Character)

Gallo feels that ethos represents that part of a speech or presentation where listeners take the measure of the speaker’s credibility. Aristotle believed that if a speaker’s actions don’t reflect his/her words, that speaker would lose credibility and ultimately weaken the argument.  As humans, we are hardwired to search for reasons to trust another person. A simple statement that you are committed to the welfare of others before you introduce your argument or selling points will enhance your credibility.  Show your prospect that you understand and appreciate his/her situation.

LOGOS (Reason)

Once ethos is established, it’s time to make a logical appeal to reason. Why should your listener care about your product or idea? If it will save the listener money, for example, s/he will want to know how much it will save them and how the savings will be accomplished. The same reasoning applies to making money. How will your idea help the listener earn a profit? What steps must s/he take next?  These are all logical appeals that will help you gain support. Use data, evidence and facts to form a rational argument.

PATHOS (Emotion)

According to Aristotle, persuasion cannot occur in the absence of emotion. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Aristotle believed the best way to transfer emotion from one person to another is through the rhetorical device of storytelling. More than 2,000 years later, neuroscientists have found his thesis to be accurate. Research has demonstrated that narratives trigger a rush of neurochemicals in the brain, notably oxytocin, called the “the moral molecule” that connects people on a deeper, emotional level.

In his analysis of the top 500 TED Talks of all time, Gallo found that stories made up 65% of the average speaker’s talk, whereas 25% went to logos and 10% went to ethos. In other words, the winning formula for a popular TED Talk is to wrap the big idea in a story.

What kind of story? TED Talks curator Chris Anderson explained, “The stories that can generate the best connection are stories about you personally or about people close to you. Tales of failure, awkwardness, misfortune, danger or disaster, told authentically, hasten deep engagement.” The most personal content is the most relatable, in other words.

METAPHOR (Comparison)

Gallo reminds us that Aristotle believed that metaphor gives language its beauty. “To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far,” Aristotle wrote. Gallo follows-up, “When you use a metaphor or analogy to compare a new idea to something that is familiar to your audience, it clarifies your idea by turning the abstract into something concrete.” Those who master the metaphor have the ability to turn words into images that help others gain a clearer understanding of  their ideas and more importantly, remember and share them. It is a powerful tool to have.

BREVITY

Brevity is a crucial element in making a persuasive speech. An argument, Aristotle said, should be expressed “as compactly and in as few words as possible.” He also observed that the opening of a person’s speech is the most important since “attention slackens everywhere else rather than at the beginning.” The lesson here is: start with your strongest point.

The good news for communicators is that Aristotle believed that persuasion can be learned.  According to Edith Hall, author of Aristotle’s Way, the political class in ancient Greece wanted Aristotle to keep his tactics for persuasion a closely held secret.  But Aristotle disagreed and wanted everyone to have access to it. Hall’s research showed that he instead championed the idea that a person’s ability to speak and write well, and to use rhetorical devices to change another’s perspective, could unleash human potential and maximize happiness.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Emmy Award-winning actor Danny DeVito (Taxi, 1978-1883 ABC-TV)  in Matilda (1996)

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Common Challenges That Impact Solopreneur Ventures

Starting a business is an impressive achievement that’s guaranteed to make you proud, but the real victory lies in your ability to grow and sustain the venture.  A Solopreneur business owner must be both leader and manager, competencies that seldom co-exist within the same person.

Leadership skills support your ability to formulate a guiding vision for your enterprise, recognize business opportunities, devise strategies, find new customers and develop marketing plans, as well as inspire potential investors, collaborators and employees.

Management skills direct your  focus to administrative functions, as well as business operations, financial management, risk management, quality control and customer service.

While it’s recommended that Solopreneurs cultivate both skill sets, it’s probably inevitable that the average person will favor one competency over the other.  Nevertheless, it is important to hone both leadership and managerial capabilities so that you are better prepared to position the venture to overcome the challenges that visit every business, regardless of industry, annual sales revenue, or number of employees.  Discussed below are two of the five common business challenges that we’ll examine.

CLIENT LIST

How many active clients are on your roster? How many do you bill at least $1000/ month, on average? I completely understand that for a Solopreneur, every client counts and that it’s so comfortable to provide services to just one or two clients who are generous with billable hours.

However, succeeding in business means pushing beyond comfort level and actively discouraging one’s tendency to become complacent. Furthermore, depending on one or two big clients for the lion’s share of annual revenue places the business in a vulnerable position.

What will happen to your billable hours if your contact at that company moves on? There can be no guarantee that the next person will continue to send projects your way.  Be advised that the new person has Solopreneur friends with whom s/he has previously worked and it’s reasonable to believe that it will be game over for someone who’s thought to have ridden the gravy train for a number of years.

Demonstrate your leadership skills and protect your venture as you pursue potential prospects to nurture your sales pipeline.  A diversified active client list is an insurance policy.  Furthermore, growing your list of viable prospects encourages you to operate as a real Solopreneur and not just a sub-contractor for a larger entity.

MONEY MANAGEMENT

Early in the life cycle of a business, the most important money matter is simply to earn enough to pay the bills, for the business and your personal life.  On the next rung, you’ll begin to consider the amount of investment capital needed to finance upgrades that will make you and the company appear more competent and trustworthy to clients, prospects and referring colleagues and friends.

The company website must have a professional look and download quickly.  Printed marketing materials must reinforce the superior quality of your brand and communicate your expertise.  Even the look of your invoice matters.  You’ll also need enough revenue to occasionally attend conferences to upgrade your skills and expand your networking options.

BTW, to promote a predictable cash flow, it is not uncommon for Soloprenuers to take a job, whether it’s an under the radar gig such as  bartending or waitressing, or a more typical opportunity such as teaching, where one’s professional skills are parlayed into an arena other than the usual client work.

Unless you have a background in finance, consulting with a good accountant and/ or bookkeeper is the best way to ensure that your venture has astute financial management.  Meet quarterly with a bookkeeper and semi-annually with the accountant to learn how to take the necessary steps to strengthen your business finances.

I’ll return to discuss more common business challenges.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Members of the Acorda Capoeira perform on a roof top in Rio de Janeiro (July 2016)

Persuading Your Client to Accept Reality

What does a Freelance consultant do when a client refuses to believe what should be an undeniable fact and instead chooses to believe something that is obviously incorrect? When a client denies or ignores the reality of circumstances in his/her organization—like a strategy that’s not producing the desired outcome or a decision that’s caused a problem to go from bad to worse—can an external consultant (or subordinate employee) tactfully open the boss’ eyes? Maybe.  But before you try, examine the alternate reality in which some of us will occasionally choose to live.

In a four-year study conducted by LeadershipIQ, a company that provides online leadership development seminars, 1,087 board members at 286 organizations that had ousted their CEOs were interviewed.  In 23% of the organizations surveyed, the dismissed CEOs failed to acknowledge, and therefore act upon, adverse business conditions or other obvious threats to the organization and that lapse was the pivotal factor in his/her demise.  In other words, those CEOs chose to deny reality and paid the price.

Business and other leaders, like everyone else, might at times choose to deny or ignore uncomfortable truths, a behavioral trait known as the ostrich effect, where the birds are said to hide their heads in the sand when faced with a threat (untrue, BTW).  There are those people who prefer to see the bright side because they are convinced that positive thinking brings about positive results.  Every once in a while, that is true.

For the resolutely rose-colored glasses crowd, however, you may have noticed that presenting accurate information is often ineffective because their denial is rooted in misplaced emotion.  With this group, facts do not win arguments.

There are a number of paths that might lead to faulty logic that prevents one from seeing and responding to reality.  The phenomenon of confirmation bias demonstrates that we humans have a tendency to seek out and interpret data and other information that is in line with our belief systems.  The sunk cost fallacy essentially means that one has so heavily invested in the truism of a particular decision’s outcome that there will be no backing down now.

In the backfire effect, we elect to dig in our heels when presented with facts that call into question the value of our self-worth, identity, worldview, or group belonging.  In many cases, presenting those facts causes the person to cling even more tightly to his/her incorrect or unsustainable beliefs.

Unfortunately, those who tell the truth to someone who is mired in denial, and most likely engaging in one of the above behavioral patterns, risk triggering an attack by the denier, in the classic shoot the messenger face-saving mechanism.  In this scenario, the realist cannot win because according to behavioral scientists, denial is more about identity than information.

Now to get back to the client we’re trying to persuade to do one thing or another—what can one do when demonstrable facts are not only insufficient, but are also capable of imploding your valuable relationship? Ohio State University behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky recommends that we sidestep a potential showdown by asking a few delicately phrased questions that might reveal the emotion behind the denial and idealy, allow the denier to back away from his/her original stance and save face as this occurs.

While it may have already become apparent that you hold another viewpoint on the matter,  your first objective is to portray yourself as trustworthy and not an enemy.  Say what you can to convey to your denier that you share his/her core values and concerns.  Rephrasing what that person has said could be useful, to demonstrate that you understand and (perhaps) agree with what is most meaningful to him/her.

Your second objective is to gently reveal to the denier that his/her position is actually in conflict with his/her core values and/or goals.  This will take a silver tongue, I admit.  You might be able to get the ball rolling by noting that the denier’s position is quite understandable, based on the available information at the time, or as a result of his/her experiences.

If you can follow that up with an example of when and how someone who is known to the denier subsequently changed his/her opinion or practices on a particular matter, so much the better.  You want to make it safe for the denier to make a tectonic shift and show him/her how to do it painlessly.  Revealing that others sometimes do so is validating.

Finally, reconfirm -your denial prone client’s goals and based on what the two of you now agree upon, cobble together a solution that the client can accept.  Since the client will substantively participant in the process, buy-in will be achieved and you will emerge with a signed contract.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: The Denial of St. Peter  Gerard Seghers, circa 1623                                                      Courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art

 

 

 

Your Business, Positioned To Succeed

Since you’ve made the commitment to go into business, as a Freelance Solopreneur who offers B2B or B2C services or an Entrepreneur, who employs a leadership team to operate a complex venture you, the founder and leader, will be expected to position your enterprise for profitability and success.

Strategic planning is the process by which business leaders aim to create sustainable success for their organization and it is the essence of business planning.  Strategic plans typically forecast the upcoming 36 months.  Strategic planning is eventually undertaken by all business leaders who fully grasp their responsibilities.

Freelance Solopreneurs might request that their advisory board members participate in the strategic plan development.  Entrepreneurs can count on their team leaders and they may also invite other staff members to contribute to the process.

Step 1: A SWOT Analysis to reveal where the organization is today

Suggest that the planning team use the classic strategy planning tool, the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis matrix.  SWOT asks the planning team to acknowledge and document the current reality of the organization, in preparation for deciding how and when to move forward with plans for growth.

In the SWOT, basic information such as identifying resources that can be considered competitive advantages and factors that are considered minuses, start the process. Note that the Strengths and Weaknesses categories ask the team to acknowledge internal factors, that is, conditions that the organization can influence.  The Opportunities and Threats categories hold external factors that the organization can strive to exploit or avoid as needed, but are unable to control.

Perhaps the most important document for the planning team to examine is the Income (Profit & Loss) Statement.  Over the previous 8 to 12 quarters, have total net sales revenues met the forecast projections? What is the trajectory of (top line) gross sales? The P & L includes categories for each product and service that is sold and reveals the history of sales, gross and net.  That data allows for reasonable projection forecasts to be made for sales revenue performance in the near term and up to three years out.  From the P & L. the team will also acknowledge production or acquisition costs of goods sold for each product and service; all marketing and advertising costs; selling costs; fixed operating expenses; payroll expenses; and taxes, local and federal.

Your accountant will be an excellent resource for financial data analysis (whether or not your team includes a fiscal controller) and will be able to recommend attainable goals that will strengthen the company’s fiscal future, information that is essential to the SWOT process.

Statistics and other Information on market share, current and newly arrived competitors and changes in technology, government regulations, or the priorities and preferences of target markets, which can either help or hurt the plans for long-term growth and success, can be culled from quarterly or annual marketing data and reviewed during the SWOT process.  Quality control, operational processes and customer service protocols should likewise be included in the SWOT Analysis.

Step 2: Use the SWOT results to determine your company’s best growth goals

Once the strategy planning team has a clear picture of the current conditions of the business, the next step is to decide what growth could look like for the organization.  It is strongly recommended that the team research potential growth opportunities for the business, to first understand where expansion can be expected to be sustainable and second, the short and long-term expectations for the proposed expansion.

Plans for operational efficiencies, such as improvements in service delivery, customer service protocols, quality control and inventory management could also be evaluated and strategies for improvements formulated during the SWOT, since these elements can impact business growth and perception of the brand.

Decision-making is a huge part of leadership and the team will demonstrate its prowess here. in Step 2. Your team will have been guided by a comprehensive and candid SWOT Analysis, which allows the team to develop plans and move forward with confidence.

Step 3: Strategies, Action Plans, Monitoring and Review

Once the direction for growth has been determined and the financial and operational upgrades needed to promote that growth have been identified, then a list of growth objectives can be proposed and agreed upon by the planning team.  Once the growth objectives have been officially accepted, then the affiliated strategies and action plans, with time tables and milestones to mark interim demonstrations of success, can be developed, discussed and accepted by the team,

Major planning initiatives benefit from monthly or quarterly review, so that incorrect assumptions and forecasts can be quickly revealed and corrections made.  An internal communications plan designed to keep plan participants and non-participating staff apprised of the strategic plan’s progress supports the motivation to continue to carry out the action plans that drive success on the ground.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

LEAD With Conviction

Those who misinterpret the role of leader often feel that exerting power over others is its purpose but that hypothesis has been revealed to be false. The most effective leaders recognize that the quality of leadership is greatly enhanced when they are liked and respected by those in the organization and/or on their team.

Bill George, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and author of Discover Your True North (2007), encourages leaders to empower those whom they lead.  He asserts that the most empowering condition is when organization members align around a goal or mission and team member passions and purposes are complementary and synchronized.

Leadership Development expert Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0  (with Jean Greaves, 2009), says that leadership is about emotional intelligence and that it is a flexible skill that can be improved with effort. Here are the behaviors and attributes that successful leaders develop and cultivate.

Form personal connections

The best leaders know that a successful life is built on good, mutually beneficial relationships. A true leader is not afraid to extend him/herself and get to know the people whom s/he leads, as well as others. Good leaders may be introverts or extroverts,  but they nevertheless enjoy connecting with people. They focus on the person/people with whom they are speaking and have personal conversations. They care and those they lead know this to be true.

Be approachable

Good leaders know how to maintain boundaries and still make it possible for others to reach out and talk with them. They believe that those whom they lead are valuable and worth their time.
Have integrity

Good leaders keep their word, to the very best of their ability. They do not say one thing and then do another. They respect those whom they lead.

Have substance

Leaders understand that expertise is necessary, the foundation of their stepping into the leadership role. They rose to the top because they possess superior knowledge and expertise and they are masters at leveraging it.

Be positive

Leaders encourage those on their team to be the best they can be. They believe in the abilities of those on their team or in the organization. They have faith in the vision and mission of the organization and communicate their enthusiasm for achieving the goals that express and promote them.

Be generous

Leaders share.  A superior leader gives those on the team the tools they need to achieve success. They support and encourage people.   Leaders empower, they do not micromanage.

Recognize and appreciate potential

Leaders are able to spot talent and they are willing to help you to develop and leverage yours.  A leader aspires to recommend you to a position where your strongest talents and competencies can be utilized and rewarded, so that you will operate at your best and derive satisfaction as you do.

Be humble

Arrogance and braggadocio are not signs of leadership and that includes the “humble brag”.  Leaders are usually quite happy to lead, but they are aware that leadership is about accountability and responsibility and not an excuse to boss others around.

Communicate well

Whether standing before a large group or chatting over coffee with one or two team members, leaders both have something to say and listen well. They are well-spoken and fluent writers, as well. They are usually good story tellers. Many leaders have a background in sales.

Good judgment

As the song says, you’ve got to know when to hold and know when to fold. Judgment entails many competencies, including the ability to prioritize.  Leaders are good decision-makers and they are guided by their personal integrity; respect for their team and the organization; expertise in their field; and understanding of human nature and motivations.

Former political adviser and CNN political commentator and currently a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University David Gergen, author of Eyewitness to Power (2000) writes, “At the heart of leadership is the leader’s relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other person is a reliable vessel”.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Have Composure, Keep Calm and Carry On

Sooner or later, we all must enter a room filled with our adversaries and it is no picnic. I must do exactly that on the evening that this post will publish. The event is quasi- social business and the attendees will be members of an organization in which I hold the highest leadership post. These colleagues belong to a separate, smaller subgroup of the primary organization and the subgroup has a separate leadership team. The subgroup depends on the primary organization for financial assistance and they are an entitled and self-aggrandizing lot.  My goal has been to limit the hand-outs they receive and oh, boy, are they resentful. So into the lion’s den I go!

I must be friendly and supportive of establishing a cooperative relationship between the two groups, yet let it be known that the primary group does not exist to be in service to the subgroup. I will need a big dose of composure and lucky for me, composure is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. Officers in the Marines are taught a communication style called SMEAC: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Command, which goes a long way in encouraging the development of composure and control when vital information must be communicated to others. Those who perfect the SMEAC communication format learn to use precise, carefully chosen words to clearly express their message. SMEAC is now taught at the Harvard Business School.

On our own, it is possible to learn a precise and concise speaking style through observation and rehearsal. Get started by identifying those whom you consider to be highly effective communicators. You are listening for well-chosen words that carry impact. Next, select the two or three points that you must make your audience understand and then refine the language you plan to use. Boil down, clarify and simplify your message. Practice your speech out loud and as well, pay attention to your tone of voice and speed of delivery.

SMEAC works best when we have the luxury of preparation time, when we are scheduled to deliver a presentation. If you must make your points from a meeting table rather than from a podium, the agenda will allow you to choose and rehearse the points that you’d like to get across.

How we speak is a combination of presentation style, word choice, tone, speed and cadence. Maintaining composure is essential when we must speak formally to an audience, particularly when the audience is unfamiliar or potentially hostile. SMEAC is an excellent communication technique that is especially suited for crisis communications or other high-pressure, high-stakes public speaking engagements.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Classic 6 Leadership Styles

The effective leader is flexible.  S/he is possessed of self-awareness and knows that the style of leadership must fit the demands of the circumstances. What methods can a leader use to persuade team members to give their best performance? How can a leader inspire trust and confidence, obtain buy-in on a vision and goals, encourage bonding and build a cohesive team, build skills where necessary, acknowledge and respect skills where present, create loyalty and produce extraordinary results? The leader must assess the staff with whom s/he will work and employ the most effective leadership style.

I.      Directive

No-questions-asked coercive style that demands compliance. “Do as I say” and controlling.  Motivation is “encouraged” via threats and discipline. Are you looking for a way to kill motivation, persuade the staff to lose commitment and enthusiasm and squelch any respect the staff may have had for you? Look no further.

Most effective:       In a crisis when decisive action must be taken ASAP and there is no room for deviation from a tightly prescribed rescue strategy.

Least effective:       With highly skilled team members, who will quickly resent micro-management and the disrespect of an authoritarian culture.

II.    Visionary 

Inspires the team. Employees come to feel that they are a team and understand how and why their work contributes to the realization of the vision. Moves people toward shared goals/outcomes through empathy and clarity.  This leader states the vision clearly and compellingly, gets buy-in and then steps back and allows the team to work, stepping in from time to time to reiterate the vision and reinforce commitment and enthusiasm.

Most effective:     When seeking to help the team create and achieve goals for the long-term.

Least effective:    The leader is not credible and employees do not trust the vision and goals proposed.

III.   Affiliative 

Creates harmony that boosts morale and resolves conflict.  Builds trust between the leader/manager and employees. People first, task second. The focus is on helping the team to bond, but there may be hesitation when it’s time to take charge and get down to business.

Most effective:     When stepping into an environment where conflict has damaged commitment and morale.

Least effective:     When producing results is imperative and where clear direction, strategies and action plans are needed.

IV.   Participative 

Superb listener, team builder, collaborator and influencer.  A primary objective is to build commitment through consensus. Employees know that their input is valued and this generates commitment.  However, constantly seeking consensus can impede progress toward completing projects.

Most effective:     The staff are highly competent and mutually respectful. Turnover is low and the team is cohesive.

Least effective:     Close supervision is required for the inexperienced. There is no time to build commitment and consensus.

V.    Pacesetter  

Leads through example, has great initiative and a strong drive to achieve through his/her own efforts.  This leader has high personals standards and high energy,  but little patience and can become a micro-manager.  The team is a meritocracy and only A + results are acceptable.  Anything less and the under-performing employee will be pulled off the project.  Nevertheless, team members are inspired and remain engaged and motivated by a leader who “walks the talk”.

Most effective:    Managing highly motivated experts.

Least effective:   When skills development,  coordination and coaching are necessary.

VI.  Coaching 

Good listener who helps employees identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Knows how to delegate,  which provides skills training for staff members.  Encourages peak performance by providing opportunities for professional development and building the employee’s long-term capabilities.

Most effective:     When professional development is needed and employees are motivated to achieve.

Least effective:    The leader lacks expertise and/or the ability to teach or coach. Results produced by highly skilled employees are immediately needed.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

A Politically Correct Skill Set

Besides the whims of fortune (and luck is an enormous force in the universe),  what differentiates a successful person from an unsuccessful person? What defines a successful leader?  According to Samuel Bacharach,  co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group,  successful leadership is defined by the ability to rally support for an idea and inspire others to collaborate with you and help bring that idea to fruition.  Regardless of the quality of the initiatives that you’d like to advance,   you cannot lead without possessing highly developed political skills.  In the absence of good political skills,  the most brilliant plans will die on the vine.  A good agenda will never be realized and a legacy will be greatly diminished.

Bacharach says that the essence of political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control.  One must identify who will support the initiative,  who will oppose and when the time will be right to go public and move forward.  Those who possess political skills get things done because they take the time to think things through.  The politically skilled will not naively or arrogantly move forward alone,  but will instead win over the right people and build a coalition to take on the project. “Anticipating the obstacles your idea might face when you present it is a political skill that can help you get across the finish line”,  says Bacharach.  Politically skilled leaders will consult with a trusted ally or two to reality test their concept,  create a list of potential allies and detractors,  decide who to recruit for the launch team,  calculate the best time to move forward and create a roll-out strategy.

Political skill means knowing how to map out the battlefield terrain,  convince people to join your team and lead a coalition.   The best ideas do not always win out,  but the best launched ideas always have a good chance of seeing the light of day.  The highly respected movers and shakers in life are yes,  the luckiest,  but also they have political skills.

Some are born with a highly developed political skill gene,  but it is possible to improve your skill level.  As noted above,  taking the time to think through the arc of the initiative’s development and roll-out is a good place to start.  Who is likely to support you?  In whose interest might it be to see the project realized?  What can you do to make potential allies see that it will benefit them to support the project? Which of your allies has enough power to make things happen and bring other high-ranking players to your team?

Now who are likely to be detractors,  active or passive—who will feel threatened by a perceived  (or actual)  loss of power and influence if your plan is adopted?  Who might be able to withhold resources  (funding)  or start a whisper campaign to undermine you?  Can your team overcome these matters? Are there cultural,  historical or other barriers that you might face?

Assembling your winning coalition is the next step.  Work only with those whom you trust and respect and know that the feeling is mutual.  Be certain to compile a list of compelling benefits that will help you sell the merits of your idea to those with the power to make it a reality.

You may want to approach the mapping of the political terrain as strategic planning and conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strengths,  Weaknesses,  Opportunities and Threats),  to help you visualize the resources you hold,  any gaps in your war chest,  obstacles that you will likely face and opportunities that may strengthen your position along the way.  Anticipate the arguments that will be made against you.  Sell the benefits that will overcome those arguments and convince  (powerful)  allies to support your position.  Collaborate with supporters to bring your initiative to life.  Be an effective leader.

Merry Christmas,

Kim

Power and Success

Powerful people achieve success.  They are able to create opportunities that lead to success,  or they have opportunities to create success handed to them.  Power can emanate from several sources,  most famously from money and family connections.  Power also emanates from various other sources,  such as athletic ability (football hero);  musical ability (rock star);  intellect (IQ, intelligence quotient) that allows one to earn a degree from a prestigious school;  and relationships (EQ, emotional quotient / EI emotional intelligence) with powerful and influential people.  All of these power sources can be leveraged and used to propel oneself into environments where opportunities to create success are available.

For the majority of us power,  should we seek to pursue it (and most do not),  is an attribute that we develop on our own,  knowingly or unknowingly,  with or without intention and the EQ-based power that emanates from relationships is the power that is most accessible.   This variety of personal power is derived through the way we interact with others in personal and professional relationships.  To acquire this power,  one must be competent and trustworthy.   Additionally,  it is imperative to relate to others in a way that makes those who know you feel valued and good about themselves.  Those who acquire personal power through their relationships must be authentic,  or do an excellent job of convincing others that this is the case.  Powerful people inspire great loyalty and respect.

Personal power is an integral building block of leadership ability.  It can be argued that the wherewithal to develop personal power derives from the capacity to lead oneself.  Improving the ability to develop and sustain relationships by heightening EQ expertise helps one open doors that lead to opportunities that help us achieve success in business and life.  Here are guidelines that can serve as your EQ training regimen.  They were developed by Daniel Goleman,  author of Emotional Intelligence  (1995)  and based on the work of John Mayer,  personality psychologist at the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey,  social psychologist and president of Yale University:

I.      Self-awareness

The ability  (or courage)  to recognize and acknowledge one’s emotions,  motivations,  fears,  strengths and weaknesses and to understand the impact these have on our decision-making and interactions with others.  Accurate self-assessment and self-confidence are    required to master this element.

II.    Self-management

The ability  (or self-discipline)  to regulate,  control,  or redirect one’s disruptive  (read irrational,  inappropriate or destructive)  emotions or behaviors and successfully adapting to changing circumstances are the essential skills here.  This is not to say that one should knuckle under to adversity.  Just don’t throw any chairs.  Learn to fight back in a smart way that reflects well on you.  When necessary be flexible,  gracefully roll with the punches,  or devise Plan B.  Honesty,  integrity,  follow-through,  time management,  initiative and ambition reside in this element.

III.   Relationship management

Building bonds,  teamwork,  collaboration,  conflict management and social skills are the focus.  Those all-important interpersonal skills that allow us to relate to and connect with people are nurtured in this element,  as is leadership ability.  To strengthen these behaviors,  pay attention to feedback from others,   positive and negative.  Have the good judgment and maturity to display more of those behaviors that elicit positive feedback and much less of behaviors that generate unflattering comments.  Realize that there is such a thing as constructive criticism and avoid getting defensive and hostile when someone lets you know that perhaps you could have handled something another way.  Furthermore,  as painful as it might be,  listen also and check yourself when haters pounce,  for there might be a grain of truth in the venom they spew.

IV.   Empathy

EQ does not exist without genuine empathy.  Demonstrate that the feelings of others matter to you by be willing to consider the impact of your actions and decisions on others.  Think of intent vs. impact.  Challenge yourself to imagine how it might feel to be in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from another perspective.   Learn to take steps to hear and address the concerns of others.  Master this element and you’ll become a more successful negotiator.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Eight Leadership Styles. Which One Is Yours?

When assuming a leadership role,   one does what is required in that position at the time.   There is no road-map because leaders must respond to events as they occur,   as they simultaneously champion projects developed by members of their team,   push through selected personal initiatives and follow through with worthy projects that started before their regime.   Most of all a leader must be versatile,   possessed of good judgment and more than a little lucky.

Nevertheless,  we all have our strengths.   Some of us are super strategists,  or change agents.  Others are great with process and operations,  we intuitively know how to get things done efficiently.  Still others are master communicators: deal-makers,  negotiators or coaches.

How does one rise to leadership,  take the reins and succeed when certain key projects call for talents outside of the natural skill set? Good judgment will encourage the leader to recognize what is beyond his/her expertise and delegate such tasks to better qualified team members.   Further,  the leader is advised to acknowledge team members who step up,  because recognition builds loyalty and the productive can-do spirit of a high-functioning team.

Leadership development specialist Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries,   author of “The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams” (2011),   has identified eight leadership competency archetypes for us to ponder.   Do you recognize yourself in one?

The BUILDER approaches leadership as an entrepreneurial activity.  This leader longs to create a tangible legacy.

The CHANGE AGENT loves to ride in on a white horse and clean up a mess.   Re-engineering is the preferred activity.

The COACH derives great personal satisfaction from talent development and knows how to recognize the strengths of team members and get the best out them.

The COMMUNICATOR,  like former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,  loves being on stage and knows how to influence people.

The INNOVATOR is able to sort through difficult problems and devise creative,  yet practical solutions.

The NEGOTIATOR is highly gifted at recognizing,  selling and bringing to the organization lucrative new business opportunities.

The PROCESSOR is an operations expert who will make the organization run like a well-oiled machine.  This leader will institute systems that support the organization’s objectives.

The STRATEGIST has the vision to recognize which goals and strategies the organization would be wise to pursue to ensure its future growth and sustainability.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,

Kim