- Express a view – don’t fall into the trap of, “it’s my position to advise, you make the choice”. Not only does this annoy managers, it also disempowers you and makes you inessential. Why bother asking you if that’s all you do? Don’t be afraid to express a view and explain why you feel that way, even if others don’t agree no-one will ever disrespect you for having an opinion.
- See the person – its easy to get into the view that you need to be commercial, tough and driving the agenda of “the business” and forget about the primary aspect of your role. You can be all of these things and still see the human impact. Never forget to see the person in all choices and decisions, that is your unique lens.
- Don’t hide behind policy – similarly to “only advising”, hiding behind policy disempowers you. We know that there are good reasons to have policies, but you need to be able to explain why they’re appropriate and useful, not just quote them. Most decisions will always lie in the margins.
- Avoid the gossip – you will be party to important, confidential information throughout your career and how you use it and react to it will determine your professionalism. Avoid gossip at all costs, lead with integrity and dignity and never ever use knowledge as power.
- Write for your mum – when you commit anything into writing, ask yourself how you would feel if your mum or dad, or significant other were to receive the letter. Is it clear, does it show the tone and warmth you want it to? Could someone understand it who had no technical knowledge or background? Does it make sense?
- Seek to understand – in pretty much any situation there will be information and then THE information. Seeking to understand, to explore and asking good questions will help you to better lead a situation. Assume not only makes an ass out of u and me, it also leads to poor decisions.
- Language matters – You are not HR and they are not THE BUSINESS. End of.
A lesson I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that kindness is a very different to softness. Too often, images and predetermination of the role of HR professionals can make the young practitioner shy away from kindness, fearing the tag of being soft, weak, indulgent – typical personnel.
This is a complete misunderstanding of kindness.
You can be kind as you break some of the hardest messages to people, deal in the most difficult of situations. You can be kind as you lead others through troubled times. You can be kind in every aspect of your work, no matter how trying or hard.
Being kind is to show consideration for others – that is at the heart of our practice and what we do. The antonym of kind isn’t tough, it is cruel. There is no reason that you cannot be both tough and kind, in fact I’d argue that’s in many ways aspirational.
As we go about our practice, whether you’re a human resources professional, a manager or leader, we can all take time to be a little bit kinder, no matter what the context. By putting ourselves in the position of others, by displaying empathy and understanding, we can help not only to achieve better results, but to learn and grow ourselves.
Kindness in business is not a dirty word, it is the secret that too many overlook.
- Creativity – Whilst it might seem a strange one to start the list with, the ability to bring creativity into design and problem solving is one of the aspects that really sets exceptional practitioners apart. We can all suggest something we’ve done before, but can we imagine the new?
- Empathy – I’m really clear that this is different to sympathy – the cross that the profession has to bear. I’m talking about the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and consider the evidence from their perspective and to understand their lens.
- IQ – Sure, I know this isn’t fashionable, but I see a simple link between intellectual horse power and performance. It isn’t enough on its own, but without it you’re surely going to struggle.
- Curiosity – The people who excel are fascinated about learning more and constant discovery. They ask questions, explore and see opportunity in every circumstance. They’re restless and intellectually always on the move.
- Structured – I’ve written many times about the benefit of systems thinking in the world of work and the ability to structure and think systemically is key. This doesn’t mean that you need to be PRINCE2 qualified or an engineer, but you need to understand how things fit together and how to get started.
- Courage – This manifests in different ways, in the ability to have brave conversations, the comfort in being vulnerable and the drive to constantly want to do more and be better. Courage means that we address ourselves as well as others.
- Humility – Most of our practice is not about us and we need to be ok with that. We need to bathe in the glory of others, be proud of the contribution we’ve made and enjoy the success that we help build. Our gift is helping others to be the best they can be, not owning it for ourselves.
If you play an instrument, dance or play a sport you’ll understand the importance of rehearsal and practice. The essence of producing the required performance at the time that matters is based on preparation and investment.
Yet how often do you spend rehearsing your performance as a leader? It is a curious peculiarity of leadership and management that are we expected to be always on and yet always perform.
Imagine a football player only ever having game time, or a musician always being on stage. Common sense and experience tells us that in these circumstances they’re unlikely to improve the quality of their delivery. Sure they might have natural talent or ability, but what is the likelihood they’d progress?
Even those at the top of their games spend time to practice, analyse and focus on improvement. Daily.
The natural rhythm of business life is counterproductive to the concept of leadership rehearsal. We move from one meeting to the next, from one decision to another. Rarely stopping to pause or reflect. And even at the end of the day, the structure of modern life is such that the emails, the papers and presentations continue.
The lucky few might find have a coach that they can spend time with and create a space for important focus and reflection, but what about the rest of us, what can we do?
Rehearsal is a mindset, it is about wanting to improve, deliver and perform. It is about being curious about the elements of your personal leadership performance that could or should be done better. What do you want to improve?
Rehearsal is about buying yourself time. It is about identifying the important moments in your day or week and ensuring that you’re prepared – not just intellectually, but behaviourally and emotionally. How do you want to be?
Rehearsal is about analysis. It is about reviewing and reflecting and seeking to understand the elements that went well and not so well. How did you do?
Rehearsal is about learning. It is about seeking out different sources of information, watching others, reading, seeking out inspiration and provocation. What could you learn?
The secret of performing, isn’t much of a secret – it is simply about practice and rehearsal. That applies to leadership as much as anything else. When is your leadership rehearsal?