Last week I had the privilege of delivering a 3.5 day leadership training to a group of emerging leaders.  One of the things I cherish about new leaders is their hunger for learning, and it is infectious.  Great conversations start with a question – that is my mantra.  Our time together was structured around questions and each learner had a learning log in the form of a poster that they put on the wall.  It turned out to be an amazing way to watch the journey of 20 different leaders as the answered questions like:

  • What is your definition of leadership?
  • What makes your job critical to this organization?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What skills/knowledge do I already possess?
  • What capacity do I need to build as a leader?

Our time ended with action plans and I heard many of the same things – I need to go DO . . . . .

My one piece of advice is always make your first DO = self observation, not DO = practice the behavior.  Here is why.  In my new book I talk about the OBN leader(Ought But Not) and the trap of thinking you are doing things in a way that are most effective for your people.  Just taking time to watch yourself in the situations where you think you are being an effective leader will help you test your belief.

For example, one leader mentioned that she realized through observing herself in an active listening exercise we did in class that spending 3 minutes (even 30 seconds) listening to someone was impossible because her mind started to swirl with how to fix their problem.  For her practice, I advised her spend a week watching herself in listening situations and practicing active listening to see what she did well and where she struggled the most.  At the end of each day email herself what she experienced and how her capacity to be present with others showed up for her.

Then – set a goal (that is SMART) and enlist the support you need to be successful.  This includes asking one person to serve as an accountability/feedback person for you.

It is that simple, but never that easy.  I get that.  It is powerful to watch people ignited by learning, and when individuals start owning their learning it is cause for celebration.

The moment I knew the learning was working was when 3 leaders formed a group to read Crucial Conversations together, with the goal of increasing their capacity to manage conflict.  It was priceless!

What are your answers to the questions I posed above?

At its core, talent management is about great conversations.  Go have one.


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