3 Ways Ego-Driven Leadership Ruins Teams

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Eight years before I found myself in HR, teaching others about leadership development, I was stuck in a tricky situation with my manager. He was a director, but in the company I worked for, that was as good as having “chief” in front of your title. And he loved it.

We could tell by the way he carried himself. The people he chose to talk to. What he said in meetings and how he participated (read: didn’t participate) in team functions.

He was an ego-driven leader. He relished having the highest title in the building, used his power to push his own agenda, and judged every one he worked with by their job title.

I left that job after a year under his leadership, and in the following months, many of my colleagues did too. Because ego-driven leaders ruin teams.

They lead from intimidation and fear. Ego-driven leaders care most about the power that comes from their position or title. They crave being right and they love the spotlight. They prefer to give orders (which means they get to speak up the most in meetings) instead of promoting collaboration (which means they might not speak at all in a meeting, and then how will anyone know they’re in charge?) and taking a backseat to the team. Eventually the team stops sharing ideas because they don’t feel safe enough to share or have been conditioned to think that their ideas just aren’t good enough.

They stall growth and development. Great teams develop their people, but ego-driven leaders don’t think about development of others because they have an “I” perspective. They primarily only think about themselves, which means they approach conversations with a What do I need? What do I want? mindset instead of a How can I help you? What do you need more of/less of from me to be successful? mindset. When a leader isn’t focused on the team and its growth, employees eventually get frustrated because they realize their career path has stalled, take charge of their own development, and then leave.

They don’t speak up for the right things. These leaders care more about themselves than the success of the team or company and make decisions to further their personal agenda. They bring bias to talent programs like succession planning and performance reviews and they choose the wrong high potential employees because they of how they feel personally about each employee on the team. Rarely do they give shoutouts because speaking up to give recognition means they aren’t the one being noticed.

Ego-driven leaders manage simultaneously from a place of power and fear. They’re detrimental to team effectiveness and undermine the company mission that unites employees behind a common goal. And what’s worse, they create more ego-driven leaders because the people they promote emulate their behavior, thinking that’s the only way to get ahead and be noticed. Yikes.

Avoiding the Quiet Trap of Appreciation Depletion

iStock-641970902.jpg

Thanks to Business Management Daily for featuring me in the below article. Original transcript can be found here: https://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/51991/avoiding-the-quiet-trap-of-appreciation-depletion. 

When we watch a puppy push its head forward eagerly at the promise of being scratched by a caring hand, guess what? We're watching ourselves. Walking around in a $400 suit doesn't make us want that gentle head scratch any less.

"Most teams out there are experiencing 'appreciation depletion,'" said Tess Ausman, speaker and CEO of CLT Leads, to a webinar audience recently. "The reason it happens is that we all get so caught up in our routine that we run on auto-pilot. When that occurs, we de-prioritize recognizing and appreciating others.

"Here's how I see it manifested every day with teams: Forgetting to say 'thank you.' Not sending informal shout-outs. Not writing grateful emails or notes. We forget to do these things because we figure  employees already know we appreciate them.

"Let me show you the effect of appreciation depletion," Ausman continued.

"In the beginning, your employee internalizes a lack of appreciation as basically … nothing. It doesn't really matter to them. 'Oh, it's okay that he didn't recognize that I stayed up late to work on this project, or answer emails on my vacation. Hey, he's got a lot on his plate. We're not here to win awards, we're here to get things done.'

"But then, little by little, it starts to eat at them. That neutrality is not a sustainable feeling. It leads to denial: 'I really wish she would say thank you once a while … and that kind of bothers me.' As they think these words, they don't believe it's going to go on forever, or that the oversights are truly getting under their skin.

"The longer this denial is allowed to fester, the greater chance of the employee falling into the dreaded valley of despair. This is where the dark thoughts enter their minds, and start to get shared with their co-workers and loved ones at home. 'I don't matter … my work doesn't matter … the boss doesn't care about what I do.'

"'Nor do I understand anymore,' the employee thinks, 'how my work is connected to the success of the company. The only thing my manager cares about is me showing up on time.'

"Giving feedback takes the employee out of this valley and gets them up to an exploration mindset, in which they see the light at the end of the tunnel and actively seek ways to feel content at work again; they've gotten that energy back. Finally, it leads them to a real commitment to us. But without continuous feedback, they'll slide right back down into the valley.

"But wait … you might think I'm just talking about praise. Not true. Let's look at the difference between praise and positive feedback.

"Positive feedback: 'Hey Tess, when you showed up to the meeting early with a copy of the agenda for everybody, and a very clear set of next steps, we were not only impressed, it allowed us to make three critical decisions that will impact our go-live date. Thank you for always being so focused on preparedness and details.'

"Praise: 'Hey Tess, great job on yesterday's meeting!'

"And Tess thinks, 'Why? Because I had a nice shirt on? Because I spoke clearly?'

"Praise will briefly get someone out of the valley of despair, no question. But it won't always keep them from sliding back into it. Share specific behavior, and connect it to impact."

"Give this feedback verbally, by all means, but you get more bang for the buck if you write it down. Then the person reads it … and reads it again … and again. How many of you save great emails or handwritten cards you get? I have a folder of them.

"Someone who works for you should have one too."

The One Simple Talent Solution You're Probably Overlooking

 alesia-kazantceva-283288-unsplash.jpg

alesia-kazantceva-283288-unsplash.jpg

I once had a manager who would leave notes on my desk that said "see me." They were terrifying. Was I in trouble? Did something go wrong? Was she in a bad mood?

We would go weeks without talking, so the notes were always a surprise. 

Ding, ding. Weeks without talking. 

Because she didn't proactively schedule check-ins, we were rarely on the same page. Yes, it was flattering that she trusted me to go forth and do my job, but our lack of meetings meant we lacked a personal connection, which meant we weren't on the same page about my work output or how I was doing personally.

In between a packed calendar of meetings, conference calls and emails, fire fighting and to do lists, many leaders forget (or don't prioritize) their people. 

And prioritizing people is a simple talent solution that will help with succession planning, calibration meetings, recruitment, promotion cycles, and all the other talent development stuff that seems daunting and time consuming and low priority. Because when people are put first, you find out how they feel. You connect on a personal level. You get to know them, which makes calibration conversations more truthful, goal setting easier, and leadership development more impactful.

Think of all the things that can be found out when people are put first, instead of all the work and all the results: 

Results first: Come to work, put your head down, get all the things done, and do them right the first time. I'll check in with an email when there's a problem or if I need something. People first: What's on your plate this week? What are you worried about? How can I help? What can I do to help you feel successful this week?

Results first: Put everything you're doing on this team spreadsheet. Update it weekly. Speak up in the weekly team meeting to report on your metrics, both good and bad, and listen to me tell you all what should be done next. People first: Take a look at this cool project Lewis is working on. Did you hear about Kim's big win last week? Let's put our heads together and figure out a solution to this process that's bugging all of us. 

Results first: What happened? Why did you do this wrong? I can't believe this happened. Fix it. People first: Let's talk through what went wrong. What do you think should be done? How can we work together to fix it? Who should be looped in?

Think of all the things that are felt when people are put first. I am valued. My success matters. Who I am matters. 

Putting people first is a special ingredient in the world of talent planning. You can go through the motions of talent programs - participate in succession planning, sign your people up for the mentor program, invest in that day-long training - and on paper those programs will look great. But on the inside (of your team and company) employees will know it's a show.

Which means they'll eventually leave you, either physically (for another job) or mentally (by being disengaged). And then you'll need an even bigger talent solution.

The Most Dangereous Mistake in Talent Planning

In a startup, everyone is doing all the things. There are no swim lanes because the goal is survival and risk-taking and growth and juggling as many priorities as humanly possible.

But as the startup grows, each employee's area of expertise begins to narrow.

And when it becomes a thriving small business, roles start to completely change. More people are hired. Job descriptions are defined. Teams get to delegate and focus on their strengths and assign work based on a "who-is-the-best-at-this-ok-let's-have-them-do-that" mindset. 

Once teams start flexing their specialized skill muscles, certain people become harder to live without. Which means that without a plan in place, if certain employees leave, the business can suddenly be in a tough spot, potentially one never even considered because leaders didn't think it was important enough to talk about.

I call it the "what if they got hit by a bus tomorrow" conversation.

The technical term is critical role planning. Boring. Basically, it's an annual assessment of each employee, the role they play within in the company, and what would happen without them.

This misconception here is that only leaders need to be discussed. The CEO, the COO, the rest of the C-Suite folks. Ok sure they need it because they run the company.

But a big miss among small businesses is planning deeper down, to the seemingly smallest of roles, because those are the folks who make the company run.

See what I did there?

It feels like a waste of time. Why do I need to think about what will happen if Derrick leaves? He told me he's committed to our company for the long-term. It can feel complex. How do I even know where to start when it comes to identifying who we can't live without? Everyone on the team is too important and I can't get the senior team together for a full day to try to talk it through. We don't have that kind of time. It probably even feels expensive. I don't know how to do this and there's no way we're taking this month's profit and paying someone to do it for us. 

The most dangerous mistake in talent planning is not having the bus conversation. Here's why:

  • There are people who are critical to core operations. They keep the lights on. They're a single point of failure because of what they know or the process they can do and their absence would be detrimental to the business.
  • There are people with a specialized skill set. Their role is hard to fill because what they do, who they are, and what they know is so unique and difficult to duplicate.
  • There are people who directly impact performance. Aka: they make the money. They are critical to financial goals and drive bottom-line profit or incoming revenue.

As a business grows, responsibilties change and people fall into their niche and suddenly Jane is the only one who knows the invoicing system (and maybe that's ok because it's an easy system to learn) and Andre knows the entire history of the company plus every client that's ever been and Carl is the best at closing deals (and revenue will plummet if he's gone).

Can they be replaced? Should they be replaced? What's the short term plan if they're gone? Is there an internal successor? 

An annual bus conversation leads to those questions being answered, which ensures that the business keeps moving forward, no matter who leaves. 

______________

CLT Leads is a leadership development company that helps small businesses and their people reach full potential. We're passionate about helping people live their best lives at work and setting small businesses up with talent practices that work. Find out more at www.cltleads.com.

 

How to Have Better Team Conversations

iStock-937212904.jpg

Feeling like part of a team fosters a sense of belonging that meets an innate human need for all of us. We know someone has our back. We can vent. We can fail, stand up to brush off the dust, and keep going. We're happier because we feel included. Heard. Understood.

It's easy to spot employees who feel like they're part of the team and teams who make it a point to be sure members feel this way. There are jokes and laughter. Extra conversation in addition to work stuff. Smiles and a lot of "checking in to make sure everything is ok" talks. The mood is lighter. 

What's the opposite of that?

  • Being too scared to take a risk because of the ramifications
  • Not being honest in meetings 
  • Unable to give feedback or share feelings
  • Unnecessary delays because of poor communication 
  • Pent up frustration and demotivation
  • Passive aggressiveness (yikes this is the worst)

Great teams don't have to sit together. They don't even have to be in the same office. Or state. Or country. 

Because all it takes is good conversation. Every relationship in my life where I've felt trusted and supported started with words. I've felt closer to teammates across the country than ones I could talk to through a cubicle wall, because how we interacted left me feeling valued and appreciated. 

And it's so easy! Through regular team meetings, consistent 1:1s, teambuilding experiences, and recognition strategies, any team can improve how they have conversations, which in turns improves their effectiveness. Here are a few ideas:

  • DISC teambuilding - DISC is a personality assessment that helps people understand themselves and how to work better with others (and it is better that Myers-Briggs so if you done MBTI before don't brush this off because it will change your life). Knowing your personality style changes how you interact and speak to others. Imagine the power of everyone on a team knowing their personality profile and striving to meet someone else where they're at (extrovert, introvert, control freak, people pleaser ....)
  • Regular shout-outs in team meetings: Start each team meeting (you're having these right?) with everyone sharing a shout-out to someone else on the team. Make sure the shout-out includes what the person did and why it mattered. No one more of this "You're just awesome, thanks for all you do!" because that doesn't make anyone feel valued. Seriously. 
  • Consistent 1:1s - These meetings are for the employee, not the manager. Done well, a 1:1 helps someone feel heard and supported. Ask these questions in a 1:1 meeting -
    • What's your biggest challenge right now? 
    • What's going well? What are you most confident about?
    • What are you most proud of this month? 
    • Where can I be the most helpful to you?

Results aren't the foundation of a good team. Conversation is.

______________________________

CLT Leads is a leadership development company that helps small businesses and their people reach full potential. We're passionate about helping people live their best lives at work and setting small businesses up with talent practices that work. Find out more at www.cltleads.com.

 

You're The Expert: The 3 Steps I Used to Get Promoted

apple-keyboard-cactus-candle-947845.jpg

When I first stepped into the corporate world, after (what seemed like) a lifetime in public education, I went from commanding a classroom and being a respected lead teacher to the lowest job title (aka "Specialist") at a Fortune 300 company. 

Ouch.

I'm a believer in taking steps back in a career in order to progress, and this was the biggest one I'd ever done. As Sheryl Sandberg says in Lean In, a career is a jungle gym, and sometimes we have to move across and down before we can move up. This was a massive jump-down-two-rails-and-hop-three-spaces-to-the-right move. 

My life at the new company was scary. No one knew me. I was out of my comfort zone. Speaking up in a meeting felt terrifying. I knew public education and how to get teenagers to score high on tests and listen to me. I didn't know Learning and Development for a company of 50,000 people. 

But in less than 3 years, I found myself promoted three times.

It wasn't rocket science, but the promotions didn't happen by chance either. I took a purposeful approach, which is something many people don't understand is necessary. Instead of only relying on my manager to figure out when the right time was for me to be promoted, I made sure I was doing everything I could to show I should be considered. I was intentional, instead of running on auto-pilot and hoping for the best.

What did I do? It didn't happen over night, but these three steps changed my career:

I started believing I was an expert. Confidence is often a barrier to getting promoted. When we don't believe in ourselves, we're less likely to speak up in a meeting, or share that new idea, or ask for that stretch assignment. In order to start believing I was an expert, I started intentionally learning from other people. I got official teachers (like a mentor) and asked teammates to teach me.I also found unofficial teachers - colleagues who were successful and whose confidence I wanted to emulate. I would watch them in meetings and re-read emails to understand their approach. And on top of that, I started telling myself You are an expert at this! every day, because personal mantras are my jam (and they work).

I asked for feedback. It's hard for me to listen to constructive feedback. Because I have a dominant personality, I think my ideas are the best ideas all the time. And that every decision I make is the right decision (if you're feeling sorry for my husband right now I get it). It served me well in the classroom, but not so much in the corporate world. So I had to learn (and this took years you guys) that in order to grow, I needed to show others that I was open to receiving feedback and willing to act on it. Even if I didn't agree with it. Questions I used: What could I do differently next time? What didn't go well? 

I learned self-awareness. See also: humility & grace. Yes, there are jerks who make it to the top. Leaders who steamroll everyone around them and step on others in order to make themselves look better. But that doesn't make it right. I committed to learning about myself - my habits, my personality, my work style - and understanding what skills I needed to work on in order to be my best self (instaed of complaining that no one was telling me what to work on). I was a chronic interrupter and had a habit of taking credit for project that multiple people worked on in order to feel good about myself. Those aren't characteristics I am proud to admit, and it took me a few years to be humble enough to recognize I needed to stop doing them, but once I did, I became a better colleague, which in turn helped me get noticed. 

Being intentional about what it takes to get a promotion is important. You can make big career moves and take risks, but you can't run on autopilot and expect others to notice and reward you for it. Take charge of your development and career. That's never something you'll regret. 

__________________________

CLT Leads is a leadership consulting company that helps small businesses live up to their full potential. Find more at www.cltleads.com

3 Ways Leaders Without Teams Get Noticed

Early in my career I complained about not getting enough leadership experience because I wasn't getting promoted and managing a team. I had aspirations to make a difference, and felt frustrated that "no one was giving me chance" to show what I could do.

Sound familiar? It's a common complaint among overacheiving young professionals who are desperate to grow and learn and be the best. 

Getting caught up in this mindset isn't effective.

It's limiting. Makes you believe that the only way to show off skills is to be promoted. That to be seen, you have to be heard too. That success is dependent on what others think and the opportunities they provide.

#nope

Teammates don't need to report to you in order to know you care, and you don't need the highest title in the room in order to make a difference. In your current role, no matter what it is, you can coach others. Mentor. Share your opinion and know that people are learning from you. Delegate work to help someone else develop.

If you have influence, you're a leader.

It's really that easy. Who listens to you? Follows your lead? Comes to you for advice? Those are people and situations where you can practice leadership skills and over time, get noticed as someone who has what it takes to grow to the next level. 

But how? By showing up, getting dirty, sharing appreciation, and making others feel empowered to do more and be more. It sounds like this:

1. How can I help? Great leaders who don't actually lead teams are always offering support to others, even if it's grunt work, like filing papers or filling in a spreadsheet. People are more likely to view someone who rolls their up sleeves and gets dirty with them as a leader, instead of the one who says "that's not in my job description" and walks away. (We view those folks as jerks)

2. I am thankful for you and here's why. Feeling appreciated is a core value that every human on the planet has, even if they won't admit it. Great leaders tell others often that they are appreciated, but then take it a step further and explain why, so it's known exactly what they did that was valued. Yes, high fives and thank yous go a long way, but great leaders kick it up a notch. Just yesterday I told a colleague,"Thank you for always keeping me on track with the new tech process. You are so reliable! I am juggling a lot and knowing you have my back helps me stress less about missing new tickets that come through." It took three seconds.

3. Tell me more about that. Listening, instead of hearing-what-someone-is-saying-but-thinking-about-what-you-want-to-say-and-then-trying-to-wait-for-your-chance doesn't take you far (I know because it took me years to overcome this habit). It comes across as insensitive and egocentric if done enough, and can be a career staller if the right people take notice. Instead, start incoporating this phrase into conversations. Instead of giving your opinion or trying to problem solve, say "tell me more about that" and see what happens next. Bonus points if you can keep your mouth shut and not say anything at all. 

Starting today, notice how others interact with and respond to you. Find opportunities for incorporating these phrases into your daily routine and over time, you'll notice a difference in not only your mindset, but in how much others trust in and rely on you. All along you'll be practicing your leadership skills, and what everyone will get in return is a new and improved teammate.

*******************

CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders and turns small business owners into talent development gurus. Check it out at www.cltleads.com.

Successful New Managers do THIS in the first 60-Days

 Photo by  Manuel Sardo  on  Unsplash

Photo by Manuel Sardo on Unsplash

There's a niche I'm filling in the leadership development world. It's the gap between a newly promoted I'm-so-excited-to-be-here-I-am-going-to-change-the-world manager and the I-can't-do-this-anymore-leading-people-is-hard-I-think-they-hate-me manager. 

Think about it. Most companies promote their people to first level leaders because of job knowledge. The employee is smart and talented. Gets shit done and gets results. Makes money.

BUT. 

Those new leaders almost always fail. Sure, that failure might not be as evident as a resignation or role change, but it's there. And when it happens, the team suffers and the manager suffers and everyone is left fighting low morale and disengagement because what else do you do when your manager sucks?

The skills that get people promoted aren't the skills it takes to be a successful leader. 

The most successful new managers I coach make it a point to do one thing differently in their role. Instead of proving why they deserved the promotion or implementing changes just because they're in charge now, they simply press pause on their ego ... 

... and connect. 

In the first 60 days, then connect with their team. With their new peers. They listen, they seek to understand, they build trust. 

They Listen. Active listening is different from I-hear-you-but-I'm-really-just-waiting-for-my-turn-to-speak listening. Active listening is eye contact, head nodding, and keeping your mouth closed. It's saying "Tell me more about that" to encourage the other person to keep sharing. It's asking, "What's been challenging this week?" and "What are you most proud of?" and "How can I help you?" in 1:1 meetings. And oh yeah, it's scheduling those 1:1 meetings the very first week because there is no better forum for listening than in a regular (ahem, weekly or biweekly) 1:1 meeting. 

They Seek to Understand. Successful new managers don't come out of the gate trying to make sure everyone understands their point of view. They don't try to be the loudest in the room, the smartest one in the meeting, or the one who's always right. They genuinely try to see where others are coming from and work to incorporate new points of view into their thinking. They ask questions like "Why do you think that is?" or "What would you do differently?" to uncover what's on everyone else's mind. And then (you guessed it) they actively listen to the answers. And sometimes they throw in a "Tell me more about that" for good measure.

They Build Trust. There are two kinds of trust that a new manager builds. The first is subject matter trust, the belief that my new manager knows what's going on and can help me in my job. This one usually comes first because most  managers are so eager to prove themselves. The second kind, the more difficult one, is relationship trust. That's the you've got my back and you care about me and you're willing to support me no matter what trust. That kind of trust takes putting ego aside and (a shocking revelation is coming ... ready?) putting others first, mainly by listening and seeking to understand. 

I coach so many new managers who, because they haven't had leaders do this for them, don't understand the value of connection. Of putting everything else on the backburner and using the first 60 days to get to know people. We aren't robots. We all come to work with a deep need to feel valued and appreciated. And connection provides that. 

____________________________________________________

Tess Ausman is the founder of CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders and turns small business owners into talent development gurus. She is passionate about the soft skills it takes to grow a career: self-awareness, empathy, and a healthy dose of humilty. Check her out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tessausman/ and  www.instagram.com/thecltleads .

The Easiest Way to Not be a Jerk in Meetings

 Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

What sets you off? Frustrates you? Clouds your vision so much that what you know you should do goes out the window and subconscious reactions kick in?

We all have triggers and they bring out the worst in us at work because triggers are the things that make us feel ignored. Undervalued. Unappreciated. Sometimes they go deeper and hit at our core, and then we feel shame, worthlessness, guilt. 

Naming our triggers is critical to professional growth.

I know mine. It's taken years to figure them out + be humble enough to accept that this is who I am and these triggers have an impact on how I behave. They are:

  • Being excluded from a decision
  • Having my intelligence challenged
  • Feeling left out

By knowing our triggers, we can shut off negative responses at the source, because we're able to label exactly what is wrong. Instead of snapping at someone or ignoring them (my two most common reactions when I am triggered), when I feel the urge to behave that way, I take a few seconds to identify WHY.

And the answer is always that I've been triggered. 

Which usually means I'm feeling that someone isn't listening to me or respecting my intelligence, but sometimes I have to admit that I'm feeling left out and want to take it out on the other person. 

The danger is that most people don't know (or won't accept) their triggers.

I see it daily, and here's what it looks like: 

  • Shutting down in a meeting, refusing to say anything else because the group isn't listening
  • Pushing for ideas too hard and purposely causing friction and calling others out in order to not be seen as the one who messed up
  • Not answering emails on purpose because of the fear that the answer is wrong
  • Interrupting and challenging everyone in a meeting because that's equated with being the smartest or most important

Understanding your triggers takes a combination of maturity and humility. And it starts with this question: What are my self-doubts? When do I feel at my lowest?

Another indicator is your personality style. I love the DISC assessment, because it's easy to interpret and put into action. And knowing what quadrant you're in gives insight into the behaviors that could set you off (so if you're struggling to peel away the layers of your personality and the baggage of life because it feels too scary, start with DISC).

Self-awareness is critical to professional growth. It's also critical to keeping yourself from flying off the handle andbeing a jerk and calling your boss a crazy person in the next team meeting. Because I can guarantee that won't help you grow professionally either.

 

***********************

Tess Ausman is the founder of CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders. She is passionate about the soft skills that it takes to grow a career: self-awareness, empathy, and a healthy dose of humilty. Check her out at www.instagram.com/thecltleads too.

Throat Punches Aren't Effective

 Photo by filip Bunkens on UnsplashPhoto by  Filip Bunkens  on  Unsplash

Photo by filip Bunkens on UnsplashPhoto by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

I have an innate confidence in my ideas and opinions. Like, I am always convinced that I'm right. That my opinion is the best. That everyone should do I what say. That when I speak up everyone should immediately consider what I'm saying. 

Let's look at how well the behavior that accompanies those thoughts has served me in my corporate career:

  • Interrupting others in meetings and being seen as impatient and rude? [check]
  • Dominating conversations and not letting others talk and being judged as unfriendly and inconsiderate? [check]
  • Sriking down ideas without even pausing to consider them and therefore coming across as arrogant and stubborn? [check, check, check]

I'm a catch you guys. 

For years I've joked that when people don't agree with me they deserve a throat punch. Which is partly true (see "thinks my ideas are the best ideas" above), but not until recently did I start to realize that I might deserve one too. After all, when I'm trying to get someone to see my point of view, there are two sides to the conversation, and how I am coming across has a huge impact on how they respond to me. 

Enter influence styles. There's a lot of research out there - I love this article in the Harvard Biz Review. And this one (Spoiler alert: Yes, my influence style sabotages me sometimes -please say I'm not the only one).

It's taken years of self-awareness practice to understand that even though I'm only 5'2" and smile a lot (harmless, right?), my instinctual word choice, tone, and approach to conversations can be pretty harmful. Harmful to how others see me. How they talk to me. How they feel about the work I do.

Without yelling, I have a way of insisting my ideas are heard and challenging the ideas of others. 

I say "but" a lot: Yes, but what I'm saying is that won't work. I say "should" a lot: You should do it this way. I point out my credentials a lot: I have a masters degree in blah blah blah or am officially certified in this whack topic. 

UGH

So I've been working on this natural tendency to be assertively influential by replacing it with the other styles: Rationalizing, Negotiating, Inspiring, and Bridging. I'm pretty good at saying "Yes! And ..." (do you know this improv trick?) and have replaced word "should" with "could" (some of the best advice I've ever gotten). 

I've been seeking to understand situations so I know what style to use, and using guiding questions (see the linked HBR article) to help me channel the right approach. 

I'm a work in progress - we all are - and if understanding influence styles has helped me, then I know it can help someone else. If anything, it'll keep you from throat punching someone. Because that mess will cause a lawsuit and then you're really screwed.