The 7 Subtle Signs of “Woke” Leadership

No leader aspires to be called “out-of-touch”, “closed-minded” or even biased. It is sad to say that employees, peers, and constituents often use these words to describe the people who lead them. 

Imagine the amazing world of work if our leaders miraculously woke up and became intensely attuned and stood up to questionable events around them.

The concept of “woke” was introduced in a popular song nearly a decade ago but gained prominence recently within the Black Lives Matter movement. It describes being keenly attuned and aware along with questioning one’s surroundings – especially when disorder and unfairness are present.

Employees want their leaders to wake up to the world around them. “Woke” leaders who take action based on their enlightened perspectives are more respected. There is no better time than now for leadership to be intensively self-aware and awaken to the reality that they no longer can keep their heads in the sand.

What does “woke” leadership look like?  It looks like this.

You care and it matters.

You possess empathy towards others so becoming “woke” matters to you. Making a difference and breaking away from the way things were before is important to you. You believe the status quo, or worse yet, going backward, are not acceptable.

You seek to understand.

You accept you sometimes live in a bubble. Yet, you can step out of it. Woke leaders look deeper than what is on the surface to understand what’s really going on. They are open to hearing something fundamentally different from the story that is being told.

Refusing to turn away from what is in front of you.

You believe wrong is wrong. You don’t turn your head and look away. You don’t rationalize, justify, or make excuses. When it is wrong, you are courageous and you address it.

You know that woke leadership takes intentional effort.

Woke leadership takes work and commitment to do better. Out-of-touch leaders often work without mindfulness or in a state of mental cruise control. Woke leaders will not abdicate or relegate responsibility that should be theirs.

Bring closer the people who give you a different perspective.

Woke leaders know it is risky is to surround yourself with people who are just like you or who tell you “yes” every time. Surrounding yourself with people who validate you constantly may be comfortable and boost your ego but it keeps you playing small. Woke leaders will surround themselves with different perspectives, different stories, and different experiences.

You realize that you have blind spots and biases.

No one is free of either. Woke leadership recognizes that everyone has blind spots and even unintentional, implicit biases. Woke leaders know that enhanced self-awareness allows you to work on lessening blind spots and biases.

You act before the chaos.

The ultimate goal of woke leadership is to sense, grasp, adapt and act before any situation goes the wrong direction.

These were the seven telltale signs of “woke” leadership. Remember, management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.“Woke” leadership is doing the right things even when wrong things are all around.

No-Nonsense Reasons Why Your Words Matter

Smart leaders know they are scrutinized with every word and action taken. How and what you say has consequences. Words matter.

C’mon leaders, when are you going to get it? With position, power, and influence comes responsibility. We yearn for leaders we can believe in and trust. Let’s have a frank conversation why your words matter.

We cannot read minds

We want to know what you think. We want to know where you are taking us. We know you will make decisions and take actions in the future that will affect us. How you present your ideas persuade us to either follow or resist. Most of us are not in your circle of friends or influence. One of the ways to understand what you think is to pay attention to what you write or say. Your words matter to us.

Turn us into believers

You need to prove to us that you are trustworthy. We are skeptical of leadership. Before you open your mouth or hit send on your mobile device, please check your facts. Once it comes out of your mouth, you cannot take back what you said. Yes, you can spin a message or apologize for a misstatement but each time you do, you chip away at your credibility.

We connect with people who we believe are credible. We follow leaders we trust. Stephen M. R. Covey gave us a practical model for credibility. We look for all four of these characteristics to determine if a leader is credible: integrity, intent, capability, and results. We will assess your character (and whether we like it). We will look deep to understand your integrity and your intent. What you say gives us visibility and clarity to both.

Silence is acceptance

We evaluate leaders by what they say.  We evaluate leaders by what they don’t say. It troubles us when you do not call out bad performance or behavior. If my co-worker’s performance is below standards and you fail to address it, we think you are either showing favoritism, a hypocrite or a coward. We hold leaders to a high standard and we want you to live up to it.

Be careful of your timing and tone

Words can instantly inspire, inform, motivate, explain, upset, scare or divide. Words matter so does “when” and “how” you deliver your message.

We recognize it is difficult for you to determine the right time to comment on tough issues. However, in the absence of your statements, we make up stories in our heads. Science tells us that once we make up our minds, it is harder to move us in a different direction.

Your tone is important. We want to believe you are sincere and mean what you say. We see mixed messages when your tone and words do not match. Tone circles back to your credibility and believability.

Language makes us human. Words have power. They evoke thoughts, emotion, and reaction. Great leaders and communicators have a unique ability to use words to draw us toward them. We hope you take to heart what we have said. Our words matter too.

4 Must-Do’s to Build Your Credibility

Are you an individual contributor, an aspiring groundbreaker, or a tried-and-true leader? You can be any of these, yet, the quality that amplifies your success in all cases is credibility. Your path to career success is smoother when you are seen as “credible.”

What is Credibility?

When you are credible, others have confidence in you because they see you as believable, competent and trustworthy. Credibility is the main precursor to building trust. As we go through our day-to-day lives, we want friends we can trust. We do business with people we trust. We hire people we trust. We follow leaders we trust.

What happens when people see you as credible? To start, people are open to listen to your ideas and respect your expertise. From there on, your influence grows. The upshot of being credible is that you will be taken seriously.

What can you do every day to become more credible? The four must-dos are described in Covey’s four core principles of credibility. They are integrity, intent, capability and results. Let’s explore more how these principles work.

Integrity is More Than Honesty

The foundational core is integrity. People who work with integrity consistently do the right thing in just ways. Their behaviors consistently align with their values. They treat others with decency and fairness. Time and time again when you behave with integrity, you build your credibility.

On the flip side, violations of integrity are the biggest destroyers of credibility. In recent years, we’ve seen many cases of high-profile people who had major lapses in integrity. Remember these famous people who were on top of the world and fell hard and fast from grace? Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Anthony Weiner, and Martha Stewart. Even if you’re not famous, when your integrity is suspect, you may find yourself paying a heavy “trust tax.”

Intent is a Delicate Balancing Act

People are smart. Don’t be surprised when people scrutinize the intent behind your actions. Respect is gained when your intent includes bettering the people around you. Individuals whose intent is viewed as mutually beneficial will garner credibility and support.

Individuals who mostly look out for themselves, at the expense of others, will often lose credibility because of self-centered agendas.

Case in point, recently a coworker’s intent was questioned when he misled a senior executive team. It happened when John was a member of the company’s relocation committee. One day, John invited the committee to visit a new site he had located. When we arrived, members asked John why this site was south of our location when 80% of the employees lived north of our existing building. John admitted it was closer to his home. In one fell swoop, John’s agenda surfaced and his credibility was immediately compromised. The committee now distrusted him. Besides that, the incident spread through the company grapevine. John’s reputation turned into someone who only looked out for #1. His credibility was damaged by one poorly motivated decision.

On the other hand, women must be cognizant to their intent and the notion of being mutually beneficial. Women will sometimes put their own wants and needs behind those of others. For working women, altruism is a delicate balancing act. Women should develop personal strategies to ensure their visible intent is balanced and not skewed in one direction.

Are You Capable?

The third core is capability. It is the measurement of your ability to do your work well. Do you have the talent, attitude, knowledge and style to deliver competently on the tasks assigned to you? To gain credibility, you must also be competent.

Competence is enhanced by keeping yourself up to date on knowledge, skills, and trends in your area of expertise. If you’re not learning and keeping yourself up to date, know that your competition is.

There is a challenge for underrepresented groups in the workplace. For women, success can be undermined by unconscious gender bias or the expectations how women should act in the workplace. Ways to counteract these negative pressures are to:

  • Believe you are good.
  • Seek out and take high-profile, high-value assignments.
  • Take credit when it is due. Do not allow yourself or others to down play your work or position.
  • Watch for minimizing language. Remove lessening statements such as, “It was nothing.”
  • Know that your workplace is not a meritocracy. Hard work means nothing without visibility and acknowledgement.
  • Own and take credit for your ideas – do not give them away.
  • Learn the rules of your business’ game and learn to play them well.

Results are Valued More Than Effort

The cold, hard fact in the business world is that you will be judged on results; not on effort. Your results build credibility and trust. You are evaluated on your accomplishment track record. Here are a few helpful hacks to guide you on your road to results.

  • Set your standards to deliver good results, but do not delay trying to achieve perfect results.

Although it may not be fair, women sometimes need to meet higher standards than men. Women are judged more harshly than men on both sides of the success-and-failure yardstick. Keep records, data and facts at your deposal. When results go well, you can take credit based on the facts. Likewise, when things do not go well, you have the evidence of how you are going to address it.

Women need to have strategies to overcome everyday workplace challenges and gender bias. A key strategy is to build (and maintain) credibility. Credibility builds influence and trust. In turn when you are influential and trusted, your professional and personal power become formidable.

Originally published on Huffington Post and Ellevate Network.

Game-Changing Strategies to Become More Influential at Work

Whether you are at the top of the corporate ladder or just want to be heard in a meeting, influencing skills are vital for anyone to be successful. Moreover, those skills are vital for a leader, whose job it is to move people forward.

What is influence? At work, influence is the capacity or power someone has to be persuasive or a compelling force to produce effects on the actions, behavior, or opinions of others. Or, put simply, it is getting someone to go from Point A to Point B. Influence can come with a position and title but it is not guaranteed. In fact, people can be influential in any role, whatever their station.

Women, however, continue to struggle while they search for ways to become more influential at work. Sometimes they toil just to have their ideas heard or valued. (Stories abound about men and women who independently present the same material and are often treated differently.)

Here are 8 strategies women can do to raise their level of influence at work.

Develop your drive to become more influential. First, you have to want to improve. Becoming more influential takes desire and effort. If it doesn’t matter to you, then figure out why it doesn’t matter!

Remember that your workplace is not a meritocracy. Be careful not to get caught up in the notion that if you work hard, you will be justly and fairly rewarded. Real competition exists in the workplace. Yes, competence and results are essential for your growth. You still must learn how to promote yourself and bring attention to your excellent work.woman-hand-smartphone-desk-medium

Keep your skills and knowledge up to date. It is so easy nowadays to keep your skills current and continue to learn. Online courses, MOOCs, blogs, books, podcasts, seminars and even YouTube are easily accessible learning resources. If you’re not learning and keeping yourself up to date, know that your coworker or competitor is.

Believe in yourself or what you know. When you’ve done #3, you have laid a strong foundation to be credible with coworkers and bosses. The next step is to have the courage to show what you know and to be as smart as anyone on the team. Women repeatedly underestimate their competence. An HRB article notes that a woman will apply for a job when she meets 100% of the job requirements whereas a man will apply even if he has met only 60% of the requirements.

Solve “important” problems. Women sometimes pride themselves at being good multitaskers, getting things done, and helping others. It’s useful to know that if you are particularly good at these traits that you also run the risk of being given lots of insignificant tasks to finish. You are not rising in the influencing ranks if you are only doing tasks to just “check the boxes.” While you may not be in a position to say “no” when given these requests, you should also look for “important” problems to solve. Do all you can to understand your boss’ or the business’ pain points and then help solve them. When you start to solve your business’ real problems, your level of influence will skyrocket.

Know when to show your agentic (masculine) and communal (feminine) communication styles. This balancing act is also called the Goldilocks Dilemma. A woman’s communication style is constantly being judged. Your style may be seen as too aggressive, demanding, competitive or too warm, caring and soft but never just right. too hot too cold just right

In the work world, it is detrimental for a woman to outwardly show anger. On the other hand, men are given a greater pass when they show aggression, disgust or anger. So the communication playing field is uneven. What do you do?

You take incremental steps to bring your authentic communication style in line with what works for you and your environment. Start with self-awareness then make small changes that enhance your agentic and communal communication techniques. Knowing when and which communication style to show in a particular context will increase your influence.

woman_celebration_arms_up_800_clr_11340Next, heighten your self-awareness around your nonverbal communication. Your nonverbal communication sends many messages about you that your audience is implicitly deciphering. Nonverbal qualities for you to consider are your appearance, demeanor, posture, language and speaking style, room positioning, body language, voice and diction. (This list can go on and on!) Seek to understand how your own components are affecting your credibility; the right nonverbal communication can positively affect your influencing ability when you are able to project confidence, approachability, professionalism, and yes, the right amount of power.

Prep and Practice makes perfect. Like an athlete, prep and practice of a newly learned skill are important to change habits and outcomes. Self-awareness will uncover areas you want to adjust. Practice will allow you to test your new behaviors. When you experience small wins along the way, your confidence and influence will grow.

Hold up others. Make every effort to recognize and acknowledge others at work. Research indicates that greater benefit is gained when a woman receives accolades or is promoted by others than when she self-promotes. This does not mean that you should not learn more effective ways to (professionally and prudently) self-promote, but it does mean that you should find cohorts and champions who are willing to tout how great you are.

With certainty, if you start to employ these strategies you will enhance and improve your influencing capabilities. No matter what role you have in your organization, your ability to influence will be key to your continued growth and success.

Originally published on http://www.sharpheels.com

Also seen on EllevateNetwork, Chicago Tribune, and Business Insider UK

6 Ways to Embrace Change to Achieve Greatest Personal Growth

One of the most desirable traits of a smart leader is the ability to view problems as opportunities. Challenges, mistakes, lack of progress or failure can spur professionals to make adjustments and move in a different direction. Setbacks are opportune reasons to disrupt thinking and pivot to new ways or better ideas.

Problem situations beget change, yet change, for most people, is hard. When the need to change arises, how can we move toward it in the fastest way possible?

Consider these six tips to help professionals move faster towards positive change.

  • Be ready and open to thinking differently. Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  If you are not getting the results you want and you recognize that you are doing things in the same old way, it’s time to change how you think. Looking at an issue from a different perspective or a fresh outlook may be just the modification to help you find a better path. Thinking differently also means striving to attain a growth mindset. People with growth mindsets are open to learning and change.  Leaders with growth mindsets believe that their own talents – and those of other as well – can be further developed through hard work, good strategies, and regular feedback.
  • Manage your limiting self-talk and perfectionist tendencies. The speed of change depends on your ability to resist the negative stories you tell yourself that may hold you back. Don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes. Restrictive internal thoughts, by nature, will inhibit your decision making, increase your self-consciousness, and limit movement towards change. If you can resist negativity, you will be able to get back on the path to fast and real change. Perfectionism can slow change efforts, too. Perfectionism is tough to let go because many people see perfectionist tendencies as a positive trait. Perfectionists prefer to be 100% certain before making a fault-free decision, thus avoiding the risk and criticism that may come with that decision. To overcome perfectionist tendencies, push yourself to be more timely and reduce your need for full data and information before making a move or decision.
  • Do things in a different way. After thinking differently comes trying different actions. If your old approaches are not working, be willing to try something new. Shake things up. Try things you don’t generally do. Watch and learn from others who do things better than you do. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t work. Transformation does not occur when you fall into the trap of doing things the way they have always been done.
  • Change the people you listen to. Be circumspect of advisors who constantly give you the same stale or unoriginal thoughts and are not willing to embrace new ideas. If they are like this, it is time to look for new advisors. Search for great advisors with wide-ranging experiences that fit what you need and who come at challenges and opportunities differently than you do. Diversity in your advisors will bring diversity of thought and, most likely, faster change and better results.
  • Be willing to make changes to your team. Just as you evaluate the advice you receive, you want to ensure you are regularly evaluating your team. You need the right team around you in order to succeed. The people on your team should be adaptable, flexible and enthusiastic to learn and do. Your incumbent team members could be exactly what you need if they are adaptable, want to grow and are willing to put in the effort needed. Realistically though, sometimes you will need to change out some members of your team. (Tip: If you bring on new people to your team, resist hiring people who are exactly like you.)
  • Celebrate victories, no matter how big or small. It is all right to pat yourself on the back and celebrate when you have done something well, especially when you have done something successfully that was out of your comfort zone. Give yourself some positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement will motivate you afterward to repeat those behaviors.

If you want change and you want it to happen sooner rather than later, begin by looking in the mirror because the starting point is you. Be careful to not get caught up in your fears, in self-doubt, or in deflecting blame because those detractors will slow you down. Pivoting for change and innovation will be accelerated by your attitude to change.