By Diane Lazarowicz – Top Performance Results, LLC
In part one of this three-part series on Inner Driven Leadership, we took the first step toward becoming inner driven leaders by discussing Personal Competence. We determined our top five core values, which gave us a deeper understanding of what we deem important. Next, we developed our personal mission statement, which guided us toward recognizing our purpose. And, last, we became authentic leaders by aligning our core values with our personal mission.
In part two of this series, we will discuss Inner Driven Leadership from a social perspective. Social Competence involves exploring how well we are in tune with people and their thoughts and feeling. We will examine some of the critical social skills that make up our social competence. In addition, we will look at how these social skills play out with our ability to mentor others and inspire teams.
When our social skills are at their peak, an environment exists to build strong, genuine relationships. So, let us begin our social awareness journey by determining where we stand with these critical social skills. Ask yourself the following questions:
- When I am wrong, I avoid admitting it or attempt to convince others that I am not wrong. (Trust & Honesty)
- I am sensitive to the needs of others. (Empathy)
- When someone is dragging out the details of their story, I become frustrated and wish they would move it along. (Patience)
- When someone is talking to me, I am thinking about my response to what they are saying? (Active Listening)
- If debating an issue, I already have decided the outcome before they have completed their sentence. (Open Minded)
How many of these questions did you answer, “Yes?” If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, some attention is needed to these social skills:
- Trust & Honesty: A critical social skill, as a leader, is the ability to build trust. Without trust, it will be difficult to have a healthy relationship. Leaders with the ability to build trust are honest and genuinely interested in people. They allow others to express feelings freely without fear of being judged. A few ways to build trust include doing what you say you are going to do, being present, and admitting when you are wrong. Some leaders struggle with admitting their mistakes and either deny the mistake, or attempt to convince you it really was not how it appeared. Remember that trust and respect cannot occur if a leader is not honest about their own shortcomings. After all, perfection does not exist; we all make mistakes. It should also be noted that once trust is broken, it is very difficult to regain.
- Empathy: Another critical social skill is empathy. When a leader is empathetic, they have the ability to see a situation from the other person’s perspective. Understanding another’s perspective strengthens your ability to build trust and rapport. To work on developing your empathetic skills, ask yourself, how you would feel if you were in their situation. Try to really submerge yourself in their experience. Though it is not completely possible to understand how someone else feels, by putting yourself in his or her shoes, you will gain a deeper perspective.
- Patience: This is one of those critical social skills I often struggle with as a leader. Here are a few things I do to become more patient. First, I slow down. Simple as it sounds, it really helps me to be more patient. When running from thing to thing, I feel stressed. And, for me, when I am stressed, I am certainly not patient. To help myself slow down, I apply deep breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga. All of these have worked well. In addition to slowing down, I have improved my time management habits. When I do not leave enough time to complete tasks and I am rushed, impatience is sure to follow. By improving how I budget my time, I have achieved a level of calmness that has improved my ability to be patient.
- Active Listening: Active Listening is the next critical social skill. You have to work at being an active listener, and yes, it is not easy. Often, we are distracted by our never-ending “to-do” list, multi-tasking, and our access to technology. However, when we do not apply the focus required to listen to others, we can appear disinterested and aloof, creating a communication disconnect. Ways to improve this disconnect are to really put effort into focusing on the person who is speaking and the words they are actually saying. That means we should not be thinking about our response or interrupting them when something triggers us. In addition, make strong eye contact, paraphrase, and ask questions that do not require a yes or no response. Like they say, we have one mouth and two ears for a reason.
- Open Minded: One of the most frequent critical social skills I work with leaders on is their ability to be open minded. Often leaders have achieved success because of their ability to have great ideas and implement them effectively. However, this strength, can impede their ability to be open-minded, resulting in them shutting down the ideas of others. Are you truly Open Minded? Ask yourself these questions:
- I usually find flaws in the ideas of others.
- After hearing the ideas of others, I usually move forward with my idea
- I can determine very quickly if their idea is not a good one.
If you answered, “Yes” to any of these questions, you may want to explore further your ability to be open minded. This is not to say that every idea presented has merit. It means that validating the ideas of others breeds new ideas, approaches, and creativity. Stifling the ideas of others on a continuous basis breeds those who withdraw and stop presenting their ideas at all. Leaders who remain open and encourage free-flowing ideas, engage, motivate and inspire others to grow and develop as future leaders.
For leaders who want to measure their social communication skills, I recommend taking a DiSC Assessment. The DiSC model of human behavior is based on the 1928 work of psychologist Dr. William Marston, who identified four dimensions of behavior that make up the DiSC model. This assessment is the leading assessment tool used by over 40 million people worldwide to help improve communication, work productivity, sales, and teamwork. Not only will you learn more about yourself as a leader, but you will also gain insight into the behaviors of others.
In addition to the social skills listed above, another critical skill of inner driven leaders is the ability to mentor others. As a mentor, it is your role to guide, counsel, and support.
Very often, leaders think they are doing a great job at mentoring when, in fact, that may not actually be the case.
At one of my leadership workshops, we explored a “mentoring vs. doing” exercise in a group setting. With a cardboard shoe and lace, used to teach children how to tie their shoes, I engaged two willing participants to demonstrate mentoring for us. The leader began by explaining what should be done with the lace and the cardboard shoe. Unfortunately, the Mentee became frustrated by the lack of clear verbal direction and struggled to complete the task. In an attempt to help, the leader reached for the shoe, and began putting the lace into the holes. Yes, this was a great teaching moment, indeed. Interestingly, the leader did not even realize she was now completing the task and no longer mentoring. Upon discussion, the leader reported feeling challenged to give clear directions and admitted it was easier to “just do it.” The leader viewed the entire experience as a definite “ah-ha” moment. Remember, the role of a Mentor is to guide, counsel and support, NOT, take over and do.
Mentoring requires all of the social skills discussed above. So, when you are in a mentoring situation, be patient and take the time to be clear with your directions. Here are three questions to ask the Mentee to keep you both on track:
- What are you working on right now?
- What are your next steps?
- How can I help?
In addition to mentoring, all of the social skills discussed thus far are necessary to build and lead a strong team. Teams thrive when all of these social skills are applied along with rewarding team members and offering sincere praise on a regular basis.
This concludes the second part of our leadership series on the Social Competencies of Inner Driven Leadership. In this section, we explored the social skills necessary to be an inner driven leader. Furthermore, we learned about the DiSC assessment as an excellent tool to help develop social awareness. In addition, we evaluated our mentoring abilities and learned the difference between mentoring and doing. And last, we examined how all of these social skills are effective when inspiring and motivating a team.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the second part of a three-part series about Inner Driven Leadership. My next article will discuss the third and final competency of Inner Driven Leadership: Behavioral Competency. Here we will discuss the Inner Driven Leadership behaviors of goal setting, long-range planning, and life-long learning. If you are one who does not set goals or struggles to break them down into manageable tasks, this is “your” section. Here you will get a descriptive action plan to achieve your goals. You won’t want to miss this!
Diane Lazarowicz is an award-winning executive coach and communication and leadership expert who helps women trust their inner voice to achieve their goals through the delivery of strong communication and leadership. Diane has over thirty-five years of professional business experience and is a Suma Cum Laude graduate of Robert Morris University. As a life-learner, she is also a graduate of the Referral Institute and the Dale Carnegie Skills for Success program. In addition, Diane serves on the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Airport Chamber of Commerce and is Co-Chair of the Membership Committee. She is also a volunteer and advocate of the “Choices” youth program. TopPerformanceResults.com