Working with leaders across many different industries holding many different levels of responsibility, I can honestly say there isn’t a time I don’t add something new to my leadership toolbox. Whether someone shares a technology short cut or a new way to look at conflict, I continually grow. Leading from wherever we are presents us with opportunities to explore as well as take strategic action if we want to commit to leading.
As I saw with a group of leaders this week in a Problem Solving workshop, cultivating strong customer relationships requires focused and compassionate leadership. Even though these leaders were in a client-driven industry, they also needed to meet the expectations of their team members. There was great frustration with always saying “yes” to their customer needs at the expense of a work/life balance. So how were they going to tackle their two-sided challenges and model effective leadership?
Here are the four L’s of Leadership that may come in handy for you too:
Before embarking on any challenge, leaders need to open their listening channels to make sure they are hearing what is being said by both the team members and the client.
- Focus on the message being shared
- Don’t interrupt with unrelated comments or an agenda
- Look at the facial expressions and body language to pick up on feelings
- Ask insightful questions about the timeframe, deadlines, missing information, lack of resources
The hardest part of problem solving is defining the problem properly so that a correct solution can be reached. So take the time to understand clearly what the client is requesting and why the team member is having difficulty meeting those needs. A great way to approach a mutually beneficial outcome is to collaborate and brainstorm together.
Ask the client, “Is this a drop dead deadline or can we take a few more days?”
Ask the team member, “How can I support you in making this happen?”
In the workshop one of the participants told us a great story about telling the client the truth. When he realized that a certain report would take an additional week to create, he simply told the client that he would need some more time to collect the data for an accurate deliverable. He asked for a two week extension and guess what? The client said that would be fine. Set yourself free by being honest and asking.
In coming up with a collaborative solution, it is essential to show empathy for both our teams and our clients. Each has their perspective on a joint project and should be validated with respect, compassion and personal care. To do this:
- Keep everyone updated on the progress- the more communication the better
- Provide team members with the skills, knowledge and resources to be successful
- Be an extra set of eyes and ears, allowing both the teammate and the client to openly share concerns
- Display appreciation and gratitude to everyone involved
How do you use the four L’s of leadership in your role? Do you have any additional L’s to add?