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5 Secrets Of Transformational Leaders

Transformational leaders don’t proclaim their effectiveness to the world — their employees do it for them.

For about 30 years, transformational leadership has been considered by many as the optimal leader style. These leaders create top decile business growth, manage rapid change, and turn followers into leaders. They lead organizations with high levels of engagement, productivity and a low rate of employee turnover.

transformational leadership

Transformational leaders always create trust through transparency and results, set high standards and then walk the talk, communicate effectively and connect all work activities to the organization’s mission, vision and values.

A best guess is less than five percent of leaders can be considered transformational. The other 95 percent of us have to keep trying. However, research does point to behaviors that are consistently  observed in transformational leaders that can be learned. While there are many characteristics that contribute to transformational leadership, research finds the five listed below are foundational.

Accountable. Transformational leaders who generate exceptional results don’t take the credit — they give it with the entire organization. When results fall short, they don’t blame others. Instead, they accept responsibility, learn from their mistakes, try again, and share lessons with the entire organization. They set clear goals, hold themselves and other’s accountable, and work hard to strengthen organizational culture.

Ethical. In the long run, ethical leadership always wins out over charismatic leaders who cut corners and leap over legal boundaries. The list of leaders who killed companies and thousands of jobs in exchange for money and power is too long to list here. It also works out better for the followers to have an ethical leader who does what is right instead of what is right for them.

Courageous. Those who hold leadership positions but lack courage, good judgment or the confidence to make difficult decisions are not true leaders. Great leaders have the courage to make (and own) difficult decision, share bad news, listen to criticism with an open mind, and lead from outside their personal comfort zone.

Communicate. Leaders who hide in their office or think communication is someone else’s job to communicate  can only hope for mediocrity. The best leaders routinely round on employees, are open to bottom up communication, consistently share the organization’s mission, vision and values to all stakeholders, are open about business results, goals and the importance of everyone’s role in reaching those goals.

Flexibility. The best leaders are aware of their own shortcomings and weaknesses. They seek and accept input from strategic and content experts, as well as contrarians, before making significant decisions. Flexibility extends to being comfortable with ambiguity and leading constant change. And, they are able to adapt their management style to meet the unique needs of team members.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, in the Chicago area, and specializes in leadership and transition coaching.

Golden Handcuffs Restraining Your Career? Here’s What To Do

The term Golden Handcuffs slipped into the vernacular in the 1970s. It describes the retention efforts of employers to keep highly valued employees from jumping ship. Its definition initially referred to additional base pay, bonuses, benefits, stock options and other perks that made it next to impossible for wearers to escape their job.

Today, in the post-Great Recession period, the definition of Golden Handcuffs has grown significantly to include all workers who feel tethered to a job or career by student loan debt, a mortgage, the need to support a family or feeling trapped by a lack of opportunities.

Golden Handcuffs

Golden Handcuff Quiz

To gain awareness of whether you are wearing golden handcuffs, count the number of the statements below that describe your life.

  • I am not happy with my job, but enjoy my income and lifestyle.
  • I lack enthusiasm for my current job, but I am good at it.
  • I don’t care for my job, but I enjoy the relationships I have at work.
  • I have been here too long to be attractive to another organization or go into business for myself.
  • The chances of my finding a job that pays about the same are small.
  • Change is harder and riskier than doing nothing.
  • I don’t know how to start a job search.
  • Work takes all my emotional energy so I have none to look for a new job.

If you said, “yes” to none or one of the eight statements, you probably aren’t wearing Golden Handcuffs. If you agreed with two or more, you might be cuffed.

But, don’t rush to quit your job just yet. There are steps to take to determine your readiness to make a job or career change. Start by asking yourself the following questions.

What are my assumptions? Think you can’t live on less? Create a budget and look for spending that is unnecessary (satisfying wants and not needs). Don’t think you can change jobs or career due to pay issues? Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics or this calculator. Don’t know who is hiring? There are more job boards than you may realize, and some are career specific. If you are a manager or executive recruiters definitely want to talk to you. Find them on LinkedIn, a web search or through your network.

What do I value? There are hundreds to choose from such as family, friends, travel, a larger home, honesty, integrity, time, love, health. Pick your top five values and write them down.

Am I living my values? Use a one to 10 scale with 10 being living your values fully, and pick the number that represents where you are today in living that value.

What actions can I take to align my values and my life? Depending on your values, you might ask for more flexibility in your work hours, repair a key relationship or take more time off.

If your answers are clear that you need to move onto a new job or career, create your action plan and shed the handcuffs that are holding you back from the life you deserve.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC in Naperville, Illinois, and specializes in leadership and life transition coaching.

You’re A Leader, Now What?

Great news! Your hard work and persistence paid off and you just accepted a leadership position in a new (to you) organization.

Now what?

First, know that every company and team culture is different, so beware of trying a one-size-fits-all leadership style that either worked in the past, comes from the latest best-seller, or even my blogs. However, clients making this transition, and my own experience, have taught me there are at least five leadership behaviors that will get you off to a good start.

-Everything will line up perfectly when

Be authentic. Let your team get to know you. You should be more than a boss, less than a friend, and at all times a human being to your team. And, no one respects a phony.

Your team members represent you whenever they work with others on projects. When you effectively communicate your values, goals and decision-making processes, they are better equipped to act independently and make decisions you support. This also allows you to delegate more effectively, and build trust with your team.

Make time to get to know your team. Spend time in regularly scheduled one-to-one meeting with your direct reports. Ask questions and listen to them using the 80/20 rule. This means team members do 80 percent of the talking. Make these meetings your highest priority. Until and unless you know the strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, motives and temperament of your employees, you can’t unleash their full potential.

Trust your team. Now that you know your team, trust them to do their job. Let them show you what they can, or can’t, do. The best leaders maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses of their team members, and put them in position to be successful.

Be decisive.  In many cases, the position you are walking into has been vacant for several months, which means there are issues that need attention and action. After a period of onboarding and getting settled in, start making decisions. It can be a relief for a team that has been rudderless for a long time to finally see someone acting like they are in charge. Just make sure your one-up is onboard with any major decision you want to make.

Communicate.  You are building relationships, trust and making some decisions, now it is time to communicate your vision – over and over. Never assume your team knows what you know and vice versa. Set and re-set expectations, identify opportunities to improve processes, reward success, and learn from failure. The more you engage your team, the more likely they are to buy into your vision.

Bonus tip: Perhaps this is the hardest advice for leaders coming into a new organization. Bite your tongue whenever you want to say a variation of the phrase: “when I was at company X, we did … ” This comment is really more about puffing ourselves up (and it diminishes your current team) than solving a business problem. If you can manage this, you will reduce eye rolling by 86 percent in team meetings (my estimate).

You are only as successful as your team, so take the time and make the effort to treat them like the partners they truly are.

Need help with a career transition? Use the contact form below for a free, no obligation (I promise) Accelerated Coaching Session.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.

6 Ways Work Makes You Stupider

The number of ways our workspaces and workplaces conspire to make us dumber is pretty amazing. At times, I wonder if an evil genius sat down and thought, “how can I create an environment that ruins everyone’s productivity?” And after much thought, created the modern workplace.

Below are a few examples of how our brains are drained at work, and what you can do to preserve productivity.

Your E-mail

I am positive you can recall the last time you were “in the zone” as you worked on a complex project only to hear the Ding! or see a the ghostly image of an email notification on your computer screen.   The distraction is momentary, maybe one second. But when you try to pick up where you left off, your train of thought has left the station.

A 2005 survey of 1,100 workers found that interruptions such as email, a ringing phone, or the co-worker who drops by to tell you how great his weekend was, have a greater impact on your concentration than smoking marijuana.

A simple fix is to turn off all email notifications, and silence the phone to remove distractions when you need all of your attention focused on work.

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Your Chair

Parking yourself in a chair for long periods of time not only slows down your body – it slows your brain’s ability to process information. Research finds working memory functions improves when you walk at a natural pace. Researchers from the British Psychological Society speculate that walking at a comfortable pace provides a boost of energy to the brain and expands its processing capacity.

So those people who set up a work station on a treadmill may look a little strange, but they may be onto a good thing. But for most of us, our best option is to get up and take a walk, outside if possible, to help reset your brain for high concentration work.

Meetings

Research from Virginia Tech finds IQ test scores drop for those who attended a meeting compared to those who work on their own. Specifically, post-study tests of cognition reveal large numbers of those in the meeting group experienced significant drops in the ability to solve problems. The largest impact is on those who receive negative status cues from higher position co-workers. Unfortunately, that describes the communication that takes place in many or a majority of business meetings.

My advice, if you don’t need to be in a meeting, don’t go.

Other Dumb Stuff

  • The donuts or birthday cake in the break room can take your blood sugar on a wild ride the leaves your brain depleted. Leave the junk food alone.
  • Prolonged stress suppresses short-term memory and disrupts sleep, which results in a host of cognitive difficulties. Seek out ways to reduce your stress levels.
  • Free coffee can lead to overconsumption of caffeine and result in withdrawal symptoms that include poorer cognitive function, until you have your next cup. Monitor your caffeine intake and cut back, if possible.

If you would like to increase your effectiveness at work, contact me to schedule a free Power Session.

Why You Need A Coach On Your Career Team

First, the good news. It is now commonplace for C-Suite residents to be provided an executive coach to help them navigate the high altitude world they inhabit.

Now, the not-so-good news. If you do not have a ‘C’ in front of your title, you are probably on your own when it comes to career development. This is not good business, but it is reality for most mid- to upper-level managers.

Finally, the best news. You can make a modest investment and rediscover your strengths, passions, areas of opportunity, and action plans to develop new skills that can give your career the boost it needs.

What Is Coaching?

Leadership and other coaches combine many of the best concepts from management theory, psychology, philosophy, sports and spirituality to facilitate positive life changes. Although there is some similarity, coaching is not therapy, mentoring or consulting. It is a strengths-based approach that empowers you to use your energy and insights to propel your life to new heights.

What A Coach Can Help You With

Leadership, career transition and life coaching are three popular types of coaching, although there are many others. Many people come into leadership coaching to address issues such as how to:

Becoming a leader is synonymous with

  • Clarify your career goals
  • Manage difficult relationships
  • Manage conflict
  • Become a better leader
  • Enhance work/life balance
  • Decide whether to change careers

What to Expect

Coaching sessions are values-based, goal-oriented, and focus on today and the future. Coaches realize that everyone has the ability to increase professional effectiveness and personal happiness. To find the right path for your success, a good coach:

  • Listens without judgment
  • Asks powerful questions
  • Investigates your underlying beliefs
  • Helps you clarify your values
  • Partners to help you develop action plans
  • Provides support and encouragement

It’s your career. Adding a coach to your career team can help you discover what is holding you back and how to move forward. You can gain insight into how others see you, how you see yourself and discover how to unlock your unique strengths to become a better leader.

If you would like to schedule a free 50-minute one-to-one phone call to discuss whether you would benefit from having a coach on your career development team, please call me at 815.985.4229 or fill out the contact for below.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and consulting.

 

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