Category Archives: Awake Leadership Guidebook

Leadership Skills: Delegate with Confidence

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As a new leader, one of the most challenging things for me to learn was how to delegate. I was used to receiving requests and adhering to specifications, but when I had a team and received a request, I hesitated to delegate it to someone on my team. It took time for me to develop the confidence and the knowledge about my team to delegate smoothly. As leaders, we must learn to hand off work in order to scale our teams and develop our team members. However, how do you learn who to delegate to and how do you do it in the right way? It can be scary, challenging, and it can have negative impacts if done with the wrong mindset and approach. In this post I’ll talk about delegation obstacles, how to decide if and who to delegate to, and mindful practices to reach objectives with ease and enthusiasm as a team.

Delegation Obstacles

I have seen a few types of leaders struggle with delegation. One type is what I’ll call the ‘hesitant delegator’. This leader is hesitant because they don’t want to burden their team with more work, they are used to doing the tasks themselves, or they are afraid of handing off to someone who might make a mistake. I have been this leader. Remember that you have a team to delegate to so that the work can get done with more efficiency. I learned early on that though I was hesitant to give my team more work, they actually wanted work and to learn new things. In the beginning, it felt like more time and work to teach them how to do the tasks I knew how to do but in the long run it pays off once they can do it efficiently too. You always want a backup for everything that knows how to do what you do and you want to open up time to tackle higher-level tasks. The time investment in training and refining is worth it. I had to get over the fear of potential mistakes and allow people to learn, which keeping a close pulse on how things were going without micromanaging. Also, your team members may have important skills and perspective that you don’t have and we only learn that by giving them the chance to show what they can do and contribute.

The second type is the ‘dictator delegator’; a leader that delegates unintentionally or feels that having a team means they have someone to do their work for them. This leader is not afraid to delegate but delegates by shooting e-mails at team members with short messages about “urgent timelines”, offers no support, and gets upset when things aren’t on time or done perfectly. This is obviously the wrong mindset to have about leadership in general and this approach won’t work for retaining team members who want to learn and want to participate in a culture of collaboration. Beware of ‘dictator delegators’.

I’ll detail Best Practices below for how to delegate with confidence and with grace but first, when do we delegate and how do we know who to delegate to?

Who to delegate to?

Once you have the confidence and right mindset to being delegating, the next question is when to delegate and when to do it yourself and, if you have more than one other person on your team, who to delegate to. For ongoing requests, you can zoom out and pass things off gradually to your team and spend time training. For ad-hoc requests, I have a quick thought process for delegation. When I receive a new project or task, I think: can I do this quickly and not have it re-prioritize my day? This would be fastest for the business and not throw off other tasks being done by the team. If no, who on the team would be best for it – skills and interest? Does it go well with their role on the team, something else they’re working on, or their knowledge base?

To delegate optimally, you have to know what skills and strengths you have as well as the skills, strengths, and interests of your team. One great tool for learning the inherent strengths of your team is StrengthFinder, which I detail in the Awake Leadership exercises in the Structure section, where we talk more about delegation. For skills and interests, learn through one-on-one’s with them and team activities over time.

Ready to delegate? Here is a mindful approach and some best practices I have found to be effective.

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Delegation Best Practices

Ask in person

It’s always best to talk in person or over the phone when asking a team member to take on new work. This shows that you, as a leader, value the new task at hand and also that the delivery of the ask is clear and understood. If it’s something small, you can e-mail or message them, but usually talking it through for a few minutes face-to-face goes a long way in showing you’re not throwing tasks at them and will also feel less like you’re a ‘dictator delegator’.

Tell them why

Secondly, give them the why behind the ask, the context, and the impact it will have. In some cases, giving one-off tasks to people may be okay and the reason may be obvious, however, in most cases, take a quick think about if they understand the reason or if it might take some explanation. Giving team members the context behind the ask will help them relate it to the larger mission of the team and the result will be more impactful and clear.

Be specific

Give them clear direction in terms of the timeline and expectations of what is to be accomplished. Talk about if the timeline is realistic and help prioritize with other tasks at hand if they need. 

Balance clear direction with freedom to learn and experiment

This is where the ‘hesitant delegator’ must overcome fear of the handoff. When you give the ask, be specific as to what the outcome should be, but leave the how open. If they seem confused or don’t know where to start, that is where it’s important to be a mentor and provide some guidance. However, don’t give the entire how-to. This promotes development, creative thinking and problem solving, and doesn’t feel as though they’re being micromanaged. Leave some space.

Leave the “door” open

Finally, offer ongoing support. As a leader, you’re also a mentor. Ask for feedback on if they understand the ask. Ask if they need further help in getting started, prioritizing, or obtaining the right resources or connections to get the job done.

Observe

There’s always a feedback loop; that’s how we learn as leaders. We are students of our team members. After you have delegated the work, make sure to check in regularly (but not too regularly) with your team to keep things on track and offer support. It’s your job to make sure things get completed efficiently and on time but be patient. Balance room for development, which involves making some mistakes and asking some questions, with structure and constructive feedback. It takes tact!

When you gain the knowledge about your team – their strengths, skills, and interests – and how the team works as a whole efficiently, delegation becomes fun and not something that anyone dreads. It flows. It cultivates community and a culture of teamwork and development.

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Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you feel confident in delegating.

If you’d like more exercises for learning ways to improve your delegation skills, learn about your team, and develop a team structure, check out my new book, Awake Leadership.

 

 

In Support of Silence

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Last week I went to go see a thought-provoking documentary, In Pursuit of Silence. As a systems thinker and writer, I value silence and have always been relatively sensitive to sound, especially while at work. I wanted to see what a film dedicated to studying silence had to present and maybe emerge with some new clarity around the impacts of silence and sound. The film had a perfect balance of science and spirituality that flowed and had prominent insights and calls to action surprisingly relevant for leaders to consider in cultivating supportive work environments. In this post I’ll detail my takeaways in terms of three key benefits of silence in the workplace, the value of intentional sound, and next steps for cultivating a culture of deeper support and collaboration on your team.

Three Benefits of Silence

The film documented the uses of silence and sound across many cultures and specific environments around the world from Japan, to Alaska, to the continental US, to India, and more. One of the most prominent features to me was also the piece about sound and the impact on schools. In cities, sounds from trains and surrounding noise are a major problem for school environments and impact the learning process negatively. In the school featured in the film, they reported that the loud train across the street from the school lowered productivity (class progress, etc.) by 15%. I thought of this in terms of the workplace, where similar focus and learning is necessary, and how I have been affected by sound. Through deeper reflection, I realized three central aspects of a supportive, productive work environment that are best cultivated in silence.

Focus

Having a one-pointed focus improves productivity rather than concentration being divided between your work and a conversation going on beside you.

One (maybe obvious) way that sound has impacted my work is focus. I can remember once at the workplace that I was working on an analysis project and there was construction outside. There have been many studies that have shown that distractions like construction, telephones ringing, dogs barking, and other noises have a negative impact on productivity and concentration and people do not necessarily adapt over time.

Reflection

Learning is vital to expanding your tool belt at work, and is also vital to integrating new information and inputs to understand your work and improve the quality of the work you do.

Beyond the ability to merely having a consistent train of thought to focus on the work at hand, noise inhibits your ability to reflect, learn, and think independently. It’s not just distraction here but disturbance – disturbance of the internal dialogue and thought process you may have going on when focusing on something that resolves learning or reaching a resolution. When we have many inputs to reflection on and action on independently – meetings, e-mails, learning, etc – we need independent reflection time to integrate all of the information and actually apply it to what we are doing in our work. This is really the same as the ability to learn!

Creativity

Creativity takes focus, reflection, imagination, and deep thought, among other things. I have found that I have birthed by most creative thoughts and insights in silence.

Maybe the most important thing that gets squeezed in the face of constant sound is creativity. Creative people know that though inputs and inspiration are necessary, all of that inspiration and learning integrates in silence for many of us. In our changing world, where technology is automating repetitive tasks more and more frequently, it’s more important than ever to be able to think creatively. That is, it’s important to be able to reflect and synthesize information to develop new insights and solutions to complex problems.

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The Value of Sound

Though silence is clearly valuable and I’m a huge proponent of it, I can’t deny the value of sound as well. As I mentioned above, sound is often a source of healing or inspiration and it is certainly key for collaboration in the workplace. Communication in meetings, video for trainings and conferencing, music (during those tedious independent tasks or team bonding activities), and clapping (praise and celebrating wins) are important.

After watching the film and deeper reflection (in silence), I realized that what seems to be missing is intentional sound and instead what is happening more and more is unnecessary or unintended use of sound in the workplace and the world in general. We invent something new that solves one problem but it’s creating many more – and these inventions like planes, trains, cars, copy machines, air conditions and purifiers tend to be noisy. So, we’re trading off some of the things above for these improved experiences. Also, we’re using sound to argue louder and get our point across, which is not collaborative or conducive to a supportive working environment.

Conclusions

How can we as leaders use this information to develop better environments for our teams to improve productivity, quality, and engagement? A first way is to be mindful of what cultivates a supportive working environment for you and your team. The answer is different for everyone. This involves checking with team members through weekly touch bases or observing to monitor how they respond to and ask for certain, unique supportive working conditions.

I once had a co-worker I sat across from in our open working space that would start the day blasting rock music. Even though she had headphones on, I could still hear it. It increased her productivity with what she needed to do but was devastating to me when I was craving silence in order to focus and read my e-mails. Solution? We talked it out and empathized with each other by communicating our points of view, experience, and needs. She turned down her music and eventually we decided it was best for our relationship to move further apart, which was totally fine and improved our relationship overall.

Open communication, empathy, and mindfulness are key. Cultivate a team culture where people feel comfortable speaking up if sound is annoying them. If they report that sound is affecting their work, support them by doing something about it that works for everyone. Reach a resolution. Also, lead by example by asking the same of yourself. How does silence support you? How does sound support you? What sounds do you intentionally allow or use in your work environment? What unintended sounds (noise) are jeopardizing your focus, reflection, and creativity? How can you take a step toward resolving it given the insights above?

A fountain cannot function beautifully without water in the reservoir. When you reflect and design environment with the supportive aspects and fuel you need to do your best work, your productivity, quality of work, and enthusiasm improve. You can find many more insights, prompts, and exercises for cultivate a culture of communication, collaboration and supportive work environment for yourself and your team in my new book, Awake Leadership.

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Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you become more interested in your relationship to sound.

Resources

In Pursuit of Silence Film website.

Awake Leadership

Balancing Quantitative and Qualitative Objectives in Leadership

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A primary part of a leader’s role is to support the team in reaching objectives. This involves keeping the team aligned on what the objectives are, ensuring the team has the resources to execute the work, and keeping the work engaging so the team develops and remains enthusiastic. So much of our work in organizations is driven by quantitative, number-based, objectives. I have worked with leaders and teams where the only objectives passed down are numbers-based, such as “reach $100k in sales per month by February” or “open 4 new stores this year”. I have found that having a balance of both quantitative and qualitative objectives is key for keeping the team aligned, engaged, and enthusiastic about the work to be done. In this post, I’ll detail the key differences between quantitative and qualitative objectives, provide insight on how to make your quantitative objectives impactful, and provide some ways to begin finding balance and new energy on your team.

What are Quantitative Objectives?

As I mentioned in the introduction, many leaders and upper management teams set number-based targets for the organization as the vision for the coming period of business. Quantitative objectives are number-based objectives. Quantitative objectives are useful for a few reasons. They are, at first glance, easy communication tools to aligning a large team on what the objectives are. They are easy to communicate. They are fixed, clear targets. Also, they are easy to measure and evaluate in terms of success. So, they have gone a long way in our world of large organizations and a global market. However, when we take a closer look, there are some major cons to quantitative objectives as well.

Challenges and Considerations for Setting Quantitative Objectives

One key challenge with quantitative objectives is the abstraction factor. What is the abstraction factor? Well, numbers seem clear and simple to understand, however, when passed down to team to action upon them, they are often very confusing in terms of what action that really translates to. For example, if the CEO passes down an objective to reach $100k in sales next month, the team receives it and may think it seems straightforward. However, there are a lot of tasks that need to go into actually making that vision come to reality. Without clear explanation and direction, the teams may come up with conflicting ways of actioning upon the target. One quantitative objective often turns into many more quantitative objectives and actions. In large organizations, one simple quantitative objective like this can have action items that are delegated amongst 5 or 5,000 people. It is key that the leaders know the role they play and how to turn quantitative objectives into actionables, and teach their leaders to do the same. Though quantitative objectives can seem exciting, like growing 300x this year versus last, consider and communicate the actions associated with this target. In the Vision section of Awake Leadership, we focus on exercises for clearly communicating the vision (actionables) behind our quantitative objectives to align the team.

Another consideration, when thinking about the actions behind the number, is the impacts. We often think a nice number-based goal means business growth. However, setting this target and incentives to reach it can cause unintended impacts and consequences. The number is exciting but remember that a number can be abstract, foggy and have unintended impacts when not thought through thoroughly. Reflect and answer: what about the action and the larger impact it’s making? What does the number really mean behind the abstraction? – How are you helping your customers? What work are you asking on your team to take on? 

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What are Qualitative Objectives?

In addition to clarifying those quantitative objectives beyond the abstraction of a number, balancing these out with qualitative objectives is important for teams to remain engaged as well as creative and inspired. Qualitative objectives are, quite literally, quality objectives; we enhance the quality (as opposed to increasing or growing the quantity) of something like an aspect of our work or our team. Qualitative objectives can result in more creativity, engagement, and enhanced productivity. I would encourage leaders to add purely qualitative objectives to engage team members in more non-linear open thinking.

Benefits of Setting Qualitative Objectives

Qualitative objectives add opportunity for engagement and also lead to greater productivity and efficiency toward meeting your quantitative objectives too. Providing learning opportunities is paramount as a leader for adding value to your team. When leading my team, I realized that team members had not been able to see a lot of the business context and learn about other areas of the organization. Though I didn’t have full control of a budget to provide opportunities to do this, I set an objective to have each of my team members become more knowledgeable about the business beyond our team (including myself). This is how I designed and developed many of the exercises in the Context section of Awake Leadership.

Qualitative objectives also often arise when a leader sees a need to enhance the quality of the way the team in functioning as a whole. Early on in my leadership experience, during my one-on-one touch bases with my team, I learned that team members thought different projects and initiatives were priority and people were even having small conflicts over importance of meeting and timing on handoffs. I decided that my #1 objective for the month was to feel that my team was always aligned on our objectives and priorities and that the morale and relationships between team members were more harmonious. So, I added depth to our Monday morning meetings as well as Friday meetings to prioritize alignment. I talk about deeper team alignment and engagement activities in the Inspiration section of my book. This was key for productivity as well. Ensuring the team was continuously aligned brought new life to the team and I saw our progress on quantitative objectives improve. These examples came our of observation and realization of need, they weren’t forced or pushed. They are all examples of enhancing the quality of the team, our day-to-day, and our results without quantitative targets.

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Finding Balance, Engagement, Sustainable Progress

Though numbers and time targets are important for organizations and have many positive aspects, I would encourage leaders to observe, reflect, and develop qualitative objectives as well for yourself and for the team. Reflect on what the actions and intended impacts of the quantitative objectives really are and explain them to your team. Balance intentional quantitative objectives with qualitative to cultivate a deeper culture of engagement. They are interdependent and compliment each other. You’ll see and feel the benefits as well as cultivate a culture of engagement and enthusiasm, which leads to many others benefits like retention and increased productivity. What are your current quantitative and qualitative objectives? Add them to your vision map, try using my tips in the post, and I hope you enjoy the benefits!

More Resources for Setting Quantitative and Qualitative Objectives

Awake Leadership by yours truly, Hilary Grosskopf.

Please leave comments below or feel free to e-mail me with any questions, feedback, or to connect.

Leadership Attributes in Practice

There are many words to describe “good” leaders or effective leadership. These words often seem vague or theoretical, so it’s hard to take them seriously or actually put them into practice in your work as a leader. Here, I am going to describe what I believe are the most important attributes of Awake leaders. These are some of the words I use to describe Awake leaders and what they mean in practice. These are not personality traits that you have or don’t have; these are qualities inherent in everyone that can be developed. My intention is to differentiate these important attributes, describe why they are so important in practice, give guidance on how to begin practicing them, and hopefully make them more approachable and applicable for your leadership.

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Authentic

Authentic leaders know how to cultivate the conditions for success as a leader and contributor in their work. Don’t we all want to work under conditions that make us feel like we can do our best work and enjoy it along the way? It’s understanding of how you work best: the conditions that cultivate success for you in your work. Figuring this out takes time, observation, and iteration. You may have to change things up a few times to create a work environment and framework that cultivates your best work and to feel at your best. This is the foundation of authenticity.

On a deeper level, authentic leaders know what they are passionate about, they know their strengths, and they speak confidently from their heart. When we lay the foundation of a great work environment and framework that allows us to feel our best and do our best work, we can more easily figure this out. It takes time. Self-awareness and focused experience are important for a leader to learn their strengths and build confidence through experience and development. Self-awareness is a continuous study practice that takes time reflecting each day on your purpose and passions. With each experience, you learn what actions and styles of leadership are authentic to you. We all have the right and responsibility to live our life in a way that allows us to experience our life with a balance of ease and challenge that supports us in offering our best to the world, living to our highest potential.

Finally, an authentic leader is honest. They communicate transparently and honestly about their opinions, feelings, and point of view. They are open to hearing the authentic, honest opinions of others as well. Authentic leaders don’t vent or say whatever is on their mind – they filter but what they say is always honest as well as to the point.

What are vehicles for learning and practicing authenticity as a leader? Self-study and focused experience. As you live life and do you work, observe and reflect: what makes you who you are? What are your stories? What are conditions that cultivate success for you at work as a leader and how are you building that? What are you passionate about? Developing authenticity often requires overcoming fear in favor of taking action. We have to take action and sometimes act inauthentically to learn what is authentic action for us. We all start out following others but a point comes where we can start to question what is right for us and what is most important to us as a leader of our work and our life. You’ll know when you feel it. You’ll lead with confidence and be proud (but humble) to lead by example. Since we all are always changing and served new, challenging situations as leaders, it’s a constant practice to tune into your authentic leadership style.

Mindful

Mindful leaders understand and acknowledge how action, as a team, impacts the organization and the world. Mindfulness involves awareness; awareness of yourself as well as how your actions impact and connect with the world, the realm beyond just you. So, mindfulness involves acknowledgement of connection. It is mindful to acknowledge others on your team because this is connection to the greater whole. “Mind the gap” and “be mindful of others around you” are phrases commonly used to draw attention to connection – people and things beyond just your immediate body and mind. It’s about curiosity and developing understanding about how your actions impact others, contribute to the whole, and integrate with the world. In our growing, global society it’s harder and harder or really understand the widespread impacts of our actions. It’s very complex and a huge system to understand how each thing we do impacts the world. So, don’t get overwhelmed.

Great leaders have often had a variety of experiences, which allows them to relate to the experiences of others. Likewise, mindfulness in leadership is awareness of the needs and experiences of others, beyond just your own immediate experience, actions, and needs. Mindful leaders are empathetic and know makes makes the members of their team and peers tick. They observe their team members, how the actions of the team integrate and impact the organization. They care about their team’s conditions for working efficiently, authentically, and having opportunities to develop to fulfill their highest interests and potential.

To practice mindfulness as a leader you can begin by understanding the realm of your own team and how your actions work together to accomplish your mission for the organization. Next, you can look at how your actions and the actions of the organization impact the world. What is the larger impact on the world of your organization? You can also acknowledge your team members and have regular meetings with them to share and collect feedback. Finally, you can practice transparency so that others understand how you impact the world and how you connect with one another through commerce, development, and learning.

Intentional

Intentional is where authenticity and mindfulness manifest in action. Intentional leadership is practicing understanding and awareness as you take action. It is taking action with a desired result in mind. We all have tasks that we inherit as leaders, when we step into a role and it’s our responsibility to understand why we take those actions in order to fulfill our mission as a leader. If we accept the tasks as “what we do” and continue to go through the motions without truly understanding why and how those specific actions contribute toward our mission, we are not acting intentionally. Without intention, we simply act, which is okay except just acting or going through motion without intention can have unintended consequences. Intentional leadership also makes measuring results easier.

To practice intentional leadership, always ask, what is my intention? What is my desired result I want to have on the organization, my team, my own experience, and the world by taking this action/doing this project/making this change? When you get caught up in a project, down in the weeds, you can zoom out and say, wait, what was my original intention here? This will reconnect you to that larger, mindful intention for your hard work and connect your team members’ actions back to the objective as well, creating alignment. The intention doesn’t have to be numbers-based but could be, “to improve…” or “to figure out…” Something mindful, executed authentically.

Back to the Intention

By aspiring toward these three leadership qualities and taking the first steps I suggest for practicing each, you will develop confidence and enthusiasm about your mission, work style, and team. You’ll find yourself working toward impactful results that are truly satisfying. Lead by example by encouraging your leaders and team members to cultivate these qualities as well and foster a culture of engagement, progress, learning, and enthusiasm. It’s a transformational process that happens overtime with dedicated practice.

I hope this helps clear up some of the fog and highlights the importance of these qualities in practice! Find more exercises for developing authentic leadership and collaboration in my book Awake Leadership, and please e-mail me if you have questions.

More Articles for Reading about authenticity and mindfulness in leadership:

The Truth About Authentic Leaders by Bill George

Cultivating Mindfulness by Jim Hopper, PhD.

All About Mind Maps

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Mind mapping is a powerful tool we can use as leaders to balance our logical thinking processes with expansive, innovative thinking about how to approach our work. We can also better understand and achieve our objectives with our teams. In this post, I will describe the benefits of mind mapping I have experienced, the key aspects of mind mapping that make it impactful for leaders and teams, a how-to guide for getting started, and explained examples.

Three Benefits of Mind Mapping for Leaders

  1. Enables Understanding and Clarity

When we mind map, we begin with a central topic or idea. By mapping a concept or your team’s vision, the leader gains clarity of how the team is structured and how all the pieces of the team’s objectives fit together. The same can be done for a project topic or to prepare for a meeting. Just like any map or visual representation, mind maps help us get complex, vague phenomena down on paper and we can then gain clarity and move forward.

  1. Promotes Expansive, Non-linear Thinking

Another important aspect of mind mapping is that it challenges us to think expansively or non-linearly. Many times, in structured working environments where we have processes, timelines, and to-do lists, we get caught up in continuing to do things the same way over and over or approaching a new project or team structure in the same way as in the past. This approach may seem efficient or acceptable but it can actually inhibit success and limit potential. You can use past processes and learning but mind mapping challenges us to continue to free associate and add newness with each new map. Mind mapping unlocks creativity, given its radiant nature, and is a perfect tool for brainstorming.

  1. Enhances Communications & Collaboration

Finally, mind mapping is a great collaboration tool because you can use it with your team to better understand a topic collectively or to brainstorm together in a meeting. The map can be a representation of the team’s thought process and mutual understanding of a topic, project, or team plan. Mapping out a new project together enables everyone to understand the thought process behind it and, as mentioned above, allows for contributions from everyone participating. As I talked about in Awake Leadership, alignment is so important in order for teams to move forward cohesively toward objectives. Mind mapping is a great communication, alignment, and collaboration tool.

A Quick How-To Mind Map Guide

Ready to try it out? Here’s a step-by-step approach for making your mind map. Among the steps below I have added completed applied examples to look at as you make your own.

  1. Begin with a topic. As with learning or trying anything new, start with a topic that interests you and you will find enjoyable to map. You can always start with a topic that is non-work-related for your first map, to get the hang of it.
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A fun example: California

Leadership topics can range from your team or role at your organization, a project, a meeting topic, etc. Do you have a complex project in front of you? A complex objective to meet? Let’s map it out and see if we can gain some clarity on how to delegate, plan, understand, communicate, or think differently about how to approach it!

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Example from Awake Leadership exercises: Team Vision

  1. After you have chosen your topic, begin to branch the first layer. Create at least 4 sub-topics or branches off of your theme. What are natural sub-components or your central theme? Peek at my additional mind map Examples Explained if you need some inspiration.
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Example: Brainstorming our Website Layout

 

3. Continue to branch. After making your first round of branches, create a second layer with sub-sub-topics.

 

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Example: Sales Brochure Brainstorm and Plan

 

  1. Pause to observe the two layers. How is the organization unfolding so far?

 

  1. Continue to branch or iterate. You can continue your map with a third layer or start over. If you feel you’d like to reorganize your map, begin with the same topic but create a new map, with the first layer organized differently.

Examples: Business Objectives Meeting

  1. Share it. Discuss the map with your team or your leader – whether it is finished or not! After making the map, you may have new insights about the topic or ways to communicating the topic to your team or leader. You may realize what parts are unclear or need further development. If it’s a project or meeting topic, maybe you can now begin to order the sub-topics in terms or chronology or relevance.

 

Remember: Mind mapping takes practice and iteration. There is no perfect mind map. Be patient as you practice and create your maps. Some may be just for “fun” and some may be for function… or, hopefully, for both. Like any tool, with time, you’ll see how it works best for you and your team. I found, as mentioned in my book, that it worked best as a tool at our weekly team meeting for aligning on our team’s current structure, mission, and objectives. Mind mapping is used in 3 of the 7 sections of my book! I also mind map regularly for fun and function in my everyday work and life. Mind maps are powerful tools and you’ll figure out how they fit best into your work and your team’s framework. Challenge yourself to use them to be a radiant, innovative thinker and collaborative leader in your work and your life.

 

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From The Mind Map Book, by Tony Buzan

 Examples

Here are my example mind maps explained and the example mind map from one of the Awake Leadership exercises.

Follow-up Exercises

Try the following exercises this for deeper understanding, to practice expansive thinking, or to practice communication and collaboration for brainstorming and alignment in a team meeting.

  1. Mind map a project you’re currently working on
  2. Use mind mapping to plan or structure a meeting you are leading in the upcoming week
  3. Mind map your team’s vision (as detailed in Awake Leadership) 

Further Reading

Awake Leadership, by yours truly, Hilary Grosskopf 

The Mind Map Book, by mind mapping maven, Tony Buzan 

Suggested Tools

Colored pencils & paper, large post-its and colored markers (good for team meetings), white board and dry-erase markers (good for team meetings), Excel, PowerPoint, other design software tools

Support

If you would like to discuss mind mapping for leadership, have questions, or want to work together on a mind map, please e-mail me.

Check out Tony Buzan’s amazing website and resources for more on how-to and general mind mapping ideas.

Giving Direction without being a Dictator

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As a leader, it is your role to give direction and provide structure to make sure your team’s vision becomes reality. To do this, you have to delegate and direct the work that is accomplished on the team. How do you deliver requests without making demands? How do you give direction without seeming or feeling dictator-like?

Deliver with Enthusiasm

Deliver the new requests with enthusiasm about how this will bring the team closer to achieving objectives or learning new things. When have you been excited to receive a request, new project, or direction from a leader? Some of the best requests start with enthusiasm from the leader through positive wording and tone. New requests are exciting and it should make the team members feel valued and purpose-full. When the leader is enthusiastic and excited to deliver the news about a new request or information, the team response often mirrors this tone. If you deliver the request with genuine excitement and happiness about the new work to be done, as opposed to a dictator-like mandate or demand, the team will respond positively as well and remain motivated.

Explain Why

In your communication of the request, always tie the request back to the overall vision and contribution of the team (your team mission, your why). If you use the Awake Leadership method and continuously communicate the team vision in terms of the new task at hand, the why will be clear.

Sometimes it may seem like giving a reason why in your request is not necessary. Why not just deliver the request? It’s their job after all. Well, if it is self-explanatory how the task is related to the overall team vision and objectives, it may not be necessary. However, it is usually worth mentioning how this project or request will help the team better move toward objectives or why it was requested – Who is it helping? How is it helping? Why is it helping the organization move forward in a positive way? Why is it needed now? This explanation of why will motivate your team and give them larger context for better execution of the task. It also doesn’t seem like the request is all about you or for you – because, it’s really not!

It’s better to spend the time and explain why than to not explain why and have your team members think that the reason is “…because I said so.” That can feel dictator-like and the team morale, confidence, and motivation will diminish over time.

Provide Structure but Leave the How to Them

When providing a request, it is very important to communicate the details around timeline and final deliverable expectations. For example, make sure to mention if the request needs to be completed that same day, that week, or within the next month (and why!). However, leave how the request is done up to the team member to figure out and design. Motivated team members are looking for a balance of structure and empowerment to develop and have freedom in discovering the best way to execute the task or project. The amount of direction needed can differ from team member to team member but as the leader, you should be empowering them to figure it out and execute it. If you provide too much information on exactly how to do it, you may as well do it yourself in many cases and it also takes the element of development out of the equation for the team member. So, communicate the structure concisely but leave the how up to them. You can always review and refine their how later on if you need to but part of being a leader is allowing the team members to navigate the discovery and development process.

Ask for Feedback

After stating the requests or new ideas, conclude the conversation or e-mail by asking for their feedback. Does the request make sense? Please let me know if you have any questions. If you don’t offer or ask, sometimes they will begin the task without thinking through if they have questions or feel like it was a dictator-like request. Always make the task or project a collaborative effort. They may have suggestions, based on their understand and knowledge that could make the request more efficient or value-adding as well.

Offer Support and Open Discussion

Every team task or project is ultimately a collaborative effort and as the leader, you should offer additional direction if they need it. At the end of your request, also ask if they want to discuss further or mention that you are open to review it with them after beginning to work on the request. Also, if it’s a request with a shorter timeline, offer help in prioritizing their current tasks to help get this request completed on time. As the leader, direction and prioritization from a higher-level can really help team members save time on prioritizing so they can spend that valuable time and focus on actually achieving the tasks.

Follow-up 

If you make a request to a team member and you don’t receive the output on time or feedback, follow-up. Depending on how short the timeline is for completion, use your best judgment to determine when and how is the best way to follow-up. If it’s something more urgent or with a shorter timeline, stopping by their desk or making a phone call are best. These approaches communicate the importance of the request and are usually taken more seriously than an e-mail or instant message. In your follow-up, always show compassion for the team member and remember that leading is about development. Remember that you are there not to enforce demands that have been placed on them but to collaborate in getting the job done optimally and learning from the experience.

Acknowledge

Last and definitely not least: After your team member has completed the request, acknowledge them! Even if it is a simple thank you or awesome, great work, thanks! This makes a huge difference. Team members are more likely to continue to stay motivated and accomplish future requests efficiently if you acknowledge that their work is contributing to the vision of the team and the organization as a whole.

Thanks for reading! I hope these tips help and good luck in achieving your collaborative objectives. If you’re ready to begin your Awake Leadership journey, you can purchase the Awake Leadership guidebook here.

Your Questions Answered: Support

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The exercises in the second section of Awake Leadership ask you to reflect on aspects of support you need for optimal work performance. This Awake Leadership vital is so important because support is the fuel for your work and your leadership. Without the right support, you may be limiting your potential as a leader. This week, I chose a Support section question I received from an Awake Leadership reader:

Last week, I worked through the Support section of Awake Leadership. The exercises were very helpful in figuring out what aspects of my work schedule and environment I need to adjust to improve my performance and relieve some stress and distractions at work that are keeping me from fully focusing on the vision. However, what if I don’t have control over those changes such as where I sit and when meetings are scheduled? Many of the changes I want and my team wants are not possible because I know my leadership would say no if I ask. My team is hinting and asking for changes also but I know my leader/management, probably won’t make it happen.

Being a leader of your work, whether you are leading a team or a member of a team, involves initiating and implementing change. It’s not easy work. While managing a team or operation entails keeping the current operation running smoothly, leading is about managing but also responding to and implementing change for continuous improvement.

Support is a very personal aspect of work that you often have to justify when working in an organization since each organization has general rules and budgets they believe work for everyone, in general. There are often things like bringing your own lunch that you can usually easily do without having to ask. However, other support needs that involve breaking away from the norm or involve using organization budget usually require approval. Before you ask on behalf of yourself or your team, review the support needs you have identified and really ask yourself if and how they will improve your performance and your day-to-day quality of life at work. I say this because support needs are often conditioned or assumed “needs” that we have or find based on what other people have at work. For example, you see someone else with a standing desk so you immediately consider if you need one, even if the thought never crossed your mind. You see someone else with an office so you want one, even when things were okay as they are. Or, you see someone come in to the office at 10am everyday when you arrive at 7am so you consider asking if you can arrive later. You are not that person and they may have that support set up for a reason like to avoid rush hour traffic or for a specific physical reason. Ask yourself if the support needs you have identified will really serve you and why and maybe even prioritize them if you’re hesitant to ask for multiple changes all at once. If you are clear on why you need the support accommodation or change you’re asking for and you ask in bite-sized, realistic requests, the likelihood of a “yes” response is much higher.

Once you have gone through the Support exercises and identified ways in which changes to your work environment or schedule can positively impact your work performance and your team and why, share it with your leader and keep an open mind about their answer. Though your leader may have refused to accommodate a similar request in the past, it may be because that person did not have the backup work that you have based on your work in the Support section. You have not only identified what changes would help you but also why the change will help your work and enhance your experience day to day. Next, you can practice before talking with your leader. Share the changes with your family or a peer and practice asking. Then ask your leader, knowing that you have done the reflection backup work in the Support section.

If you have done the work up to this point, you may be pleasantly surprised that the answer is yes. Once you receive a “yes” response, make sure to have that “yes” reflect in the quality of your work and attitude at work. If the answer is no, ask why. By asking why, sometimes your leader may think more about it or they can work toward another resolution with you. Sometimes higher-level leadership is also conditioned to accept things the way they are and not make new accommodations, even if it could help the quality of work and the environment for the team. If you still receive a “no” and no alternative support, maybe that’s not the workplace for you. By helping your leader understand and by asking why, you are paving the way to a better work environment and better results for others too. So, take the lead. If you ask with a genuine tone, you have nothing to lose. If you never ask, you may be limiting the potential of your team.

Observe over time, continue reflecting, continue asking with intention, and stay positive. I hope this helps!

Thanks for reading! If you haven’t ordered your Awake Leaderships guidebook yet, you can order it here to begin your Awake Leadership journey.