Influencer

In a role with leadership responsibility the majority of things you say, don’t say and do or don’t do will be measured and weighed.

On top of that, people will form a perception of you. No exception. Sometimes, you might not even realise what that perception is and what you’ve done to prompt that perception.

Flipping it slightly: consider how critical you are towards the directors in your company making company announcements, sharing information in “all hands” meetings… You weigh and measure things those directors might have not even deemed to cause an issue when they prepared for the meeting (Which they meticulously tend do to make sure their messaging is spot on).

Consider the perception you have about your line manager, the Managing Director or CEO of the company you work for, influencers you might follow on Instagram, the founder of Microsoft, the Prime Minister, the President of America, the President of New Zealand… It might be really positive, or quite negative. But it’s likely to be strong.

As someone with leadership responsibilities (Don’t just think managers or world leaders: think teachers, parents, influencers) have you ever considered what the effect of your words and actions are? Have you realised that every action causes reaction? That you have the power to influence people?

Everything you say or do, or don’t do, can blow up, be taken out of proportion, can cause an unintended effect. Scary, right?

The more visible or influential you become, the stronger opinions will get; both positive and negative. It probably helps to develop a good sense of awareness of what you want to portray.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my reports told me they couldn’t understand where I found the time to do all the things I was doing with my life. He felt like I am never just doing my day job but always get involved in a million other things to keep me stretched and challenged. Inside as well as outside of work. He said he felt that I might expect the same of my reports or consider them to be lazy or inadequate if they didn’t have a similar approach to life.

My initial thought was: Why would he have that perception of me? I never feel like I read enough or am massively busy and I often consider other people to do many more useful things with their time. Also, I appreciate I have quite some more me-time available to spend than people who have caring responsibilities other than just themselves and their house plants.

Then I got a little shocked and worried. O dear, people take things from me and care what I think and consider changing their behaviour because of it!

Just because I like to do a lot of things at the same time, because I like to read management books and write blogs, it doesn’t mean I expect my reports to do the same! I’m not after copy-pasting myself into an army of duplicates! Do what works for you! And that’s not necessarily the same as what works for me!

It was a good eye opener though and it got me to reconsider influence and perception.

I believe that one of the most important aspects of leadership is understanding what your messaging does to other people. “Seek to understand”, in Covey speech. Put yourself in the shoes of people on the receiving part of your message. This applies to unconscious messaging, which might lead to unintentional perception, or conscious messaging, which should lead to some more deliberate effect.

I’m not saying you should be frantically worried about what people might think of you. I’m just suggesting you need to find a good balance. Be careful people don’t think their perception of you is the same as your expectation of them and be mindful and considerate about you messaging. Lead by example and treat other people they way you like to be treated. Just in case someone does go in to copy-paste mode… If you influence people, it better be in a positive way!

Oh, and you probably need to accept you can never please everyone. Good luck 😊

Reads:

How to make friends and influence people; Dale Carnegie

Never thought a video about firefighters would ever make an apprearance on this blog. Worth a watch!

The balancing act that is called feedback

One of the first things I learned when I moved abroad was how differently feedback is provided and perceived in the Netherlands and the UK

In my second month of working in the UK, I made someone cry giving them feedback. I really didn’t understand what I had done to cause such an intense reaction. As most people, I don’t enjoy upsetting people, so it was clear to me I had to find out what had gone wrong.

Dutch people are perceived to be very direct and straight forward. We don’t tend to ask if it’s a good moment to share some feedback. We just give you the feedback when it suits us, and you’re expected to “take it like a man”. Sugar-coating is a word that doesn’t translate very well to Dutch.

I actually think it would be good for some Dutch people to learn from the Brits to act a bit less rude. I also think it would be good for some Brits to learn from the Dutch to be a bit more direct. 

Getting the feedback thing right is a balancing act. Not providing constructive feedback can put managers in quite some trouble down the line. You’re not giving people the opportunity to improve if you don’t share feedback. Providing too much critical feedback can have a demoralising effect.

How do you find the right balance? I hear you think.

What a lot of people forget most of the time, is putting yourself in the receiving party’s shoes. What would it do to you to get this type of feedback? How can you be more considerate about the message you’re delivering?

When you have feedback to share, always consider if it’s useful. If the only thing you do by criticising behaviour or work is hurt someone, it’s probably better to keep it to yourself. If you deliver feedback so someone can change or improve, it’s the right thing to do. Make sure to be concrete; have one or two examples ready to share to back up what you’re trying to bring across.

Somehow, I get asked to provide 360 feedback quite regularly now, even for people outside of my direct remit. I like to believe I have learned to be better if people actually ask for my opinion, right?

Receiving feedback is an interesting one too. My chimp can play up when I get feedback I don’t agree with or feel is unfair or unfunded. It’s hard to just take it in and not be defensive about it. My advice is to always try to take feedback on gracefully. Breathe, count to ten and maybe sleep on it. If you want to come back on it, do it when you’ve calmed down.

Sometimes feedback is reflective of what the person giving you the feedback is dealing with. Sometimes it’s perception. It’s always a good idea to sanity check with some other people if they recognise the feedback you’ve been given.

Remember it’s your choice what you do with feedback. Maybe you don’t recognise it at all. Maybe you recognise it, but you don’t feel the need to change. Maybe you don’t recognise it immediately, but it might make sense after pondering it over for a bit. Maybe you do recognise it and it’s a quick fix, or maybe it’s hard to change, but you’re willing to. It’s really up to you. Will changing the thing you were criticized on make you more effective? Then you’ll probably be better off taking it on the chin.

I’ve not even touched on positive feedback. Probably deserves a separate blog. For now I would say: if you have anything nice to say to someone, don’t hold back. It makes people happy and it doesn’t cost you a thing.  

How do you deal with feedback? Do you ever reflect on your behaviour? Have you ever changed anything on the back of feedback you received?

Here’s a quick video on the topic:

Recommended reads: The Chimp paradox and Radical Candor

What makes you tick?

When I was in between jobs, I got to this point where I thought I would never get excited about any job again, unless it was a job as a yoga teacher in Bali, a travel blogger sponsored through my Instagram account and YouTube channel with a million followers and subscribers, or a food critic, dining out for free for the rest of my life and handing out Michelin stars left right and centre.

I thought I failed massively at my first UK job: I wasn’t sure if I was very good at managing or let alone leading people anymore, it felt like IT was just not the right area for me, and I would always have a problem fitting in with British company culture.

I was wrong.

When I did some work with Kat the Coach, she made me think about criteria and values. What would my ideal job look like and why? What was it about those slightly unrealistic dream jobs I could convert to more realistic things that would make me happy in a job? What was I looking for in a company culture that matches my beliefs? Until that moment, I didn’t realise it’s so important to understand what drives you and gets you excited, in order to go and do things you love and that make you thrive.

Your core values will always stay about the same. Some values might become more important or less important than others over time because life happens. If you understand what your values are and what it is that makes you tick, it’s much easier to find things that make you excited to get up in the morning. You’ll understand what energises you and what drains you. What things you should be doing more of and what you might want to sandwich between activities that do energise. You’ll focus more on what you’re good at and that can help to achieve great things.

What makes me tick is making teams work well together, trying to do the best I can to make people enjoy their jobs, driving improvement and progression, working with awesome, smart, eager, humble people with a can-do attitude, getting sh*t done and Marie Condo-ing myself into bigger responsibilities by cleaning up messes I stumble upon while I’m trying to get sh*t done. O, and sometimes a little pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Lucky for me, that describes my job and the people I work with very well!

Have you ever considered what your values are? What makes you tick?