I was interviewed not long ago and out of the conversation emerged some of my insights into the challenges leaders face in today’s environment. I get many questions in my practice when coaching and mentoring leaders. I hope you enjoy these insights.
What is the most significant challenge leaders face?
I think the most prominent challenge leaders face is a personal one for them. Most leaders think it’s often they look at the people; those people aren’t listening; they’re not hearing what I say. And what is going on? I think so often, for leaders; the first step is to become an extraordinary listener. As a leader, you need to tune up your listening of others. Like what you say, the most important thing you got to do at that moment is to hear what they have to say, what they say, what they don’t say, what their body says, what their emotional state says. And once they’ve been heard, a leader has the opportunity to communicate all the things leaders do vision, strategy, tactics, what the company is all about, and all the different pieces that go into what creates an extraordinary team.
But until they learn to listen, it’s just noise.
How important is it to have a consistent message?
You want to be predictable to your team, so you listen, you then communicate, and then you are consistent throughout your communications with that message. They don’t worry about whether you wake up in a good mood that morning on what the leader’s message is going to be. It’s like the thing you count on is this is the way this guy works or this woman works.
How can we ensure that our communication is effective?
Sometimes we treat communication like a vaccine. You get one shot, you’re done right, and you’re good for the rest of your life. And yet what it is, it’s never done. It is never done. And you can’t say it too many times.
That’s why it’s so important, I think, to be authentic in the way you listen to people, so they trust you when you’re communicating, it again and again and again that you’re not, somehow, thinking less of them. You’re not somehow thinking they’re not smart enough to get it the first time as kids sometimes do. I already know that, right? That’s what kids do. And yet they’re saying that because they’re afraid they don’t know. And so much of what you communicate to your folks is you communicate in a way that they get it’s authentic. They get it that you trust them.
How can Leaders make sure people GET their message?
A linguist would get more into the technical side of that. But for me, I want to meet them at their gut level.
I don’t want to say anything clever that they got to figure out. I don’t want it to be a puzzle they’ve got to work through. I want them to say, oh, I want to see a light bubble go off. I want them to get the communication as I do in reverse when I’m listening to them. When they say something and I really get it, okay, and then I’ll say it back. Stuff that we teach in communications, clarify and confirm. How do you delegate all the things we teach is leadership, but they all are based on the same principles. Keep it as simple as possible and ensure they receive the message. They repeat something and feed it back to you in a different language, giving you a sense that it was received.
Do you have an example of a message you heard that you will never forget?
I was listening to a guy, and he said that all parents and children have something in common. The way he described this, he said this is just an idea I wanted to put out there. And if you like it, you can put it on and carry it out of the room tonight. If you don’t like it, hang it on the coat hanger and leave it here.
All right? This is not true. This is just an idea I want to give you. And he said all parents want their children to love them, and all parents want their children to turn out. And then he said all children want their parents to love them. And all children want their parents to honor who they are. It’s like my whole childhood played through my head. It was like all the conflicts I had with my parents coming up, all the times that I was mad at them, that I thought I had the wrong parents. All of a sudden, he was clear; all they were doing was trying to have life turn out for me.
And all I was doing was listening through this interpretation that they don’t honor who I am. And that was an AHA moment. But it altered my relationship with my parents forever and changed my relationship with my children. So that’s an example of a profound AHA moment for me that still lives.
What if a Leader’s strength isn’t communication?
Leaders are like all human beings, right? Sometimes they just can’t stand the way it’s going and try to lead in a different direction. They’ve taken the role or given the role of being the boss.
Human beings, in general, are poor communicators. There are all kinds of people with different skill sets. We communicate through stories where we tell a story that evokes an emotional response that we can relate to.
But why leaders? It’s like the question, why do leaders think they’re great communicators and yet they’re not?
I know how to have them be great communicators. That’s why they hire guys like me, right? I am in their face about what words are coming out of their mouth.
And they don’t get that in their workplace most of the time. That’s not the role that they’re in. And they need someone to say, did you hear what you said? Let me repeat that back to you.
And they don’t hear it. They haven’t tuned up their speaking. And I still think the best way to tune up a person speaking is first to tune up your listening.
How should a Leader prepare to deliver a message?
I think most of us have heard the story about how do you prepare for a speech, and how do you prepare for what you’re going to say in public. The best advice I ever received about that was that you first decide what it is you want to communicate. Then the next thing you do is wordsmith your first sentence that is committed to memory and it’s practiced and you have your tonal quality like you want it. You have your words; you emphasize like you want it. You have the pauses like you want it.
Then you wordsmith the last sentence. And the last sentence the first sentence is what you’re going to tell them about. And the last sentence is you’re communicating what you told them about. It’s the bread on each side of the sandwich and the center part, you do it, you practice it, but it’s not written down. You’re not reading off a teleprompter. You’re letting it flow out of you because you’ve put the framework around what you’re going to communicate. It gets better with practice, of course, but it’s that simple and that complex all at once.
What is the importance of a Leader’s process of decision-making?
I think in my Wednesday morning memo, a recent one I did, was on this subject, this idea of the process of decision-making. And that’s really what we’re talking about here. How do you go through the decision that we’re going to change a policy? How do you make that decision? Right? And I believe that the optimal way to do that is to get yourself in an emotionally neutral place before making any decision.
When you look in your life and consider the decisions, you’ve made that maybe haven’t turned out so well. If you look at them, you will find most of those were made in some emotionally charged state where they’re overly enthusiastic and happy and excited. In other words, you’re feeling you are a big pot of roses or you are on the other side and feeling I got to fix this dadgum thing. It is really bad, all right? And I’m upset about it. And decisions that occur out of any of those kinds of emotions, I guarantee are less than optimal, and sometimes they’re really misguided.
To give an example of what we do every day, each of us, is when you’re driving your car and you’re on a four-lane road and it’s got a yellow line down the center. Separating two lanes going each way. And every moment of that drive, you’re making decisions about which lane you’re going to be in, how fast I’m going to go, how close am I going to get behind the car in front of me. You’re making a series of decisions that allows you to accomplish your task of going from A to B.
You do this process every day, and you are really successful because you’re mostly in a neutral emotional state. Doing that right, then do you respond to them cutting you off in an emotional state or do you go to neutral? You’re in neutral; you probably won’t get involved in an accident. You won’t get your blood pressure up. Those are some of the decisions we’ve all make, that perhaps we’re not proud of or perhaps we had to experience the consequences.
Yeah, decision-making works better from an emotionally neutral place. For leaders, developing one’s emotional maturity (emotional Intelligence) has got to be a key element of their success.
How does integrity come into the practice of good communication?
Integrity and a simple language. I like simple language. Integrity is just doing what you say you’ll do. It’s that simple. Do my words and my actions line up?
The closer actions and words are in alignment, the more the integrity. So where does that play into leadership? It’s all in leadership. It shows up in trust. If my team and the people that I communicate with, customers, and stakeholders, know they can trust what I say, we are in integrity.
They can make their plans; they can make their commitments, they can make their dreams, and build them on top of what I’ve said with confidence because they can treat that like it’s a firm foundation for what their life looks like. And at the end of the day, it’s not about me anyhow as a leader It’s about them and what they want in their lives. And it’s for the customers, for the employees, investors, all those people It’s all about what’s in it for me and if I can be trusted as a leader to have that kind of foundation for them, then they can build their dreams on top of me. That’s what leadership is about, and that’s why integrity is important in leadership. You’re going to have the answer to how do you integrate integrity into your life, because it’s a key concept in leadership. But it begins with the little stuff. It begins with, do I show up on time? If I say I’m’ going to be someplace at a certain time, was I five minutes late or was I on time or was I five minutes early? Those are little things but it makes the big stuff fall into place.
How can Leaders help people celebrate success?
This idea of celebrating success, I think, is very important. I know for a long time in my career I focused on outcomes results, and I did frequent performance reviews with my people, and I used to teach. I would say the purpose of a performance review is not for me to berate you, harass you or criticize you. The purpose of a performance review is for you to share with me those five goals we agreed to and where you are in your progress on them and if you are on target. And if not, the only legal question for me to ask you is, okay, what are the root causes? What’s your action plan? And by then, will you be back on target? And I would do that. I had a wide span of control. And I used to say we’re going to be ruthless on the problems and be gentle on the people. And I’ve worked hard to do that.
But one thing I missed out on when I was doing that back in the day when I was a President, Chief Operating Officer was didn’t take time to celebrate the wins with them because I had a great opportunity in that performance review. When they said that one was on target, it would have been a great opportunity. And I do it today with folks. I say, okay, tell me, what was the root cause of being on target? How did it go?
What did you do? Did you discover something that we can share with the rest of the team in the process of getting that on target and do?
I think that speaks to what you’re talking about, the celebration. Celebration is something to do the specific thing you’re celebrating and then generalize that as broadly as you can, It’s like something about the character of the person, the character of the organization. So, you take it from specific to general. When you’re criticizing and critiquing, you stay very specific.
Never go to the general. It’s only the specific item that needs an alternate solution, an alternate behavior, or something like that. So, yeah, it’s really important, and I think, as humans, were wired; I know I was wired for a long time and still am. My brain was wired to look for what was missing or what was wrong. And yet optimal leadership has you doing that still.
You don’t have to worry about that. That happens naturally with good leaders. You’re always looking for what’s missing, wrong. But likewise, look at least as hard for what’s working and what’s right.
What are some of the common challenges all Leaders face?
I think some of the common traits, I think it shows up in leaders because they take on responsibilities, right, for doing things, but it shows up in all of us. It’s just like I’m not good enough as a fear people have. They’re going to find out I’m a fraud.
People don’t like to be around me. I’m too tough or something like that. I don’t have permission to take that person’s time up, so I’m just not going to call them. All these stories we have that we think we’re different, that we are the only ones that got the story, and yet every one of us has those stories going on.
And then the common solution is to look in your past, find out where you got the story, and see if you can work your way out of it with your mind, right? That’s the common solution for that stuff. Don’t use the common solution. I encourage them. And me, when I work on me, to go into my body, stay out of my mind, go into my body and try to find that feeling in me and allow it to be completely felt.
Allow it to be embraced by me, not having an agenda with it, allow it to be felt. Because I’m of the opinion that all those feelings, the fears we have, those fears are from feeling the feeling, not the feeling itself. We’re afraid of feeling that feeling. And if I can allow that feeling to be felt, and it’s worked for me, and it works for my clients, I do this with all the clients because something comes up and they say, Well, I’m just not that right I’m just not a good speaker, others not me. We’ve all heard that when we talk to people, right?
And I say, oh, tell me more about that. How does that feel? I never thought I’d be asking that question when I was younger, but now I ask it all the time. How does that feel?
And they say, and then they’ll say something, and I try to poke him to get the emotion there, and eventually, he gets there. And I said, would you be willing to let that go? And then, I take them through a process, just like I explained. And on the other side, it’s like 95% of them in ten or 15 minutes of feeling is gone. The other 5% has been reduced by half or more.
And I count that a big win. I have one girl tell me. She says I’ve been in with a psychiatrist for 20 plus years, and in ten minutes, you do more than it happened in 20 years. I say that’s because we don’t care about the story. We’re going to the root cause. We’re showing you that emotion doesn’t hurt. All it wants to do is be felt.
How can people reach out to learn more about working with you?
My website is Henrychidgey.com, so just my first name last name, and on that website, you’ll have access. You’ll easily be able to see, first of all, what I’m about. It’s a short website. It’s not a big, long, drawn-out thing, but there’s a place in there where if you’d like to have a free discovery session with me, a 45 minute free discovery session in which you get to experience my coaching, what you’ve heard me do today but you get to experience it firsthand. My promise to you is that you’ll leave that session. Whether you decide you want to engage with me and one on one coaching or not, you will leave that session being reenergized and refocused You’ll get great value out of it. That’s my commitment to you. If you decide you want to do that and there’s nothing you’ve got to do other than sign up, I got it where you can pick 45 minutes in my schedule, and I’ll be there, and you’ll be there, and we’ll do a zoom call. So that’s how that goes.
Also, I have something called Henry Chidgey’s Wednesday morning memo and it’s a short video memo of something like what we’ve been talking, where something like integrity or how do you get what you want in life? Do you be, do, have, or have do be, or is there some sequence of magic that makes it really get what you want in life? And I think it’s’ close to magic. It works pretty easy. Once you figure out the plan, you see what the story is.
But I offer a couple of minutes of thoughts, and my intention is, is to have a light bulb moment perhaps. Come on. Have you left that morning more inspired to be great, whatever it is you’re doing in your life? And so that’s the intention. And you’ll find that every Wednesday morning in your email box. That’s the easiest way to get a hold of me I’m now putting together some more formal group programs, webinars, and things like that. And then, I have an intention in this next year to put together a mastermind group of leaders that would like to work with their peers. I found those to be very valuable for me.
I think all of us need coaches. I’ve got coaches. I’m part of mastermind groups. I spend a lot of money on myself and my personal development. And I think as part of the reason I can be who I am for you if you want that.
If you want my help. Reach out on my website https://henrychidgey.com.