Leadership and motivation: 3 exercises to bring out your best

There are some foolproof tips for people who want to become good leaders (and since you’re reading this…), but others aren’t quite so clear. It’s the case with decision-making: which path should you follow? Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie, who both work with the consultancy McKinsey, have released a book called Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity, and Impact, where they give tips for new models of behavior that can increase your ability of leadership and motivation – and to make that kind of leadership come to you naturally. If we were to sum up the concept in just a few words, it’s about how daily doses of leadership and motivation can turn us into born leaders. Enjoy!

1. Discover your strengths

We lose a considerable amount of time with our weaknesses – which keep us from the 100% we’d like to give and the lower number we manage to produce. To avoid getting trapped focusing on our defects, we’ll instead try something different, an exercise that is intended to bring out the best in each of us. Find somewhere comfortable, where you’ll have no distractions. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and when you are ready, bring yourself back to these three moments:

1. When you were a child. What were the imaginary games you liked the most? What did you imagine yourself as? Which games did you like and who did you invite to play them with you?

2. As a teenager. What activities made you lose track of time? What made your energy increase and what does that say about you?

3. As a working adult. Think of your most significant professional achievement in the last 18 years. What were you doing? What was its impact on you, on the people around you and on the company you were working for at the time?

Looking at yourself through the prism of those moments, you will be able to understand who you are, what you are proud of and what your friends and family are proud of… these are your strengths. The key is to learn how to use them consistently when you come face-to-face with new, real challenges. We all have weak points that we need to improve. But focusing on our strengths is a much more inspiring approach.

Recommended: Leadership and Motivation: 7 trends for this decade

2. Practice taking a step back

Our work challenges us every day: missed deadlines, scarce resources, angry customers, team infighting… much of this can make you angry, stressed or just leave you not knowing what to do. You need to take a deep breath and step back for a moment. Think, for a moment, of a metaphorical iceberg (just breaching the water’s surface).

1. Notice its impact on you: What are you doing or not doing? Saying or not saying? How are you reacting? What effects do your words and deeds have?

2. Look just below the surface: What are you thinking and feeling but not expressing? What negative results concern you the most?

3. Look further down, at your values and beliefs: What is most important to you? What do you believe about this kind of situation, about you and others?

4. Look even more in-depth, examine your underlying needs: What is at stake for you? Are you aware of all your deepest desires and needs?

Step back and ask yourself, “What do I really want for myself at this moment?” Focus on what it is that you need to protect, opening the possibility for various types of behavior.

Recommended: Preparing for a Difficult Conversation at Work

3. Choose your questions intelligently

What is the difference between the two sets of questions below? And what different responses do they elicit?

1. What is the problem? / What is its cause? / Who is complaining? / What did you try to do that didn’t help? / Why haven’t you been able to solve this up to now?

2. What would you like to see (and make) happen? Can you remember a time when the solution was at hand, at least in part? What made that possible? What are the smallest steps you could take that would make a big difference? What have you learned from this conversation so far?

There are significant differences: the first, problem-focused group of questions is useful for solving technical issues, but often provoke defensive reactions, leaving participants feeling overwhelmed. In the second set, which focuses on solutions, the participants feel more excited, curious and engaged in the conversation.

We are inclined to use the first set questions more often than the second. They work for linear problems that have “correct” answers. As you move towards leadership and motivation, the challenges become more complicated. If we develop instincts that lead us to focus on solutions, other participants can learn from us, and that makes them feel more engaged, giving them hope (after all, employees that find themselves at an impasse can also feel fear) and pushing them to seek the best possible solution.

Recommended: Performance Management – Great Bosses Versus Great Leaders

In addition to these exercises, you can also use tools to help keep track of your team’s daily activities so that you can make more impactful decisions. Learn about Runrun.it’s work and team management software.  Sign up for a free trial: http://runrun.it

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