Communicating Your Leadership Point of View

In case you didn’t read my blog last time, please take a look. It’s about an important exercise you can do—creating, writing, and communicating your leadership point of view. Where did you get your image of what a good leader looks like? What beliefs about leadership led you to become a leader?

Sharing your leadership point of view can be a significant part of gaining trust and building relationships with your people—because as you share your thoughts and experiences with them, they begin to see who you are as a human being and can’t help but feel closer to you.

In this post, to help you get a better idea of what your leadership story should include, I’m going to repeat the steps of creating your leadership point of view and include some examples written by real leaders. These pieces of someone else’s history may be just what you need to get started with your own creative process.

Elements of Your Leadership Point of View

Developing your leadership point of view is a process that includes these three steps:

  1. Identify key people and events that have shaped and influenced your thoughts about leadership.
  2. Describe your leadership values.
  3. Share your expectations of yourself and of others.

Step 1A: Identify Key People in Your Life. Who are key people who have influenced your leadership style, and what did you learn about leadership from these people?

“When I was considering moving into leadership, I looked to a colleague who was a wonderful leader and role model. He led with love in all his relationships because he valued his direct reports and coworkers. I learned the phrase ‘It’s not about me’ from this man and he taught me what it meant coming from a leader. I learned how to love serving others both at home and at work, which indirectly led to me meeting my future spouse. My amazing colleague flew across the country to attend my wedding and I know it was because he knew I had acted on what I had learned from him.” – L.R.

“While I owe a great debt to my parents, they were very strict when I was younger. Fearing consequences, my siblings and I made up stories about where we were going when we wanted to hang out with friends. It felt bad to not be honest with my parents—but because of that feeling, since becoming an adult I’ve been committed to truthful communication at home and at work.” – T.C.

Step 1B: Identify Key Events that Shaped You. What significant events were turning points for you, what did you learn from those experiences, and how did they prepare you for a leadership role?

“I was the oldest of four children. My family traveled extensively when my siblings and I were in school due to my father’s job. As a result, we were constantly the new kids in the neighborhood and were sometimes subject to bullying from the locals. This taught me to look forward to better times because there was always a new situation around the bend. When I was in my mid teens, my parents divorced. I took on the role of the “man of the family” and began working to help pay the bills. It was a challenge but I was able to help my family, make my mom proud, and still excel in a few areas in school. From misfortune, I learned hard work pays off.” – T.J.

“I once was the head of a work group that messed up on a huge project I had fought for. We drastically underestimated our workload and were going to miss the delivery date by at least three months. My boss, an executive leader, left me a message that the project needed to be wrapped up in two weeks. I summoned the courage to call and let him know the truth. Needless to say, it was not a fun conversation—but it ended up being a turning point in our relationship. He later told me that call convinced him I would always tell him the truth. We still meet for lunch every few months. It was a tough lesson, but it taught me telling the truth is always the right option.” – B.R.

Step 2: Select Your Leadership Values. Values are core beliefs you feel strongly about that have determined how you behave as a leader. Think of three to five fundamental values reflected in your stories about key people and events in your life. Then define each one in your own terms and explain why that value is meaningful.

“I value helpfulness and describe it as regularly seeking moments to offer support and assistance. On a team, helpfulness is one of the primary ways you can demonstrate respect and kindness to others. What makes me happier than just about anything else is to see teammates proactively reaching out and helping others.” – O.S.

“Esprit de Corps is a value I define as pride, camaraderie, loyalty, and accountability shared by the members of a team. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. We all spend a significant part of our lives at work and it’s my firm belief that accomplishing great things and having fun are not mutually exclusive—the more fun you’re able to have, the more likely it is you’ll come out on top.” – D.Y.

Step 3: Communicate Your Expectations of Yourself and of Others. What do you expect of yourself as a leader in terms of your behavior and your leadership style? What can people expect of you? And what do you expect of your people? When your people know your expectations, they can more easily determine how they can succeed under your leadership.

“What do I expect from myself? No less than what I expect from all of you. I hold myself accountable for how I’d like to show up in my interactions with you and I ask you to hold me accountable for these three things: high standards (set your mind on big things); transparency (frank, candid communication); and tenacity (do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal).” – K.R.

“Because people and relationships are both values of mine, you can expect me to see you completely—not as a means to an end. To honor my relationship value, I will be honest with you and work to help you get through rough patches at work and in life as we partner to achieve our goals.” – E.S.

“I expect three things from people I work with:

  • Self leadership: ask for the leadership you need to be successful. This is the only way for me to effectively lead my team.
  • Be reliable: don’t make me chase you to do basic job responsibilities.
  • Peer-to-peer influence: Set the bar high and push each other to do more than you’d do on your own.” – D.D.

These short excerpts from real leadership point of view essays are meant as writing prompts to get you thinking about your story. If this feels out of your comfort zone, that’s good—we all need to stretch our comfort zone once in a while. In this case, some people may feel they don’t have much of a story to tell—or that their life isn’t interesting enough for anyone else to care about. But here’s the truth: when you are the leader, standing in front of a group of people talking about your leadership influences, what kind of experiences you’ve lived through, what you value, and what you expect of yourself and others, believe me—you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.

Sharing with Others Creates Strong Connections

So often in organizations, people don’t have an opportunity to really know their leaders—what kind of person they are, what their needs are, what’s important to them. Sharing your thoughts on leadership forms a trusting bond can’t help but strengthen your relationships with people. The experience will help you, your people, and your organization flourish together.

I hope you are able to get started soon on crafting your leadership point of view and sharing it with others. It’s a powerful experience.

Leading in the New World of Work

Just when we were beginning to adapt to all the changes at work due to the pandemic, things are changing again as people head back into the office. You might be tempted to say that everyone is returning to business as usual, but in many ways, that term no longer applies.

As Scott Blanchard, president of The Ken Blanchard Companies, explains, “We’re not going home to whatever work was like before. We’re pivoting into the future and reorganizing ourselves in a way that takes advantage of new realities.”

How are you navigating this transition to the new world of work? If you are a leader, you’re probably feeling torn. On the one hand, you have concerns about people’s safety. On the other hand, you feel the pressure of financial commitments and marketplace demands. How do you resolve these seemingly opposing forces?

Communication Is Key

The first step is to communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s always important to keep information flowing, but it’s crucial to do so during times of transition.

People appreciate hearing from their leaders. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020, Scott began sending out a weekly email to everyone in the company. These weekly emails expressed everything that was on Scott’s mind—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even when the news was dire—such as having to cut back on staff and services—Scott was candid and compassionate. He gave people information with as much advance notice as possible and explained the leadership team’s thinking behind every major decision. On Zoom calls with the company, people could see the pain and anguish on Scott’s face as he discussed some of these decisions.

The response from the company was an outpouring of support for Scott. People empathized with the difficult position of being a leader in such a tough time. When we had our People’s Choice Awards earlier this year, people chose Scott for the top award—the Most Values Led Player—even though his name wasn’t officially on the ballot.

Whatever decisions you and your leadership team make about the return to work, inform people about your decisions with candor and compassion.

Adapting to a Hybrid Environment

Leaders can smooth the way for a successful transition back to work in several ways.

First, recognize that the pandemic caused a major shift in the way people think about work. Today’s workers don’t think of work as a place they go; they think of work as something they do.  According to a recent Gallup poll, 35 percent of full-time employees say that, given the choice, they would continue to work remotely as much as possible. This means that your workplace will probably be a hybrid space designed to accommodate people who come to the office as well as people working remotely.

Second, create conditions that make it easier for people to get work done. “People don’t want harsh lighting and cubicle farms with no places to rest and relax,” says Blanchard Senior VP Shirley Bullard. “Give people motivation to come to the office by creating areas that are comfortable and inviting.” For example, people coming back to Blanchard’s offices will find a new hobby room, massage room, meditation room, and lots of places to gather on comfortable sofas and chairs. While it may seem counter-intuitive, changes like these increase employee engagement and productivity.

“Coming to work is a way to beat the virtual fatigue,” continues Shirley. “Socializing with others at the office breaks up the monotony of back-to-back Zoom meetings.” People are more brilliant when they have a sense of autonomy and are not fatigued.  Plus, bumping into people at the office leads to impromptu conversations that can spur innovation and motivation.

Third, meet with the people you lead. Get together in person at least once a month, if possible; more often is even better. Ask them how they’re doing in their new, hybrid work environment. Let them know that your organization’s policies might be changing as the situation evolves. Understand each person’s circumstances, listen to their concerns, and help them resolve any issues.

Learn More in Our Seminar Series Starting June 16

To explore more ways to create a successful return to work strategy, join us for a complimentary, five-part webinar series on Returning to the Workplace: Exploring a Hybrid Model. Register for any single event—or all five—using this link: https://www.kenblanchard.com/Events-Workshops/Returning-to-Workplace-Series.

Coaching and Servant Leadership Go Hand in Hand

As many of you know, I’m a huge proponent of servant leadership, which is all about putting your people first—giving them the right amount of direction and support for the task at hand and then getting out of their way so that they can do their best work.

There is an element of coaching in every servant leader’s skill set. In fact, being an effective coach requires four communication skills that are also key elements of servant leadership. Here’s how those skills play out in the workplace.

Listen to Learn

When we think of the characteristics of a great leader, being a good listener is always one of the first that come to mind. Why? Because people appreciate a manager who cares about what they think. When you begin a conversation with someone, eliminate distractions so that you will be present and focused. Open your mind to their ideas and perspectives. Resist the temptation to interrupt—allow the person time to think before they speak. Pay attention to nonverbal clues such as tone of voice. Restate your impression of what the person said, or wait and summarize the full conversation at the end—so that they know you understand their point of view. Think of this as listening with the intent of being influenced.

Inquire for Insight

This is about drawing out ideas from the person you’re having a conversation with. Use well thought-out questions to seek information, opinions, or ideas that will help you understand exactly what the person is saying. Open-ended questions encourage communication; for example, “Can you tell me more about that?” Clarifying questions (“when” or “how”) check for understanding. Prompting questions (“what”) promote deeper thinking. 

Tell Your Truth

As a leader, sharing information can help people make decisions in the best interest of themselves, their department, and the organization. Sometimes telling your truth can be uncomfortable—but remember, people without accurate information will often make up their own version of the truth, which can be more negative than reality. Before sharing information, think: Will what I have to say help them succeed? Will this problem resolve itself if I don’t say anything? Could this information help the person avoid obstacles so that they can succeed sooner?

Express Confidence

Toward the end of a coaching conversation with a direct report, let the person know you appreciate them and have their back. Expressing confidence is the best way to build their self esteem and give them feelings of belonging and empowerment. Acknowledging people’s efforts and letting them know in specific language that they are doing a good job will go a long way toward both individual and team engagement.

Being a leader who serves and coaches gives you even more opportunities to establish and build trust with each person on your team. And here’s a bonus: also helps them get to know you better. Leadership is a pleasure when you know you are building meaningful relationships with your people.

Sharing Information About Yourself

In years past, the leader was the boss. Yesterday’s leaders shared information on a need-to-know basis and personal disclosures were rare.

Since then, leadership has evolved. Successful leaders today can no longer lead based solely on the power of their title or position. They must create genuine partnerships with those they lead, based on the following fundamental belief:

Leadership is not something you do to people;

It’s something you do with people.

So, how do you create genuine connection with the people who work with you? One of the most effective practices is Sharing Information About Yourself—which is one of the fourteen SLII® micro skills I’ve been discussing in my last several blogs.

How to Share About Yourself Effectively

Like many skills, there’s a right way and a wrong way to share information about yourself in a work setting. Let’s begin with the right way.

A good start is to share your Leadership Point of View with the people you lead. Your Leadership Point of View describes the key people who have influenced your life—such as parents, grandparents, coaches, or bosses—and what you learned about leadership from these people. It also describes key events that were turning points for you and explains what you learned from those experiences. Finally, your Leadership Point of View identifies your personal purpose and values. By sharing your Leadership Point of View, people will know your values, what you expect from yourself, and what you expect from them.

It’s Not About You

Use good judgment when sharing information about yourself. Remember, the purpose of sharing about yourself is to foster a thriving partnership. It’s not about you; it’s about creating connection.

Keep the focus on sharing information that will be useful to the person you’re leading. The information you share should put them at ease and help them relate to you. Do not waste people’s time by oversharing or disclosing personal information that could make people uncomfortable.

Before you disclose personal information, ask yourself: Will this information serve the person I am leading? Perhaps you have a personal anecdote that can help someone understand why a task is important. Maybe you have a story about an error you made that can illustrate why a certain policy or procedure makes sense. It can be helpful to share your mistakes with others, so that they don’t have to learn the hard way.

It’s Okay To Be Vulnerable

As Brené Brown contends in her bestselling book, Dare to Lead, it’s okay for leaders to be vulnerable. You might think that if you admit you don’t know how to solve every problem, people will see you as weak. Quite the contrary. When you show your vulnerabilities, rather than thinking less of you, people will think more of you. Why? Because they already know you don’t know everything!

For example, my team is aware of the fact that I often don’t know how to say no. I’ve never heard a bad idea, so I say yes too easily. As a result, I tend to become overcommitted—which puts stress on me and my team. That’s why we established a system a few years ago for me to give out my executive assistant’s business card instead of my own, so she can help screen calls and talk with me about which business proposals are realistic considering my time, energy, and the team’s resources.

Did admitting I have a hard time saying no weaken my leadership? Not in the least. In fact, it led to a solution that made work easier for all of us.

So—with others’ best interests in mind—share information about yourself with your team. You’ll be building trust, strengthening relationships, and leading more effectively.

Sharing Information About Your Organization

Sharing Information About Your Organization is, in fact, one of the SLII® micro skills—the fourteen directive and supportive leader behaviors I’ve been discussing in my last several blogs.

I’ve always been a big believer in sharing information. As a college professor, I used to give out the final exam on the first day of class—and spend the rest of the semester teaching students the answers. Why did I do this? I shared this information so that my students could master the material and get an A. After all, the point of education is to give people knowledge, not to sort them into some normal distribution curve.

The Benefits of Sharing Information

Business leaders should also strive to give people knowledge. Just as giving my students the final exam and teaching them the answers allowed them to master the course material, giving employees the information they need empowers them to find solutions and make informed business decisions.

Today’s most successful leaders know how to create a partnership with the people they lead. They view people as working with them rather than for them. Managers skilled in SLII® don’t just tell people what to do; they actually provide resources and information to help people do their jobs.

When employees learn more about the organization, they can see where their individual work fits into a larger context. They work faster and smarter, because now they have access to organizational resources and knowledge. Knowing that their tasks have meaning and connect to a larger purpose boosts people’s motivation and increases their job satisfaction.

Transparency Creates Trust

Being transparent with information about your organization—even information on sensitive topics such as future business plans and strategies, financial data, industry issues, or problem areas—communicates a sense of “we’re in this together.” This kind of information sharing builds trust and improves morale. It also encourages people to act like owners of the organization, which ultimately improves the bottom line.

More and more organizations are realizing the benefits of sharing sensitive information. A study from Robert Half Management Resources found that 56% of private organizations provide at least some employees with regular updates on the company’s financial performance—a 32% increase over 2012.

Sharing sensitive information has benefitted our own organization. When the events of September 11, 2001 created a crisis in our company’s bottom line, the leadership team opened the books to show everyone how much the company was bleeding, and from where. This open-book policy unleashed a torrent and ideas and commitment to increase revenues and cut costs—and the company emerged from the crisis stronger than ever.

Information Sharing in the Age of COVID-19

Fast-forward to 2020, as organizations around the world adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our new president, my son Scott Blanchard, has been living his value of forthrightness by writing weekly updates to the entire company about how COVID-19 is impacting our business. Scott candidly shares information about our company’s finances and survival strategies—and the news often isn’t pretty. “It is a cruel irony that the values I cherish are not only being tested but pushed to the limit,” he wrote in an all-company e-mail. “While I can’t foresee what will happen ultimately, I remain committed to these values and to the values we have leaned on in the business during the most trying of times.”

When leaders share information about the organization, they multiply the number of intelligent minds working to solve problems. In our own company, this has led to a revolutionary transformation from classroom to digital learning. As Scott puts it, we’ve shifted from surviving to thriving—and it wouldn’t have happened without the commitment and brainpower of our associates.

That’s why I so often say: “No one of us is as smart as all of us.”