Living Leadership

Living Leadership

Leadership conversations

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Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

There are great tools out there for understanding your personality and your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Choose one that works for you and your team.

Here are a few resources I've personally found helpful over the years.  They may provide absolutely wonderful insight about you. 

https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us/strengthsfinder

www.16personalities.com

www.meyersbriggs.org

https://truecolorsintl.com/

www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_50.htm?nlsu=show

These books and online quizzes are interesting and fun. Sometimes they are unbelievable; how can a computer quiz know so much about me? Many times they can reinforce and give us permission to embrace those things about ourselves we may not want to embrace.

They also can challenge us to improve in the areas we may be weak in.

I'm certainly an advocate of these quizzes/books/tests; however, I'm also an advocate of having open and honest leadership discussions with team members. I would challenge you to have these private conversations with team members after you both have had some time to reflect on individual strengths and weaknesses.

In other words, if you are the coach (leader) and you have a team member with whom you are working on developing leadership, ask them simple pointed questions for them to consider before you meet.

Qualifiers such as:

1)   I find myself most satisfied at work when …

2)   I find this to be most challenging:

3)   I do this really well:

4)   I do not do this so well:

5)   Some people think this way about me __________ but I am really this way ________.

6)   I feel my leadership strengths are __________. I feel my leadership weaknesses are __________.

7)   This is where I think I could further develop __________. Where do you think I could further develop?

The questions themselves don't matter so much as long as they are thought-provoking, open-ended and you have the team member think about it and write out their thoughts ahead of time. (Journal, journal, journal!)

You, as the coach, also should have a solid grasp of your team members' leadership strengths and weaknesses. You should be in a position where you have observed them in different situations and you are able to give them feedback on their interactions — their interactions with you and with other team members.

You should be able to comment on their communication skills, their leadership skills, and their ability to motivate and inspire. Do you have examples?

Keep in mind the feedback doesn't have to be negative. In fact, if it's positive, the hope would be that you are encouraging them to develop and use this skill even more.

Schedule time together when you are not rushed and you both can focus on the person being coached. It should be a conversation that both of you have agreed to and both are prepared to have.

There should be an understanding before the conversation you are there to help, not hurt. The feedback, while it might be tough to hear, is meant to be constructive. (Of course in order to do this effectively, both have to trust each other beforehand.)

Don't misunderstand. This isn't a “performance review.” This is a larger conversation focused on one person. Your feedback and her introspective thoughts are the focus. Open-ended questions from the coach are crucial. Listening intentionally and asking questions so that the person receiving the information may discover something about themselves simply from the right questions.

In order for conversations like this to be meaningful, both have to want to be there. There needs to be a desire to dig in and really get to the heart of their leadership strengths and weaknesses. The reporting relationship, if truly working in a culture of trust, shouldn't matter.

All easier said than done, and I certainly haven't mastered this. I do know that the conversations when I have been on the receiving end and have had a coach or team member who thought enough of me to spend time and give me feedback and ask questions, have really made me think. These conversations, while all may not have been meant to be intentional, have been more meaningful to me than an online quiz.

At the time it may have been terribly difficult for me to hear and my first instinct may have been to be very uncomfortable and defensive. In the long run, though, it's helped be become a better leader.

When you have team members committed to growing and learning more as leaders … leadership conversations have to happen. They should be intentional, thoughtful and serious but also rewarding. Growing as a leader may be a difficult journey but the path there is certainly exciting. 

Julie Thorson's “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality under her, Thorson is a coach's daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now a licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year.

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