Stepping into a leadership role doesn’t mean you need to change your style drastically, by developing a few keys skills you can thrive as a leader and stay true to your personality.
A trait more common in women than men is to use softer language in their communication. There are times when this is really useful. As a leader though clarity is key:
• Avoid using words like perhaps, maybe, kind of, which leave a lot of room for interpretation and therefore are open to abuse, misinterpretation and lots of re explaining.
• Avoid inferential communication like dropping hints or making vague suggestions people can easily ignore or misunderstand.
• Own your opinions, for example ‘What I think would get us the best result here is XYZ’ rather than ‘Don’t you think it would be better to…’
Women often think they need to be harder as Leaders but this is not true, just be clearer.
Most people are not good negotiators or good at dealing with conflict situations, men and women. Generally though men tend to push their way through these situations and a lot of women back down feeling ambushed. This is not good for being a leader. Upgrade your negotiation style by:
• If you feel like backing down, buy yourself some time instead. ‘That’s interesting, I’ll think about it and get back to you’. If you do and up backing down at least you would have considered it properly rather than an instinctive response.
• Learn to acknowledge someone else’s perspective without agreeing with it. ‘I can see this is important to you’, ‘in your shoes, I would probably feel the same way about this situation’.
• Take discussions to the bigger picture rather than arguing on the same point ‘I think we’re both concerned with the impact this will have on productivity generally’.
• Negotiate on the points that are important to them not you. If you think a change would have a negative impact on the people but you know the other person cares more about profit and is less interested in people, put your argument in a way that speaks to their interest ‘If we push this through too quickly, a lot of people will have problems with it, which will mean us all spending a lot more of our time fighting fires rather than focusing on the job in hand. If we take it slower and pace people through it, it will be much easier to implement’.
Build your emotional resilience
Please don’t become ‘hard’ emotionally, this belief that women need to toughen up has taken a negative toll on women and organisations since the 1980’s. Instead build your emotional resilience and bounce back ability by:
• Remembering that other people’s behaviour towards you says more about them than you, don’t take it personally. If there is a theme, like your communication seems to confuse a lot of people, this is feedback for you to pay attention to.
• Remember the best way to support people is to empower them rather than jump in a rescue them. Instead teach people the skills to do things for themselves and solve their own problems.
• If you feel like reacting over emotionally buy yourself some time, go to the toilet, take a phone call, remember an urgent meeting. Then go back to it when you’ve calmed down and taken a few deep breaths.
• Don’t let people off the hook for bad behaviour, you train people all the time how to behave towards you in terms of what you’re prepared to put up with. Even if you go back to address it later, make sure you do.
Karen Meager and John McLachlan, authors of Real Leaders for the Real World