As I discussed in my last blog, working with an executive coach can help you prepare for a transition, work through a specific issue, and/or overcome a derailing behavior. Coaching can also help you develop in place to become the leader you want (and need) to be. But where do you begin? What are the essential skills needed to be an effective leader today?
If you look at the myriad lists of “top” skills and competencies for leaders (and there are many of them!) there are several skills that consistently bubble to the top: strategic thinking, effective communication, interpersonal skills, a desire to develop others. These are some of the traditional skills that make an effective leader. But there are some additional skills that have become increasingly important over the past few years as we look at a new way of working in the 21st century. Skills like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and collaboration. Keeping skills up to date for today and into the future is another benefit of working with an executive coach.
There was a time when “emotions” did not enter into workplace conversations, at least not in a positive way. Leaders managed actions, not emotions. Today, however, emotional intelligence, or EQ – the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions as well as those of others – is seen as perhaps the most essential skill to succeed as a leader.
In an article in Entrepreneur, Mariah Deleon, Glassdoor Vice President of People said, “Just as it’s important to seek new hires with emotional intelligence, it’s vital for managers and other business leaders to operate in emotionally intelligent ways to meet the needs of today’s workers. Investing in EQ has brought our company more engaged, committed employees, and we’ll continue to put a premium on this effort moving forward.”
One of the elements of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Leaders who are self-aware, who know their strengths and are willing to admit the areas where they need development, tend to have stronger, more trusting relationships with their teams and colleagues. As an objective third party, an executive coach can help you gain insight to your strengths and development areas through tools such as a 360 assessment, and then help you create a plan to leverage strengths and address any gaps.
Often when we talk about leadership and communication, the focus is on the leader as a provider of information – vision, goals, feedback, updates, solutions – and how frequently and forthrightly that information is provided. But communicating effectively as a leader is more than just giving information. It’s about listening to your employees and conveying that you heard and understood. It’s about ensuring that your tone and body language are in sync with your words.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, said that there are three elements in face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice, and nonverbal behavior (body language, facial expressions). Each of these elements has weight in the way a spoken message is interpreted by the “receiver” of the message, especially when the communication involves attitudes or feelings (like/dislike). According to Mehrabian, the receiver interprets the message based 7% on the actual words, 38% on the tone or way the words are said, and 55% on the facial expressions or body language. So in the example of a leader saying to an employee “I don’t have a problem with you,” while standing with their arms crossed, avoiding eye contact and looking anxious, chances are the employee is going to believe what the body language says over what the words are. Learning how to align words, tone and body language is one of the finer points of communication that can help you become a more effective leader.
Another skill that an executive coach can help with is executive presence. I’ve found this to be especially helpful for leaders I’ve worked with who have been promoted from within the organization, perhaps even leading a team of people who used to be their peers. Learning to influence the way others perceive you, building confidence in how you command a room, making a strong first impression are all important aspects of executive presence.
If you need help developing in any of these or other areas to be a more effective leader, please contact me for a free consultation.