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Form a Better Connection with Your Employees by Conquering These Leadership Challenges

The most valuable gift you can offer as a business leader isn't your years of experience, your Ivy League education, or even the vast industry knowledge you possess. The most important gift you can offer your employees is you: your enthusiasm, your creativity, and your ambition. These qualities make a leader unforgettable.

Recall your favorite boss. It could be the boss from the last job you held or even the supermarket manager where you bagged groceries as a teenager. Whoever it was, that person made work meaningful for you. Great leaders have an infectious way of bringing out the best in others. They make work fun while teaching employees to be more productive, more resourceful, and better communicators. When employees learn these skills, they will reap the benefits throughout their lifetime.

As a business leader, you can't always know whom you're influencing. So to have the maximum impact on your employees, you need to fully engage them by bringing your passion and authenticity into the workplace. This will encourage others to do the same. Unfortunately, even good business leaders can get stuck in a rut. The daily routine can be repetitive and it's easy to slip mindlessly into habits that
are not optimal for effective leadership. However, with some simple changes, leaders can add some variety and enthusiasm into their leadership and more fully engage their employees.

The following are the most common challenges business leaders face and ways to tackle them.

Challenge #1:
Falling into routines. Routine means doing things the same way, over and over again. It's like a plane being on autopilot. Routines are comfortable and reassuring, and are usually based on what has worked in the past. Don't forget, though, that every workplace and each employee is unique. By stepping out of your routine, you can take advantage of opportunities that are ripe for change. As a result, your workplace will become more responsive to changing times.

To do this, pick a specific behavior with which to experiment. For example, if you want your employees to take more initiative, challenge them to identify possible solutions to business problems. Look back at the end of each day and write down specific instances when you encouraged this new behavior. By recording when you used this approach and reviewing your notes, you will begin to find new opportunities to encourage personal growth. Experimentation engages you in learning and interrupts your "same old routine" by re-directing your attention to new behaviors.

Challenge #2:
Not staying focused on your task. Distraction results from the fact that our mind processes information much faster than we are able to speak. While in meetings or coaching an employee, we may use that extra processing capacity to think about our after-work plans or to formulate a response to someone's question before they've finished asking it. When our mind gets ahead of us, we lose the connectivity with the person we're interacting with.

To reconnect to the present moment, think back to when your mother told you to count to 10 when you were angry. While the act of counting to 10 by itself is meaningless, the power lies in the fact that this exercise reminds you that you have a choice about how to respond, and an opportunity to refocus on what's important. It works whether you are angry or distracted. So the next time you feel yourself jumping ahead or your mind wandering, take a long breath. Feel the air going into your lungs and back out. As you exhale, bring your attention back to the matter at hand.

Challenge #3:
Not watching our projections: Projection is the tendency to see our own aspirations in others. For example, we may assume that an employee's reluctance to participate in a meeting is based on apathy or self-consciousness, because we felt that way at one time. In reality, it could be that the employee is having problems at home or experiencing a health problem and his or her mind is elsewhere. When we project, we're not seeing a unique individual. Rather, we're seeing ourselves reflected in the other person. Instead of projecting, learn to see the differences in others in order to respond appropriately to your employees.

To avoid the projection trap, ask employees about themselves. Learn what hobbies they enjoy, what activities they participate in, and what their long-term professional goals are. Listen to their answers and look for ways in which this person is different from you. Be curious about the differences and learn from them. Let your employees know you are interested in them as people. You will be rewarded with a deeper level of trust and cohesiveness within your team.

Challenge #4:
Being trapped in our identity. Identity is how we establish a sense of well-being and competency in the world. We may seek to be seen as an expert, as a great listener, or a compassionate person. All these are elements of our identity, and we often act in ways that invite reinforcement from others. It's easy for business leaders to fall into the trap of always telling their ideas when it may be more beneficial to ask questions or just listen. Play the role of a student sometimes. Your employee's need to be heard may be greater than your need to appear knowledgeable.

To elicit feedback from your team, create a two-way conversation about the process of learning. Ask your employees which methods are helpful and which aren't. Learn together what makes the workgroup more harmonious and productive. Make this a real-time process; don't wait until the yearly reviews. Encourage feedback from your employees about what is most helpful to them and what isn't. Don't be afraid to make some changes. Adaptability is important to any business and its management. Let your employees know that their feedback is important. By doing so, you will build a stronger relationship with your employees.

Make Changes Today
Identifying our leadership challenges can be intimidating. It's hard to own up to the fact that some of our leadership skills can be improved. So take it one step at a time. Begin by identifying your own unhelpful habits and replacing them with more effective ones. This is both a challenge and an opportunity, and you will soon be rewarded with more enthusiastic employees and more variety in your daily routine. Your leadership skills will be a positive example for others to follow, leading to a more unified and productive workplace.

About the Author:
Doug Silsbee is a business consultant and coach in Asheville, North Carolina. He leads workshops all over the world, and coaches individuals on applying principles of mindfulness in any professional venue. Doug's 2004 book, The Mindful Coach: Seven Roles for Helping People Grow, and information about his workshops and coaching are available on-line at http://www.septetcoaching.com.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

LAUNDRY FIRE – Guests Evacuated

CHEEKTOWAGA, NY — A fire in a Days Inn laundry room forced guests to evacuate the building during the evening hours. The fire which began in a dryer was contained to the laundry room and there were no injuries.