Category Archives: Alesia Latson

When Employees Disappoint: How Effective Leaders Respond

By Alesia LatsonAlesia Latson

Disappointment is inevitable for leaders. At times your people will disappoint you, and there will also be instances where you disappoint others. So the fact that disappointment occurs isn’t the challenge. The real issue to address is how you respond to the disappointment.

Unfortunately, far too many leaders react to disappointment with anger and punishment. You’ve likely seen the scenario. An employee loses a key client, misses an important deadline, or does any number of common things and the leader responds by demoting the employee, removing responsibility, not allowing the employee to take vacation time, firing the employee, or doing other punitive actions.

Such consequences are really nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the leader … and a missed opportunity for the leader to shine. In reality, how you handle disappointment speaks volumes of your leadership style and your credibility in your organization.

To make the most of a disappointing situation and use it as the coaching opportunity it is, consider the following suggestions:

  • Manage yourself before you confront the employee. Before talking with the employee about the disappointing situation, you first have to manage yourself. In other words, you have to be clear on what your intention is of the conversation. Because you’re in a position of authority, what you say during these moments will have a ripple effect. Of course, this isn’t to say that you aren’t justified in your anger or justified in your disappointment. You most certainly are. However, your expression of those feelings has an impact on how others view you and on what the employee will do in the future. So before initiating the conversation, take some time to step back and get clear about what you want to have happen as a result of the meeting. Are you simply looking to vent your anger? Is the goal on finding a solution to rectify the current circumstances? Or do you really want to help the employee learn and grow from the situation?
  • Assess your role in the disappointment. As part of managing yourself, take some time to reflect on your role in the disappointment. Before you declare, “I did nothing. It was entirely the other person’s fault,” realize that as a leader, you are ultimately responsible for your people. So ask yourself, “What role did I play?” and “How did I contribute to this disappointment?” Perhaps you didn’t give the employee enough training. Maybe you threw them into a situation that they were too “green” to handle. Perhaps you didn’t adequately prepare them for the meeting. Whatever the disappointing outcome was, chances are you had some role in it—even a small one. Acknowledge that prior to your conversation.
  • Assume good intent. When you take the stance that the employee didn’t intentionally cause the disappointment, it naturally takes the edge off of your approach and any anger you may have. And in the majority of cases, that stance is absolutely accurate—the employee didn’t set out to cause harm. They simply made a mistake or a bad judgment call, which resulted in a less than ideal situation. Additionally, realize that the employee knows they messed up, and they’ve probably given themselves a thorough thrashing by now and are terrified to speak with you. Therefore, any anger you display will be mild compared to what they’ve already dished out to themselves. Of course, if there’s been an intentional violation of an important principle, value, or standard that compromises the integrity of the organization, then anger is understandable. However, true anger should be reserved for the most egregious acts.
  • When talking to the employee, focus on the disappointment in terms of the outcome, not the person. Successful school teachers know that when you discipline a student, you focus on the behavior, not the child. The same is true for business leaders. Even if the disappointment occurred because the employee was negligent in some way, you need to separate what happened from the employee personally. State your disappointment in terms of the outcome, and then explore with the employee the cause in an inquisitive and coaching way rather than a punitive way. Why? Because when employees feel punished or that the boss is scolding them, they become fearful, which decreases creativity and innovation on the job—the exact things you often need to rectify a disappointing situation.

Learn from Disappointments: It’s human nature to lash out during disappointing times, and because a leader can, he or she often does. But remember that how you handle disappointment reflects more on you as a leader than on the person who caused the situation. Additionally, realize that the majority of disappointing moments are actually coaching moments in disguise. Savvy leaders recognize this and make the most of these situations. So if you want to be viewed as a leader with courage, credibility, and reason, use the suggestions presented here the next time you feel the need to punish an employee for a wrongdoing. When you do, you won’t be disappointed in the results.

Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in management and leadership development. With more than 20 years of experience, Latson helps organizations and leaders expand their capacity to produce results while enhancing employee engagement. For more information on Alesia’s speaking and consulting, please contact her at alesia@latsonleadershipgroup.com or visit www.latsonleadershipgroup.com.

The Real Impact of Leadership

By Alesia LatsonAlesia Latson

William James, the famed American philosopher and psychologist, once said, “When two people meet there are really six people present. There is each person as they see themselves, each person as the other person sees them, and each person as they really are.” As a leader, how do you see yourself? And even more important… how do the people you lead see you?

Realize that every action you take and every interaction you have leaves a lasting impact on others. You can have the best of intentions, but if your impact isn’t aligned with the intention, then your leadership may not be as effective as it could be. Why? Because in the end, what matters is not who you think you are, but the experience that other people have with you.

Now before you say, “I don’t care what other people think of me,” realize that you don’t need to care what they think. You do, however, have to care about the impact you have on others, on your organization, and your industry. Your impact leaves a lasting mark. What mark do you want to leave in the world?

In order to make sure you have a positive impact and are viewed as a leader others actually want to follow, take the following steps.

Detail the kind of impact you want to have. Most leaders have never detailed their personal creed. But doing so can be incredibly powerful. Therefore, get clear about who you think you are. Who are you and what do you stand for? What do you value? What is your personal creed or stance in the roles that are most important to you in your life? How do you want to be known in your company and industry?

Once you have those questions answered, ask the most important question of all: “How do the things I just detailed show up when I’m frustrated or when things aren’t going well? Who am I then?” It’s easy to be all of those lovely things when everything is going well. But what about when things aren’t going well? How do you want to show up during the hard times? How do you want to be known when things are tough? How do you want people to experience you in the midst of adversity? Most leaders lose credibility when things are bad because they haven’t thought about who they are in those situations and the kind of impact they’ll have.

Find out how others view your impact. There are two ways to get information about your impact: You can ask for feedback either indirectly or directly. An indirect approach is doing an online and anonymous survey of some sort using a tool like Survey Monkey. While it’s simple to do, the results are not always specific.

A direct approach is to talk with someone you trust face-to-face and ask specific questions so you can get key insights. The secret to making direct questions work is to phrase them properly. If you ask someone, “Can you give me feedback on my leadership style?” you won’t get the information you need. That’s a difficult question for most people to answer because it’s not focused enough, and no one wants to hurt another person’s feelings. Additionally, if they’re not prepared for the question, they can feel like they’re being put on the spot. Therefore, ask a more focused question, like, “During today’s meeting, I think I may have sounded defensive when I told Chris that the idea would never work. How did it land for you? What was your experience of being in that meeting?”

Notice that you’re not asking for an evaluation. You’re pointing out a specific incident or behavior and asking the person about their personal experience during that moment—the impact you had. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that the person is going to tell you the truth, but it does create a condition where they’re more likely to be open.

Change your impact, not you. If the results of the feedback you receive don’t align with your personal perceptions about yourself, it’s time to make some changes—not to you, but to your impact. First, get curious about the mismatch, not furious about the information. A good question to ask yourself is, “Under what conditions might a person experience me this way?” This validates not that you agree with the feedback, but that it is a legitimate perception. Because here’s the truth: You might be a motivating, empowering, and uplifting kind of leader, but under certain conditions, even the most esteemed person can come across as harsh, cold, and defensive. So you need to get mindful of the kinds of conditions that can hinder your success. In other words, know your blind spots so you can shed some light on them.

With this new knowledge, you can take steps to consciously alter the impact you have on others. If taking one approach isn’t getting you the results you want, what other approach can you try? No matter what approach you try, you’re still the same person, just doing certain things in a different way to have a more positive impact. As long as the new approach you try supports your values and what you deem important, then you’re acting in integrity and in alignment with your goals.

Get Real: There’s no avoiding it: All leaders leave a lasting impact. What’s yours? And is it the legacy you want? When you can align who you think you are with how others perceive you, you’ll be the kind of leader people naturally gravitate toward, and your enduring mark on the world will be a positive one.

Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in management and leadership development. With more than 20 years of experience, Latson helps organizations and leaders expand their capacity to produce results while enhancing employee engagement. For more information on Alesia’s speaking and consulting, please contact her at alesia@latsonleadershipgroup.com or visit www.latsonleadershipgroup.com.

Three Keys to Being an Irresistible Leader

By Alesia LatsonAlesia Latson

Leadership is a tough job. Not only do you have to be adept at managing multiple priorities, but you also have to possess expert people skills. After all, regardless of industry, a leader is only as good as his or her team. Without the buy-in and respect of your employees, you’ll have a difficult time accomplishing the organization’s goals. The challenge, then, is figuring out how to be irresistible to your team—how to create the conditions by which people can’t resist your message and vision and therefore want to align and partner with you.

Becoming irresistible requires that you attract and connect with people, which naturally results in trust and loyalty. That’s why the key for any leader is to create the conditions and experiences by which people want to engage with you. Following are the top three ways to build engagement with your staff.

1. Build Rapport: The best way to build rapport with people is to simply listen to them. When people feel listened to, they are more likely to trust you and are more eager to engage with you. To make listening a priority in your role, start doing monthly listening tours. These do not have to be long sessions—15 minutes is enough. The point is to actually schedule time where you meet with people informally and just let them talk.

At the beginning of the meeting, tell them, “This is just a listening meeting. For 15 minutes I just want to hear your ideas, your concerns, or anything else you’d like to share.” Then, let them talk. Don’t interrupt or dominate the conversation. In fact, only speak when the other person asks you a question. The rest of the time just listen and take notes. After the person is done talking, paraphrase what you heard. Taking only 15 minutes out of your day to listen will help you forge a greater connection with your staff and make a huge difference in employee engagement.

2. Disagree with Grace: Disagreements at work are inevitable. The key is how you handle them. Too often, leaders come across as harsh when they disagree, inadvertently making employees feel inferior or that their ideas are without merit. So rather than abruptly tell people things like, “No, that will never work,” or “You obviously don’t understand the full situation,” when you disagree with them, start by acknowledging and validating the other person’s perspective.

To do this requires that you listen attentively and then legitimize the other person’s point of view. It is most effective when you can provide at least three points of validation because that’s when the person is more likely to feel that you actually heard what they said. So, for example, if someone offers an idea for increasing profits that you think is too risky and won’t work, you could say something like, “I see that your proposal is a reflection of your commitment to finding viable options that will increase our profitability (validation #1). It’s evident that you’ve put a lot of effort into taking a look at the numbers (validation #2). And you’ve offered a compelling business case for us to consider (validation #3). We’re aligned in that we’re both looking for a committed solution. Where we differ is in how aggressive the plan should be and how much risk we should take on. Maybe that’s something we can talk about.” Remember, the magic number is three points of validation.

At this point you can ask some open-ended questions to get a better idea of the employee’s thinking, or you can agree to disagree. But it’s that validation that enables you to disagree with grace. Now rather than shutting the conversation down, you’re engaging the employee. This is what creates irresistibility, because when the employee walks away from that meeting, they may not have gotten what they wanted, but they weren’t defeated. And that’s huge to the engagement factor.

3. Offer Acknowledgment and Praise: Too often leaders are so busy, stressed, and overwhelmed that they forget to acknowledge people. But human beings crave acknowledgment and want to feel that they are making a meaningful difference in some way. Therefore, offering acknowledgment and praise goes a long way to building engagement.

Acknowledging someone doesn’t mean gushing over them and touting superlatives that aren’t warranted. It’s also not about empty phrases like “Good job.” Offering acknowledgment and praise works best when you’re factual and pointing out specifics that made an impact. For example, instead of telling someone, “You did a good job on that report,” which lacks any type of facts or specifics, you could say, “I wanted to compliment you on your report. It detailed the topic in a clear way, gave a strong call to action at the end, and was visually very appealing in the layout.” The more specific you can be with your praise, the more meaningful it is for the employee. In addition to making the person feel important, your words are giving them clear feedback on what success looks like so they can duplicate it in the future.

Remember, too, that acknowledgment and praise doesn’t only happen during a formal meeting or year-end review. You can offer a word of acknowledgment in passing at the water cooler. Often, it’s those little interactions that leave a lasting impression.

Attract the Best: If you want to be one of those leaders that people can’t seem to resist—the kind of leader who has loyal employees and a strong environment of trust—then you need to focus on these three employee engagement practices. Not only will your current employees find you irresistible, but you’ll also have a steady stream of eager potential employees (the best of the best) who want to work with you. Ultimately, the more engagement and partnership you have with your team, the more rewarding the work experience will be for everyone. That’s when the organization will experience true and lasting success.

Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in management and leadership development. With more than 20 years of experience, Latson helps organizations and leaders expand their capacity to produce results while enhancing employee engagement. For more information on Alesia’s speaking and consulting, please contact her at alesia@latsonleadershipgroup.com or visit www.latsonleadershipgroup.com.

Does Your Staff Respect You … Or Do They Fear You?

By Alesia LatsonAlesia Latson

When you’re driving down the road and see those flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror, what’s the first thought that pops into your mind? If you’re like most people, you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach and think, “Uh-oh. What did I do?” The thought that the police officer might be pulling you over to tell you something simple, such as that your taillight is out, rarely crosses your mind. That’s because when a person of authority suddenly makes an appearance or asserts him/herself, it’s human nature for those around the person to have a fear response triggered and to jump to the worst case scenario, as in: “I did something wrong.”

If you’re a leader, chances are your staff feels that same status differential with you, and they translate it as fear. So when you casually ask a staff member, “Can you please come to my office for a moment?” … or when you’re in a meeting and defensively respond to an employee’s comments with “But that’s not my understanding of things,” … or when you repeatedly interrupt your staff member as he’s speaking, you’re triggering the fear response in the person, just as the flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror do.

While you might think that having people fear you to some degree is good, fear in a relationship actually has many negative effects. In fact, research shows that when people are operating in fear, it impairs their analytical thinking skills, decreases their creative insight, and reduces their problem solving abilities—the exact things workplaces need to succeed in today’s marketplace. So even though you likely don’t walk around basking in your authority and you don’t consciously exert your power over people, your employees feel it in all the seemingly simple things you do each day.

If you want your staff to respect your authority rather than fear it, following are some suggestions for making sure every interaction with them is a positive one.

Headline your requests: Because your mind is likely jumping from one topic to the next, it’s easy to get trapped in the busy-ness of the day and not realize the unintended consequences of a simple question. For example, when you ask an employee, “Can you please come to my office for a moment?”, you probably believe it’s nothing more than an innocuous request. But the employee you’re speaking to translates your words and rushed tone as, “Oh no! What did I do? Am I in trouble?”

To ensure this doesn’t happen, take a few seconds to headline your requests. For example, before saying the fear-inducing, “Can you come to my office for a moment,” give a little headline to add context to your request, as in, “Chris, I’d like to get your feedback on something. Can you come to my office for a moment?” Notice how those few words of clarification change the implied context of the request and ease any fears the employee may have.

Be curious: Leaders are supposed to challenge their staff. That’s often what prompts new ideas and bold solutions. The key is to challenge people in a positive, motivating way rather than to squelch their creativity or have them fear your pushback. So instead of challenging people with defensive questions like “Why did you do that?” or with intimidating “but” statements like “Yes, but that’s not my understanding of the issue,” get in the habit of asking three open-ended questions before you advocate your point of view.

Asking open-ended questions (those that elicit something other than a “yes” or “no” reply), makes the person you’re speaking with feel valuable and that he or she has important insights. This alone helps to create an environment of collaboration, trust, and respect, which naturally reduces any defensiveness.

The two most powerful types of open-ended questions to ask are “what” and “how” questions. For example, asking in a neutral tone, “What evidence do you have to support this conclusion?” “What process did you engage in?” and “How would you describe your philosophy on this?” prompts the employee to reflect on the situation and brings forth the most useful information. Additionally, by asking three questions rather than one or two, you’re showing more than a superficial interest in the other person’s perspective.

Set ground rules before the meeting or conversation: One of the most common ways leaders unknowingly assert their dominance over employees is by interrupting people when they speak. Since most employees want to please the boss, they allow the interruption to derail the conversation and they hold back on ideas.

Of course, leaders usually interrupt because others are going on too long and they just don’t have the patience. Dominance and fear are the furthest things from their mind. To alleviate this fear-inducing habit, set the ground rules for how you work best. If you want people to get to the point and only discuss the pertinent details, tell them. For example, you could say, “We only have an hour here. My request is that when you are reporting, be succinct. Start with what the conclusion is and then we can ask questions and look into details.” When you make requests for how you want the information, the need to interrupt decreases. Additionally, your employees will appreciate knowing your wishes and will eagerly accommodate them.

Be a Fear-Less Leader. Leaders have a tremendous impact on their employees’ lives—financially, emotionally, and mentally. When you take the steps to make sure your impact is one that enhances the workplace rather than instills fear in it, you’ll create an organizational culture that breeds mutual respect, creativity, and collaboration. And that’s the hallmark of a true leader.

Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in management and leadership development. With more than 20 years of experience, Latson helps organizations and leaders expand their capacity to produce results while enhancing employee engagement. For more information on Alesia’s speaking and consulting, please contact her at alesia@latsonleadershipgroup.com or visit www.latsonleadershipgroup.com