There is likely not a single leader alive who is not aware that different personalities exist within each of his or her team members. In fact, the awareness of differences goes beyond personality differences and extends into gender, cultural backgrounds, heritage and even various understandings of word connotations based on these factors and upbringing. All leaders are aware there are differences, but is awareness all it takes to bring a team together and effectively lead them? The answer may not surprise you, but a clear approach on what all it does take, will add value. This Monday Moment will explore and explain that process and describes for leaders exactly how to lead better.

Step 1: Become Aware

In leadership, in order to do it well one must be self aware and lead one’s own self well before really having any legitimate business in leading others anywhere. This is the first hurdle for most who have been what we affectionately call promoted, but not prepared. A whopping 54% of the population doesn’t know themselves well enough to accurately self report on an assessment and yet so many are walking around believing they behave one way when employees or senior leaders are on record as seeing behavior that is quite different. The first step to more effective leadership is to become aware of what one does well, where one struggles and what are those natural gifts, skills, and talents in which he or she will excel. This same awareness should then be applied to the team using data that has both the leaders and the employee’s input. One such tool and suggestion for beginning this process is the CORE Multi-Dimensional Awareness Profile®. The investment of time and budget in creating this foundation of awareness will save a leader oodles of time in trying to figure out the right ways to conduct motivation, recognition, and engagement initiatives for each team member.

Step 2: Practice Acceptance

Understanding employee differences and liking those differences, particularly when both the leader and employee are stressed, are two different matters. One does not have to like the differences in others in order to respect them. One does not have to like the differences in others in order to find effective ways to work together. All team members don’t have to like each other in order for teamwork to happen. What IS paramount in each of those statements is a level of continued acceptance. Maintaining a continued expectation that others will one day wake up and “get it”, which usually means understand the needs of the leader is a recipe, for continued disappointment on behalf of the leader and perceived failure by the employee. Accepting differences means learning to work within them. Alter job assignments based on what one employee does best. Alter communication to fit the differences of the employee one is leading. Alter expectations according to what one now accepts as differences. Many do this instinctively with some success. The best, most effective, most highly respected leaders, do this very purposefully and as a conscious choice.

Step 3: Make Adjustments

As part of practicing acceptance, the word alteration was mentioned. An alteration is a small change to an existing element. Imagine going to a seamstress and asking her to turn a suit jacket into a skirt. That’s not an alteration; that’s a major change. Effective leadership, in the face of awareness and acceptance of team member differences is comprised of a myriad of small adjustments. Begin with for example, a review of one’s recognition program. Stop giving parties, trophies and banquet mentions to those with personalities that love to be behind the scenes and out of the glow of the spotlight. Those actions are de-motivating to them. Follow this with a quick look at how input is gathered. Those more linear and analytical are not good at and have a disdain for brainstorming. If each project is begun with a meeting in which the leader asks for ideas to be tossed around or creative brainstorming, no wonder those who love structure and spreadsheets are always finding ways to not attend these meetings. Stop coaching them on participating and find other ways, that value their differences, for them to participate in more meaningful ways.

Leadership is about customization. Whether you lead an audience, a team, a board, a group of volunteers, a bunch of doctors, or even a team of athletes, customize your presentation. A leader who changes the way in which they communicate, motivate, engage, recognize, and delegate will find themselves faced with a team of employees who each feel as if the leader really gets them. Employees follow leaders who get them for far longer periods of time than those leaders from whom they feel disconnected.

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels. Whether through her keynotes: Leadership is Not a Glass Slipper and Contagious Leadership, or though her books, as the author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica develops better leaders. Contact her at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

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