Leaders Set the Tone

By Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP

ACPE faculty member Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP, presented focused sessions on Relationship Building and Change Management at the AAHPM Leadership Forum: Ascend program, September 14-16, 2014. AAHPM Ascend is a new intensive program included in the AAHPM’s comprehensive new Leadership Forum.

People crave two things: they want to feel connected and included. Instead of jumping headfirst into the content of your information, take time to make sure your listeners feel at home with you and their surroundings.

Create the atmosphere right from the beginning with your introductions and opening. Be enthusiastic, but maintain your calm as you begin to give directions.

Make sure you introduce key participants and define their role in the group. Clearly set out the agenda and overall goals for the meeting.

An audience who feels welcome and included will work harder to reach positive outcomes under the guidance of you, their leader. Here’s how to settle them in.

  • Always suggest, never demand. “Consider XYZ” instead of “Clearly, XYZ presents the most effective option.”
  • Question. Lace your presentation and their discussion time with relevant questions. “In your clinical experience, what three areas proved most important?”
  • Review. Guide them through their own learning. Use a flipchart to post statements. “What do these points mean to you?” Discussion always ensues.

Managing Fear and Bad News

How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.
Florence Nightingale, nurse

When we label fear as fear, it controls us. Be wary of how fear can outmatch the goal. When you deliver unpleasant news or when you face a hostile client or group, make sure you prepare them for what you have to say.

  • Frame your message in terms of their concerns, even if you need to be focused on a specific topic.
  • Revitalize the group’s energy by allowing them to share the things they worry about – professional and personal implications.
  • Avoid letting the “we” become “me.”
  • Capture the power of metaphors. Has someone used an image you can piggyback off? Are you climbing a mountain together? Hurdling an obstacle?

Leaders Take Risks.
Successful leaders understand that risk taking is an essential component to a fulfilling career. The issue is not in the risk activity itself, but in how a leader can take risks and display courage in order to lead effectively and influence others.

Courage can often be a series of small steps taken in the right direction at the right time regardless of the prevailing wisdom of those who remain at a standstill. Often risk is scary not because of the task that needs to be done but because of the uncertainty of the outcome.

There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F. Kennedy

Smart leaders help make courageous commitments as conservatively as needed. A leader’s role is to move the team, not just take the risks themselves. A successful leader will focus on the small steps that will lead a group to the end goal.

  • Will you make sure expectations are in alignment through candid discussion with your team?
  • Will you fight against ambiguity within your team environment by not promoting secrecy or confusion?
  • Will you view encouragement as a vital way to empower and encourage your team members?

A leader rewards those who attempt even if they fail. Make a point to console your team members who become discouraged when their attempts fail. Enjoy their successes and bestow some positive publicity whenever possible. Share the times when your own risks paid off or when your own failures led to growth in other areas.

I think all great innovations are built on rejection.”
Sculptor Louise Nevelson

A leader ensures that all ideas are up for discussion. Strive to encourage disagreement, diversity and openness. Work to create an environment that fosters contribution and cooperation instead of competition and secrecy, an environment in which your team members feel free to share their talents.

All Risk Involves Movement: A Step, Jump, or Leap.

  • A step is moving forward incrementally, as you do when walking.
  • Jumps are a series of calculated moves designed to achieve a goal.
  • Leaps are the most risky, undertaken because of an underlying belief that you (and your team) will have sufficient momentum to reach your target.

When Risk Runs Relationships

The way a leader responds or reacts to normal natural conflict sets the tenor of events to come. Regardless of what the other person does, decide what you will do. This is the essential heartbeat of leadership. In Latin, it is called “locus” or the place of control deep within you. Know your locus-of-control and you will always have the choice to act as you need to act.

Leaders who work to elicit ideas from team members allow for people to feel what they want the most – involvement, affirmation, and ownership. Making change happen is a leader’s riskiest move. It is a test of whether you know and are known, whether you listened and are listened to, and whether your leadership will move or stagnate.

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Grace Murray Hopper, mathematician and computer pioneer

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