5 Great Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skills

The dominant trend in hiring practices across most industries has shifted in the last ten years or so.  Where it used to be enough to possess the technical knowledge and skills for a particular position, now employers are looking for much more.

Employers want to hire people who have strong leadership skills to go right along with technical skills.  In some industries, employers are even giving priority to leadership skills when making hiring decisions, with the idea that they can provide training to develop technical skills.

This article explores five ways you can develop your leadership skills to make yourself more promotable as an existing employee and/or more attractive as a prospective employee.

It is important to note that leadership development is a multi-faceted process that involves multiple aspects of your work and life, so you should consider all these tips as part of your overall strategy.

1. Identify strengths and weaknesses

The first step in developing leadership skills is to assess your current abilities.  This is the only way to identify which areas should be the focus of your development efforts.

The key is to honestly and accurately identify your strengths and weaknesses – even if the identification process is difficult or uncomfortable for you.  Many employers offer access to extensive feedback mechanisms, such as 360° surveys, so take advantage of what your employer offers if possible.

If your employer does not offer access to assessments, start by doing a self-assessment of your leadership skills.  Although the definition of “leadership skills” may vary some from expert to expert, most resources list the following categories as key leadership skills:

  • Communication – Clear, understandable communication of ideas with an excellent ability to listen and consider the opinions of others.
  • Teamwork – Working in group situations to ensure that everyone contributes, nobody dominates the conversation, and the ability to lead a group through problem solving and decision making.
  • Integrity – Are you trustworthy?  Honest?  Reliable?  Approachable?  Do you honor confidentiality?  Follow through on your commitments? 
  • Conflict Resolution – Leaders are inevitably called upon to deal with conflict.  The best leaders understand that conflict is to be expected and that it can, when properly resolved, help a group become more effective.
  • Share Recognition – The very best leaders set aside their own egos and share recognition with others.  They ensure that everyone who participates in an achievement feels valued and appreciated.

Using these five leadership categories, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses in each category.  Be very honest with yourself, even if it is painful.

Now turn to the people around you.  Ask them to give you feedback on how you perform in each category, both positive and negative.  Be sure to solicit feedback from your peers, your employees, and your management.

Give each person some time to put together his or her feedback, and then set aside some time to discuss it together.  The idea is to collect information without becoming defensive or argumentative.

2. Seek development opportunities

With feedback in hand, you will likely begin to see patterns emerge.  Whatever your feedback tells you, those are the areas where you should actively seek leadership development opportunities.

Here are some ideas for development opportunities in each leadership category:

  • Communication – Take a class on interpersonal communications; look for opportunities to work with good communicators; practice communicating one on one and in small groups.
  • Teamwork – Volunteer to co-chair a committee with someone who is a good group facilitator; read books and/or take a class.
  • Integrity – Become more approachable; be 100% reliable; do not commit to things you cannot complete as promised; pay attention to maintaining confidentiality and private information.
  • Conflict Resolution – Take a class in conflict resolution; look for instructional DVDs so you can see good conflict resolution in action; work with someone else who is skilled in this area.
  • Share Recognition – The next time recognition comes along, make a conscious effort to turn the spotlight on others; focus on the accomplishments of others rather than your own.

3. Work with a mentor

One of the very best ways to develop leadership skills is to find and work with a mentor.  If your employer has a formal mentoring program (which many do) then get involved in it.  If your employer does not have a formal program, look around for someone who will help you.

Look for someone who demonstrates excellent leadership skills, especially those that are areas of weakness for you.  Approach that person respectfully and ask if he or she would be available to provide some mentoring to you.  Most people find it very flattering to be asked and will most likely say yes.

Establish regular mentoring opportunities, such as monthly lunch meetings, or observing the mentor in action during a group meeting.  Come to each mentoring session prepared with questions and specific things you would like to address.

You might have a situation that you are not sure how to handle, so ask your mentor to offer suggestions.  Or, if you have watched your mentor “in action” and noticed a particularly strong skill, talk with him or her about how you can develop that skill as well.

4. Put your leadership skills into action

Leadership skills, as with most other skills, only become stronger when you use them regularly.  Look for opportunities to practice your skills in a variety of situations.

Examples might include:

  • Coordinate a staff luncheon
  • Coordinate a volunteer group at church
  • Chair a fund raising activity at a local school
  • Take the lead on researching a new piece of equipment and present findings to your work group
  • Get involved in your homeowner’s association
  • Plan a community clean up day

You can practice leadership skills in big and small ways, in your work environment as well as your home or personal life.  Make a point of finding opportunities to practice whenever and wherever you can.

5. Remember that leadership is a full-time job

This is an important concept to understand and accept, and one that many people find difficult to enact.  Leadership, they think, is about how they run a meeting or how they lead a project team – in other words, discrete tasks that have a beginning and an end.

The reality is that leadership is a full time job.  Good leaders never stop using their skills or being good leaders, they simply make those skills part of their daily habits so they become an integral part of who they are.

Look around at the people you see as good leaders, and watch how they use their skills.  Do they turn them “on” and “off” or incorporate those skills into everyday work and life habits?

A true leader incorporates the skills of leadership into their everyday work and life habits.  It is effectively a full time job, or a way of life.  These are the true leaders because they do not just practice good leadership when others are watching or when there is a high profile project on the line.  Rather, their leadership skills are with them everyday, in every way, regardless of whether others are watching or not. 

Think about it.  What would it take for you to become that kind of leader?  And why not start working on it today?

 

Advertisements

Twelve Cs for Team Building

People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.

 

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture.

 

You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal. People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building an effective, focused work team when you consider team building approaches.

 

Twelve Cs for Team Building

Executives, managers and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success.

 

No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. Few organizations, however, are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce. If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work teams, requires attention to each of the following.

 

  1. Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?

 

  1. Context: Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their team’s importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team understand where its work fits in the total context of the organization’s goals, principles, vision and values?

 

  1. Commitment: Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes? Do team members perceive their service as valuable to the organization and to their own careers? Do team members anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and challenged by the team opportunity?

 

  1. Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As an example, in a process improvement, is each step of the process represented on the team?) Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has the resources, strategies and support needed to accomplish its mission?

 

  1. Charter: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission. Has the team defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions; its timelines; and how it will measure both the outcomes of its work and the process the team followed to accomplish their task? Does the leadership team or other coordinating group support what the team has designed?

 

  1. Control: Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries? How far may members go in pursuit of solutions? Are limitations (i.e. monetary and time resources) defined at the beginning of the project before the team experiences barriers and rework? Is the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all members of the organization? Has the organization defined the team’s authority? To make recommendations? To implement its plan? Is there a defined review process so both the team and the organization are consistently aligned in direction and purpose? Do team members hold each other accountable for project timelines, commitments and results? Does the organization have a plan to increase opportunities for self-management among organization members?

 

  1. Collaboration: Does the team understand team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members? team leaders? team recorders? Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team charter? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan?

 

  1. Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization provide important business information regularly? Do the teams understand the complete context for their existence? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed?
  2. Creative Innovation: Is the organization really interested in change? Does it value creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas? Does it reward people who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does it reward the people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the training, education, access to books and films, and field trips necessary to stimulate new thinking?

 

  1. Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Is reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organization? Do team members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems? Is the organization designing reward systems that recognize both team and individual performance? Is the organization planning to share gains and increased profitability with team and individual contributors? Can contributors see their impact on increased organization success?

 

  1. Coordination: Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer—the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively? Is the organization developing a customer-focused process-focused orientation and moving away from traditional departmental thinking?

 

  1. Cultural Change: Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organizational culture of the future is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be? Is the organization planning to or in the process of changing how it rewards, recognizes, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and manages the people it employs? Does the organization plan to use failures for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organization recognize that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will receive in pay back from the work of the teams?

Spend time and attention on each of these twelve tips to ensure your work teams contribute most effectively to your business success. Your team members will love you, your business will soar, and empowered people will "own" and be responsible for their work processes. Can your work life get any better than this?

Talking about VS 2005 Code-behind Model for ASP.NET Applications

 

Quote

VS 2005 Code-behind Model for ASP.NET Applications

VS 2005 uses a code-behind model conceptually the same as VS 2003. Specifically, each .aspx page continues to inherit from a code-behind class that contains protected control field references for each control in the .aspx page:

 

What is different between VS 2003 and VS 2005 is that Visual Studio no longer injects its tool-specific wire-up code in the developer’s code-behind file.  Instead, it takes advantage of a new language feature in C# and VB called "partial types" (or partial classes) to split the code-behind implementation across two files.  One of these partial class files is the developer-owned code-behind file that contains developer-written event-handlers and code for the page.  The other partial class file is then a tool-generated/maintained file that contains the protected control field declarations and the other design-time code that Visual Studio requires.  The benefit of splitting them out into two separate files at design-time is that it ensures that the code that VS creates and maintains never interferes (or deletes) code that a developer writes.  At compile-time, these files are compiled together and generate a single code-behind class.

 

With the VS 2005 Web Application project model, the design-time partial class is generated and persisted on disk by VS 2005.  This new design-time partial-class file has the filename naming pattern: PageName.aspx.designer.cs.  If you expand any new page created within your VS 2005 Web Application project, you can see this file listed under the associated Page.aspx file along with the developer-owned code-behind file:

 

If you open up the code-behind file of the page (Default.aspx.cs), you’ll then see the code-behind logic of the page — which contains all of the code and event handlers that a developer writes (and no tool-generated "code-spit" content — which means it stays very clean):

 

If you open the Default.aspx.designer.cs file, you’ll then see the design-time code of the page — which contains the field declarations for controls within the .aspx page:

 

Because the MyWebProject._Default class is marked as "partial" in both of the above two files, the compiler will merge them into a single generated class at compile-time. This means that any variable, method or field generated in the default.aspx.designer.cs file can be used from the default.aspx.cs code-behind file (just as if it was declared in the code-behind file itself). For example, within the Page_Load event handler we could easily add the below code that uses the "Label1" and "Calendar1" control:

 

This will compile clean and run just fine — because the "Label1" and "Calendar1" field references have been defined within the default.aspx.designer.cs file.

 

When you do a build inside a VS 2005 Web Application project, all pages, user-controls, master pages (and their associated code-behind files+design-time generated files), along with all other standalone classes within the project are compiled into a single assembly. This is the same behavior as with VS 2003.

VS 2005 Code-behind Model for ASP.NET Applications

VS 2005 uses a code-behind model conceptually the same as VS 2003. Specifically, each .aspx page continues to inherit from a code-behind class that contains protected control field references for each control in the .aspx page:

 

What is different between VS 2003 and VS 2005 is that Visual Studio no longer injects its tool-specific wire-up code in the developer’s code-behind file.  Instead, it takes advantage of a new language feature in C# and VB called “partial types” (or partial classes) to split the code-behind implementation across two files.  One of these partial class files is the developer-owned code-behind file that contains developer-written event-handlers and code for the page.  The other partial class file is then a tool-generated/maintained file that contains the protected control field declarations and the other design-time code that Visual Studio requires.  The benefit of splitting them out into two separate files at design-time is that it ensures that the code that VS creates and maintains never interferes (or deletes) code that a developer writes.  At compile-time, these files are compiled together and generate a single code-behind class.

 

With the VS 2005 Web Application project model, the design-time partial class is generated and persisted on disk by VS 2005.  This new design-time partial-class file has the filename naming pattern: PageName.aspx.designer.cs.  If you expand any new page created within your VS 2005 Web Application project, you can see this file listed under the associated Page.aspx file along with the developer-owned code-behind file:

 

If you open up the code-behind file of the page (Default.aspx.cs), you’ll then see the code-behind logic of the page — which contains all of the code and event handlers that a developer writes (and no tool-generated “code-spit” content — which means it stays very clean):

 

If you open the Default.aspx.designer.cs file, you’ll then see the design-time code of the page — which contains the field declarations for controls within the .aspx page:

 

Because the MyWebProject._Default class is marked as “partial” in both of the above two files, the compiler will merge them into a single generated class at compile-time. This means that any variable, method or field generated in the default.aspx.designer.cs file can be used from the default.aspx.cs code-behind file (just as if it was declared in the code-behind file itself). For example, within the Page_Load event handler we could easily add the below code that uses the “Label1” and “Calendar1” control:

 

This will compile clean and run just fine — because the “Label1” and “Calendar1” field references have been defined within the default.aspx.designer.cs file.

 

When you do a build inside a VS 2005 Web Application project, all pages, user-controls, master pages (and their associated code-behind files+design-time generated files), along with all other standalone classes within the project are compiled into a single assembly. This is the same behavior as with VS 2003.