How to grow your leadership muscle

As leaders, we must keep flexing our leadership muscle. It’s like working out. Humans can’t stay healthy and strong without exercising and moving! The same is true with leadership. To stay strong and maintain our leadership muscle, we have to practice!

Ever thought why is this so difficult

In the past week did you have a difficult conversation with a team member and think – it did not have to come to this! Or, why is this so difficult? Are they even listening when I speak?

Well, let’s put the challenge back to you, the leader! Have you spent time learning about your team member and learning a bit more about how they think and make decisions?

Invest time in learning about your team members

I encourage you to learn the learning orientation and time orientation of your team members. Now, learning about your team members does not have to be limited to formal assessments with a third party or external consultant – there are certainly times when that is important, but it’s not a requirement. As a leader, take a coaching approach to engage your team member. Invest time in learning about the team member through conversation proactively over time.

It is not wise to wait until a difficult conversation occurs to start the learning process. Be a leader who is proactively learning about team members – not reactionary!

By building a coaching relationship with our team members, we invest in learning about them, building trust, and establishing a positive communication experience. Often simply by developing this coaching relationship, we can navigate topics without it ever turning into a “Difficult Conversation.”

Two helpful things to know about your team

more about the learning orientations

As with most things in life, there are several perspectives on learning orientations and learning styles. To keep it short and simple, there are three big bucket categories to keep in mind.

Learning orientations

  • Activity-based learning orientation / the joy of doing something new or different
  • Learning-based learning orientation / the joy of knowing something new or different
  • Goal-based learning orientation / the joy of completing something new or different

These big bucket categories also make it easy for a leader to facilitate an anecdotal conversation with a team member. The categories are broad enough for an individual to feel confident in self-identifying. A leader should not label a team member but instead, ask a team member to share which learning orientation feels authentic.

Conversation Prompts for the Manager

Here are a few prompts a manager may use to start the conversation!

  • What interests you about learning?
  • Think back on *something* you enjoyed learning; what was it about the learning that you liked?
  • What motivates you to learn something new?

As the manager, it’s your job to be aware of the learning orientation of your team member and find ways to integrate the learning orientation into how you coach and train that person.

more about time orientations

In Driven by Time (2004), Thoms shares the concept of time orientation. Again, we have three big bucket categories that allow for easy self-reflection and self-identification.

Time orientations

  • A past-oriented individual recognizes past accomplishments, remembers historical information, and uses the past to predict the future.
  • A present-oriented individual recognizes the importance of day-to-day tasks and addresses current challenges.
  • A future-oriented individual motivates, brings transformation, and inspires vision.

Conversation Prompts for the Manager

Here are a few prompts a manager may use to start the conversation!

  • What types of work-related tasks bring you the most joy?
  • If you could decide, what would you spend the most of your time doing?

Hey you! Let these prompts help start the conversation between you and your team member.The goal here is to better understand the team member and how they tick! By understanding their learning and time orientation, you can proactively coach and improve communications.

What about your organization?