3 Hours to a Leadership Makeover

Raise your hand if this has never happened to you: you see a picture of someone from high school online and think, “Wow, what happened to Bob*? He looks like an old dude now!” Maybe this says a lot about my age, some deep-seated shallowness, or an inability to feel social shame. I’m hopeful it says more about perception.

Perception is our way of understanding or interpreting something. It’s our mental impression and the stories we make up about the way things are. It gets a lot of things right and sometimes it runs away with the plot.

Your team is making up a story about you right now. You think you are creating support, autonomy, and transparency for them but what if it comes off as the behavioral equivalent of parting your hair straight down the middle and you are the only one who sees this as cool? Maybe it’s time to for a makeover, a new story.

Change the story, change the game. One way to change the story is to help fill in the blanks with a Leader Calibration discussion. Research shows that leaders who share more about themselves create better engagement with their teams. Imagine a two-way dialogue over just a few hours that creates calibration on expectations, communication, and whatever matter most to your team. The payoff is huge!

Leadership Calibration is ideal when a team has been working together a few months. By then you have some experience together, the honeymoon is probably over and you are on the brink of storming, or maybe already are. It can also be done with intact teams that have been together for years.

Tips for a Successful Leader Calibration Conversation

  • No DIY. Engage a skillful, neutral facilitator who is not you, one of your direct reports, your boss, or a peer.
  • Share themes and sample questions in advance so participants can be thoughtful without being blindsided.
  • Agree on ground rules (about safety, forthrightness, etc.) and allow the group to add/edit them.
  • Go visual – use flipcharts or similar to display the themes, questions, and outputs.
  • Allow time for the leader and team together, the team without the leader, the leader without the team and ultimately, bring the whole group back together.
  • Capture action items, commitments and date(s) for follow up.

Areas to Explore, Plus a Few Sample Questions

  • Management Style
    • What is your management style or philosophy?
    • What are your strengths as a leader in this position?
    • What development needs do you have?
    • How will you involve the team in decision-making?
  • Communication
    • What do you want to communicate only face-to-face, by telephone or voicemail?
    • When/how do you want to hear about problems?
  • Performance
    • What is your definition of top performance?
    • How will you communicate low performance?
    • How do you deliver feedback?
  • Personal Style
    • Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
    • Do you like to get into the details or are you a “big picture” person?
    • When have you been most angry at work? What happened?
    • When have you been most pleased at work? What happened?

*Not his real name. Special thanks to Bob.cat who offered his name as a pseudonym for this article. No offense intended to anyone named Robert, Bob, Bob.cat or to anyone who went to my high school.

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