Great Leaders Are Interesting – Are YOU?

Great Leaders Are Interesting – Are YOU?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Let’s face it – the best leaders have always grabbed our attention and piqued our imagination. They have a way of captivating, fascinating and intriguing us. It’s the interesting people with whom we want to engage, as they’re the ones who inspire and motivate us to be better and do more. The simple truth is few of us desire to be led by those whom we don’t find interesting. So my question is this: great leaders are interesting – are you? In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on how anyone can become more interesting.

Most people I know think of themselves as being interesting people. That’s all well and good, but the real litmus test is whether or not others find you interesting. Are others desirous of having you be part of their inner circle, or do you constantly find yourself on the outside looking in? Do people seek you out for advice and counsel, or do they ignore you and just simply tolerate your presence? The real question is, do people hunger to be led by you?

While many find themselves in a position of leadership, few understand their role as a leader, and regrettably, fewer yet actually lead. These struggling leaders attempt to control people by imposing their will on others (not interesting), as opposed to attracting those who desire to be a part of their team and then creating an environment which frees them to innovate (very interesting).

It’s a very noisy world, and with more and more people adding to the chatter each and every day, it has become quite difficult to stand above the noise and be heard — this is particularly true if you bore people. Here’s the thing — you can have all the answers, but if people don’t want to hear them what good is all your brilliance? Perhaps the main benefit of being interesting is when you interest people they’ll seek you out — you won’t have to chase them down. When you do engage, they’ll listen.

These five items will help anyone become more interesting and, at the same time, will help you become a better leader.

  1. Be externally focused. You’ve heard me say it before: “Leadership isn’t about you, but what you can do for those whom you lead. It’s not about how much you can get out of your people, but rather how much leverage you can create FOR your people.” Leaders who are purposed about making those around them better will always be interesting and relevant. If you want to be interesting to others, be interested in others.
  2. Stay ahead of the curve. If what you offer (skills, knowledge, etc.) is dated, you simply won’t be interesting or effective. Interesting people are voracious learners and unlearners. They are passionate about both personal and professional development. Interesting people are in constant pursuit of betterment in all they do. They are intellectually, philosophically and emotionally curious. They’re rarely interested in best practices, but they are like heat-seeking missiles in search of next practices. You cannot be interesting if you’re not growing. You cannot lead a growing company (at least not for long) if you’re not growing as a leader.
  3. Add value. Think about the most interesting people you know and you’ll find they’re givers not takers. They add value to those they cross paths with. Interesting people aren’t just joiners, they’re contributors. If you want to be interesting, learn to add value in your roles, relationships, and interactions.
  4. Always leave them wanting more. A little mystique goes a long way to making you more interesting. Let me be clear — I’m not talking about playing games, but simply becoming astute in your interactions. Interesting people don’t conduct monologues — they participate in dialogues. You probably don’t like to be lectured, so what makes you think others want to be lectured by you? Interesting people spend far less time talking and much more time asking questions. If you want to be more interesting always leave them wanting more.
  5. More humility and less hubris. Think of humility as an attraction magnet and think of arrogance as a relationship repellent. The reality is people love authentic humility and they detest displays of arrogance. While you don’t have to be liked to be a leader, it certainly helps. Interesting people are slow to take credit, but quick to give it. Because interesting people rarely shine the light upon themselves, others are all too happy to make sure they receive the attention they so clearly deserve. If you want to be more interesting try exercising more humility.

There’s no denying it’s the interesting people we want have as friends, leaders, co-workers and associates. Smart leaders have long understood the key to relevance and influence is found in how interesting they are to others. Great leaders are not boring — are you?

Leadership and Storytelling

Leadership and Storytelling

Leadership and Storytelling

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leadership and storytelling go hand-in-hand. In fact, leaders who lack the ability to leverage the power and influence of storytelling are missing the very essence of what accounts for compelling leadership to begin with – the story. If you’ve ever been captivated by a skilled orator whose articulation and eloquence has influenced your thinking, you understand the power of the art of story. I refer to story as an art form because it is. Storytelling requires talent and practice, but as with any worthy discipline, the investment yields great benefit.

A story is the root level driver behind successfully communicating any message. A subtle side benefit of well crafted stories can be found in their versatility – they can be delivered in person or by proxy, and in visual, textual, or verbal form. Stories are the instruments that tug at your emotions, speak to your logic, support your beliefs, and reinforce your positions. Great stories challenge, engage, inform, persuade, entertain, mobilize, convict, and inspire. Smart leaders understand stories highlight learning opportunities and create memorable experiences. Are you consciously and consistently using story to be a more effective leader?

There is no denying everybody loves a good story, and there are numerous reasons why. Think about the novels you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, speeches you’ve listened to, ads that have hooked your interest, or virtually any other message delivered by any other medium, and it’s the story that either seals the deal or leaves you feeling cheated.

As a leader, it’s your ability to tell a a compelling story that sets the tone from the top. Story is the fabric upon which culture is built. It helps you to successfully establish rapport, evangelize a vision, champion a brand, align expectations, build teams, attract talent, assuage concerns, relieve tension, and resolve conflict. A leader’s story needs to engender trust while implanting your brand promise in the minds of your various constituencies in a manner that is memorable, authentic, relevant, and actionable.

Stories are also quite revealing. Carefully listening to a leader’s story will reveal their character or a lack thereof. Disingenuous leaders misuse storytelling in an attempt to shield, buffer, distract, lull, or misdirect. They use story to prop-up their ego, drive their agenda, and to take aim on their adversaries. The storyline propagated by those playing at leadership is all about them. Their stories are laced with “I” and “my” and their primary focus is to shine the spotlight on themselves.

By contrast, the authentic and appropriate use of story has an outward focus, and is laced with “we” and “our” as the main points of emphasis. Great leaders understand a story is most powerful when it offers hope and encouragement, when it’s inspires unification and collaboration, and when it has a humanizing effect. Smart leaders understand storytelling is a highly effective method of creating engagement, opening or extending dialog, and finding common ground. Perhaps the most valuable use of story is to shine the light on others. Leaders who use the power of story to publicly recognize the contributions of others are simply more successful than those who don’t.

So my question is this; why not incorporate storytelling into your leadership repertoire? While leadership is a complex subject to be sure, it all begins with the story – tell it well and succeed; tell it poorly and fail. This is a simple, yet powerful message I encourage you to take to heart. Finally, while becoming a great storyteller is important for a leader, it’s also important for leaders to become great story makers.

Thoughts?

Leadership & The Power of Listening

Leadership & The Power of Listening

Leadership & The Power of Listening

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Great leaders are great listeners, and therefore my message today is a simple one – talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader who comes to mind…you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. In today’s post I’ll quickly examine the merits of developing your listening skills. Warning: this post isn’t going to coddle you and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy – it is rather blunt and to the point.

Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others. Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a train-wreck in the making.

In other posts I’ve pointed out it is simply not possible to be a great leader without being a great communicator. This partially accounts for why we don’t encounter great leadership more often. The big miss for most leaders is they fail to understand the purpose of communication is not to message, but to engage – THIS REQUIRES LISTENING. Don’t be fooled into thinking being heard is more important than hearing. The first rule in communication is to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. Communication is not a one way street. I’ve interviewed and worked with some of the most noted leaders of our time, and to the one, they never miss an opportunity to listen. In fact, they aggressively seek out new and  better ways to listen.

Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes you understand the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach the point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator. A key point for all leaders to consider is that it’s impossible to stick your foot in your mouth when it’s closed. Think about it…when was the last time you viewed a negative soundbite of a CEO who was engaged in active listening?

The next step in the process is learning where to apply your new found listening skills. Listen to your customers, competitors, your peers, your subordinates, and to those who care about you. Ask people how you can become a better leader and then LISTEN. Take your listening skills online, and don’t just push out Tweets and Facebook messages, but ask questions and elicit feedback. Use your vast array of social media platforms, toolsets and connections to listen. If you follow this advice not only will you become better informed, but you’ll also become more popular with those whom you interact with.

Have you ever walked into an important meeting and wondered who the smartest person in the room was? If you mull this over for a moment you’ll find the smartest person in the room is not the one doing all the talking – it’s the person doing all the listening. You’ll also notice that when intelligent people do speak-up, it’s not to ramble-on incoherently or incessantly, but usually to ask a question so they can elicit even more information. The quiet confidence of true leaders has much greater resolve than the bombastic displays of the arrogant.

Following are 6 tips for becoming a better listener:

  1. It’s not about you: Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them.
  2. You should never be too busy to listen: Anyone can add value to your world if you’re willing to listen. How many times have you dismissed someone because of their station or title when what you should have done was listen? Wisdom doesn’t just come from peers and those above you – it can come from anywhere at anytime, but only if you’re willing to listen. Expand your sphere of influence and learn from those with different perspectives and experiences – you’ll be glad you did.
  3. Listen to non-verbals: People say as much (if not more) with their actions, inactions, body language, facial expressions, etc., as they do with their verbal communications. Don’t be lulled into thinking because someone isn’t saying something they’re not communicating. In fact, most people won’t overtly verbalize opposition or disagreement, but they will almost always deliver a verry clear message with their non-verbals.
  4. Listen for opportunity:  Intuitive listeners are looking for the story behind the message, and the opportunity beyond the issue. Listening is about discovery, and discovery can not only impact the present, but it can also influence the future. Opportunities rarely come from talking, but they quite frequently come from observing and listening.
  5. Let listening be your calling card: One of the best compliments you can be paid is to be known as a good listener. Being recognized in this fashion will open doors, surface opportunities, and take you places talking never could. Listening demonstrates that you respect others, and is the first step in building trust and rapport.
  6. Recognize the contributions of others: One of the most often overlooked aspects of listening is thanking others for their contributions. If you glean benefits from listening to someone, thank them. Even if no value is perceived, thank them for their time and input. Never forget to acknowledge those who contribute energy, ideas, actions or results. Few things go as far in building good will as recognizing others.

Allow me to leave you with one final thought to reflect on – if you’re ready for advanced listening skills, don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. True wisdom doesn’t see opposition, it sees only opportunity. I believe is was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Speak little, do much.”

In my opinion great talkers are a dime a dozen, but great listeners are a rare commodity. What say you?

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If you believe you’re not a leader, don’t be surprised when others begin to agree with you. #Leadership