Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

Leadership Lessons from the Classroom

By Tasha M. Troy

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe it’s been 20 years since I first started teaching.  I can tell you that my career hasn’t gone where I expected it to!

I remember my first year of teaching like it was yesterday.  It was an incredibly challenging year!  Boy, have I grown since then!

Over the years, I have taught every age level, from 5 years old to 65 years old, though most of my work has been with is the 20 – 50-year-old age range.  Through my experiences in the classroom, coupled with my more recent studies in leadership skills, I have learned a number of lessons that help me get a new class off on the right foot.  With the school year starting, I thought I’d share a few of these lessons.

While I learned these lessons by leading the classroom, they can apply to any team leadership situation.  All you have to do is exchange the word “students” for “employees” or “team members.”


1. Set clear expectations and define desired outcomes.

I know this sounds obvious, but for a long time I didn’t do this with every class.  Now I try to do it with every class session.  When people don’t have to wonder about what you are aiming for, they are more likely to succeed.


2. Let people know the benefit you expect them to gain from a given assignment.

This is related to the first point, and something I found extremely important when working with busy adults.  People despise busy work and will resist any assignment that seems to have no point.  I choose to respect my students by always having a long-term purpose for their assignments, but when I communicate that purpose, I gain more concrete buy-in.


3. Respect individual differences and look for their unique strengths.

I like to say that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, and by working together, we can balance each other out.  The classroom is no different. It affirms the individual and models respect for differences.  In fact, I have my students work in groups very often, and they quickly learn to appreciate each other.


4. No matter how accomplished, everyone needs praise and encouragement.

I will admit I was surprised to discover this, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have been.  Because I love learning so much, I forget that for many it is a vulnerable act to be under someone else’s tutelage.  When working with adults, I have often had students I found intimidating, but they were just as hungry to know they were doing a good job as any other student.


5. Be gentle when giving critical feedback or delivering low grades.

This one I should have learned firsthand as a student myself, but it became essential to my teaching style when working with high-performing adults.  So often we tie our identity and self-worth to our accomplishments, and when we are confronted with evidence that we are not as competent in an area as we thought, it can be devastating.  Children are no different from adults in the respect.


6. Meet people where they are, but believe they will rise to the occasion.

Everyone is in a process of becoming.  There have been so many times when I’ve been super concerned about a student preparing deliver a speech or a project, but they pull through and deliver more than I expected just about every time.


7. Don’t assume that what is obvious to you is obvious to all.

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, and I have to keep this fresh in my mind.  You can’t assume that people see things the way you do, whether it is the purpose for an assignment or the potential of the individual.  You have to clearly and directly communicate these things, assuming nothing.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Leadership, Our Blog

When the Future Becomes the Present

By Tasha M. Troy

Last week I attended a briefing at a local think tank dedicated to international security issues.  It was an update and overview of the Coast Guard delivered by the commander of the Coast Guard.

While I learned several interesting things about the work and challenges of the Coast Guard, what really struck me was how well-spoken the admiral was.  He gave a clear briefing and answered a number of questions, all without consulting notes.

I know from experience that deep knowledge of a topic doesn’t automatically translate into strong presentation skills, and it was clear to me that he had developed his public speaking skills over a period of time.  I suspect he began working on those skills long before he achieved his position as commander of the Coast Guard, a position that I can imagine requires a lot of public speaking.


Hindsight in a Foresight Position

Long ago when I was in college, a wise man once told me to have “hindsight in a foresight position.”  We all know the saying that hindsight is 20/20; his challenge was to imagine what we wanted to remember at the end of any particular season.  This concept has stayed with me my entire adult life and has helped to fuel my success.

Many times when I’ve been training people in leading discussions and meetings, I’ve gotten a lot of pushback.  The participants say things like, “I’m not going to be leading meetings; I don’t need to know this.”  My response is always the same: “You never know where life is going to take you.”  Anything less comes across as short-sighted.

A quick Google search shows that somewhere around 60-80% of new managers fail to some degree.  This tells me that they – like most of us – failed to prepare for future possibilities until the future became the present.  When the opportunity presents itself, it is too late to begin preparing.

Even I didn’t do so well in my first leadership positions, and there was no one to help me figure out what I was missing.  This was one time my “foresight” failed me.  I didn’t know leadership was something that could be studied and applied.  Now I know better and invest time and energy in preparing for what’s next, even if I can’t see clearly what that might be.


Benefits of Personal Leadership Development

John Maxwell says that the measure of leadership is influence.  I have found that as my leadership skills have improved, the influence I have on those around me has increased.

  • It has changed the way I approach teaching my classes and interacting with those who report to me.
  • It has enabled me to see when a work environment no longer serves me, nor I it.
  • It has opened opportunities for me to coach friends and family through big life decisions.

The only downside I have found is that I now live with an increasing tension between who I am becoming and how others perceive me.  They don’t always line up, and I tend to get impatient as I experience growing pains.  However, I know this tension keeps me moving in the direction of my dreams and goals.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

Four Steps to Greater Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

Recently I was asked what would help someone become more persuasive.  The answer I gave may have seemed simplistic or counter intuitive, but I’ve found it to be essential for myself in having influence without position and persuasion without pressure, particularly in the cross-cultural settings I usually find myself in.

If you are interested in influence in “disposable” relationships, there are a number of manipulative strategies out there; a simple Google search of “how to persuade” brings back over 38 million results!  However, if you are looking for more lasting results, I would like to share four steps that you can take.

Because these steps are unilateral, you have to consider them as investments rather than exchanges.  Once you’ve made enough of an investment into any one individual, it will eventually become an exchange, but if your focus is on the exchange, you will likely become discouraged and frustrated.

If it is an investment, you should expect it to take time to generate a return.  Executed with consistency, these steps will establish you as a “go-to” person, a reliable ally when things are difficult.

1. Listen to Understand

The most powerful tool I have found in building rapport with anyone is simply listening.  Not listening to fix or to respond, but listening to truly understand where another person is coming from.  This one action alone has established me as the one person in my family that is trusted to get through to the other members.

Effective listening at this level does not happen when we are focused on our own position, our own ideas, our own “rightness.”  We have to set that all aside and truly focus in on where the other person is coming from.  Responding and defending our position can come later.

How to Develop Listening Skills (according to John Maxwell):  1. Look at the speaker.  2. Don’t interrupt.  3. Focus on understanding.  4. Determine the need at the moment.  5. Check your emotions.  6. Suspend your judgment.  7. Sum up at major intervals.  8. Ask questions for clarity.  9. Always make listening your priority.  (p 46 – 51)

More on listening:

2. See the Other’s Perspective

Building on the deep listening of step 1, you can begin to “put yourself in the other’s shoes.”  When you focus on the heart of what people are saying rather than on the words used to express those ideas, and you are able to reflect back to that person their own thoughts with your own words, you create a bond that is not easily broken.  When people feel like you “get them,” they begin to open up to you – and your influence – in ways you might not expect.

If you’re not sure where to start with understanding others, I suggest you start with the “five core concerns.”  Dan Shapiro of the Harvard Negotiation Project describes five things that every person you meet is concerned about.  When you are able to understand these concerns, you have begun to understand the person’s perspective.

How to Understand Others: the 5 Core Concerns (according to Dan Shapiro):  1. Appreciation, 2. Autonomy, 3. Affiliation, 4. Status, 5. Role

More on understanding others:

3. Encourage Others to Achieve

If you can learn to understand people – how they think, what inspires them, how they’re likely to act in a given situation – then you can motivate and influence them.  While it might feel unnecessary, it has been my experience – both as a teacher and coach and as a recipient of encouragement – that people often don’t clearly see their own strengths and potential.  Very often, what I see as an obvious strength in an individual is a source of insecurity for that person.

However, when people understand what you see in them, it gives them confidence and the power to set aside the insecurity and move forward in their personal life purpose.  When they achieve some success through your encouragement, it can then establish you as a trusted source of advice, further increasing your influence with them.

How to Become a Believer in People (according to John Maxwell):  1. Believe in them before they succeed.  2. Emphasize their strengths.  3. List their past successes.  4. Instill confidence when they fail.  5. Experience some wins together.  6. Visualize their future success.  7. Expect a new level of living.  (p. 24 – 31)

More on encouraging others:

4. Build Trust

The final step to long-lasting influence is to build trust.  This is the result of consistently walking out the first three steps.

John Maxwell has compared building trust to a deposit account.  Every time we act in ways that demonstrate integrity, we increase our trust account.  Whenever we act in ways that don’t demonstrate integrity, we decrease our trust account.  Some activities create larger deposits or withdrawals, and some can bankrupt your trust reserves.  (p. 357)

As we develop integrity and trustworthiness, it becomes our character.  This is when you’ve become the influential “go-to” person in your circle, regardless of your position.

How to Become a Person of Integrity (according to John Maxwell):  1. Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and confidentiality.  2. Decide ahead of time that you don’t have a price.  3. Each day, do what you should do before what you want to do.  (p. 65 – 66)

More on building trust:

From “Investment” to “Exchange”

Once you’ve become consistent in these four steps, you will likely find “investment” relationships evolving into “exchange” relationships.  If you find the other person reciprocating, you can consider this an exchange relationship and can feel confident taking the relationship deeper.  Often, these people will become trusted allies in your plans and projects in return.

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Maxwell, J. 2003.  REAL Leadership: The 101 Collection.

Shapiro, D. The Five Core Concerns of Negotiation.