Leadership, Our Blog

The Missing Ingredient

By Tasha M. Troy

This week I say goodbye to a group of clients that I have been working with for six months.

The EHLS (English for Heritage Language Speakers) Program is an incredible, intensive program – for participants and for trainers.  It is a professional development program focused on professional workplace communication skills and brings together an amazing assortment of international professionals who have committed these six months to their own personal and professional growth.

Even though it is a very intense six months even for me as a trainer, I return to teach this program year after year because it is such an honor to be a part of the growth of these bold and accomplished individuals.  Honestly, I feel I learn as much as I teach!

Last week, each participant gave a presentation in a research symposium, and they all did a fantastic job.  This is where I felt the proudest of them, largely because I, in partnership with another trainer, am responsible for the oral communications training culminating in their symposium presentations.

Of all the teaching and training positions I have held, this one has provided the greatest personal and professional fulfillment for me.  Playing a part in helping others improve their lives in such a tangible way always gives me such a sense of significance.

 

The Need for Significance

We all need a sense of significance to keep us moving forward.  In his book Intentional Living, John Maxwell quotes Rabbi Harold Kushner, who says, “Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it” (p. 100).  This is what I’ve found in teaching with the EHLS Program.

I suspect that lacking that sense of significance is what makes so many people hate their jobs.

  • A good leader will help their team see the value in the work they do.  According to John Maxwell, “Good leaders listen, learn, and then lead” (Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, p. 49)
  • A bad leader makes their people dread coming in to work day after day.  After all, I’ve heard it said that people don’t quit companies; they quit people.

The simplest solution would be to change jobs, but that is not always possible.  Does that mean most people are stuck with unfulfilling jobs over the long term?  I don’t believe so.

 

Finding Significance

No matter what type of leader you have, you can always step in and lead yourself.  This is not always easy, but it is always possible.  When you take the time to identify what it is that motivates you, you can find ways to make your situation more fulfilling.

In his book Intentional Living, p. 92-100, John Maxwell provides three questions to help you identify what that might be:

  • What do you cry about?
  • What do you sing about?
  • What do you dream about?

The answer to these three questions will lead you to activities that give you a sense of significance.

This doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly love everything about your job, and you might not even be able to find significance in many of the activities of your job.  However, the more you can identify or build fulfilling roles and responsibilities in to your regular work routine, the more fulfilled you will be.

 

Take It Deeper

If you are feeling stuck in your job, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start to make a change.  If you need someone to help you ask the right questions to make the best decision, 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.

For more information about the EHLS Program, visit their website at http://www.ehlsprogram.org.

 

Works Cited

Maxwell, John. (2015). Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.

Maxwell, John. (2014). Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership.

Leadership, Our Blog

Finding Your “Sweet Spot”

By Tasha M. Troy

Growing up, I had been led to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to.  It wasn’t until I read John Maxwell’s book Put Your Dreams to the Test that I was presented with a contrasting view.  I was confronted by “The Reality Question.”

“Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?”

This question really focuses on if my dream is based on the reality of my strengths and talents or if it depends on blind luck.  Some of my early ambitions were clearly in the latter category.  John says, “The trick is to balance the boldness of dreaming with the reality of your situation.”  Fortunately, I eventually figured this out.

The Process of Finding My “Sweet Spot”

As a young college student, I had a dream of living and working overseas.  In retrospect, it was a fairly reasonable goal – I had a talent for learning languages and reluctantly recognized my ability to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a teacher.

When I discovered the field of Teaching English as a Second Language, I knew I had found my ticket to see the world!  I pursued an education that would give me the greatest opportunities in that field.  When I moved to South Korea to teach English to children (still in my 20s), I “finally” achieved my goal.

However, I discovered something unexpected – I don’t have the personality or disposition to effectively teach children!  After only one year, I found work teaching college-aged students in South Korea.  While I was better suited to working with young adults, I still struggled in certain areas and was dissatisfied with my effectiveness.

Eventually, an opportunity opened up to teach professional English skills at a large multi-national corporation in South Korea.  This time I was working with mid-career adults, and I discovered my “sweet spot” – the place where my strengths, talents, and personality converged to make me highly effective.

As John Maxwell says, “When people are going with their strengths and working in their sweet spot, the work they do is simple and easy.”

Facing a New Reality

Today, I have a new dream. I am working towards helping people reach their full potential, whether it is helping professionals in transition to recognize their “sweet spot” or working with teams to develop the communication skills needed in a culturally diverse workplace.

The Reality Question helps me recognize to what extent I am prepared to meet this challenge and to what extent I need to learn more and to collaborate with others to achieve my ultimate goal.  I know the process will take a bit of trial and error, but I am prepared to take this journey of discovery!

Take It Deeper

I challenge you to take inventory today of your strengths and talents.  In the end, it is in knowing ourselves that we are best able to move forward and live a life of purpose and success.

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

A Process for Greater Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

In the past 3 years, my level of influence has increased dramatically.

As a trainer in a professional development program at a university, I am often in a unique position of bringing a group together to create a learning community.  Where most workplace teams remain largely intact for long periods of time, every 4-6 months, I’m bringing a “team” together.

For many years, I had noticed – and accepted – that some students naturally connected with me and a small minority simply didn’t.  Whether it was a matter of personality difference, unmet expectations, or my teaching style that turned them off, I never knew.  It was a small enough minority (1 – 2 people in each class) that I decided not to worry about it.  I accepted that not everyone would “click” with me.

However, when I started studying leadership three years ago, I realized that, as the leader of the class, it was my responsibility to connect with the students, not the other way around.  Since that time, I have been intentional about building relationships and rapport with those students and clients who are not naturally drawn to my personality or teaching style – with dramatic effect.

 

The Five Levels of Leadership

One way to explain the changes I have experienced is to look at the Five Levels of Leadership as described by John Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You 2.0.  These are Position, Permission, Productivity, People Development, and Pinnacle.

Position (Rights) – As the instructor of the course, I have a certain position and authority.  It is reasonable to expect that my students and clients will participate in class activities and will complete assignments on time.  This was the level that I operated at for most of my teaching career.  I had a measure of effectiveness, but it was limited when students weren’t naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style, and this caused me trouble at times.

Permission (Relationships) – Especially now, because I work with adult professionals, I have found that depending upon my position as instructor is often not enough to ensure participants get everything they can out of the training.  I have to make a personal connection with each individual, and they have to trust that I have their best interest in mind.

One of the key things I had to change to truly be at this level of leadership was intentionally connecting with each individual student.  Today, when my co-trainers sometimes find they have little influence with any particular student, I find I have considerable rapport because of those intentional connections.

Production (Results) – This is the level where my competence in my content area must be demonstrated and passed on.  I have long been open about sharing my learning experiences with my students; I feel it helps them see that I understand the struggles they are facing, that I relate to their circumstances.  I also often talk about developing communication skills as an introvert, which many of my students are.

However, about 5 years ago, one of my students accused me of not practicing what I was teaching, which are the communication skills needed in a diverse workplace.  This caused me to reflect and examine whether I was living fully into my content or not.  It set me on a path of personal learning and development that gave me greater credibility in teaching these skills.

Today, I am very intentional about not only living what I teach but also increasing my knowledge, understanding, and skill in my content area.  As I model good communication behaviors, my students are better able to learn.

This is also the level at which my collection of students can become a learning community, a team who supports each other, even when their individual goals are different.   As I build rapport with the individuals (on level 2), I learn about their strengths and weaknesses, which enables me to plan class activities that help individuals shine in their strengths and learn to develop their weaknesses in a safe environment.  I often remind my students that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and that we can function better together than individually.

People Development (Reproduction) – Because I teach in personal and professional development programs, my number one goal is to get to the point where my influence can help my students become the best versions of themselves, in particular in their communication skills, but also in their people skills.

Without the rapport I build with my students at levels two and three, I would not be able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  When my students and clients start experiencing success in small ways, I am able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  I try to structure my courses to give participants a quick “win” in order to establish myself at this level.  Then, as the course continues, I have greater influence and can coach them into greater successes.

Pinnacle (Respect) – I am not yet fully at this level of leadership, but it is my goal to positively impact an ever-widening circle of influence.  With each client I coach to reach their goal, with each student who becomes a more effective communicator, I move a step closer to this level.

 

 

Take It Deeper

I don’t know where you are in your leadership development journey, but I know that there is always more for you to reach for.  Yes, moving to higher levels of leadership will cost you in some ways, but it will pay you back richly for everything you invest.

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, Leadership, Our Blog

Empathy: What the World Needs Now

By Tasha M. Troy

The world today seems a much scarier place than it did 15 or 20 years ago. The culture in the US has shifted in ways that create isolation and frustration to dangerous levels, and we see the results in tragedies over and over again.

And I haven’t had to look at the headlines to see it.  I’ve found this lack of empathy in the lives of the people around me.

The truth is that humanity is wired to be self-centered.  We all naturally see the world in relation to how it affects us and make decisions based on perceived personal benefit.  In the US, with our high value for individualism, this tendency has been given free rein, with occasional catastrophic results.

However, when these tragedies happen, most voices are calling out for “remedies” that seem superficial to me.  I believe the root cause is that people have not developed empathy, or the ability to see the world from another’s perspective.

 

Personal Maturity

A mark of personal maturity is the ability to put others first, to consider their needs before you consider your own.  In generations past, this quality was valued and celebrated.  In our culture today, people are both ridiculed and praised for this level of maturity.

  • People are often considered a “doormat” or accused of being naïve at best, a fool at worst, when they put others first.
  • People may be praised as heroic or as a respected leader when they put the needs of others first, especially in a crisis.

This maturity level goes by several different labels:  an element emotional intelligence, the key characteristic of level 5 leadership, the foundation of connective influence

However, it seems to me that developing this level of maturity depends on whether you have a scarcity mindset.  John Maxwell says, “Scarcity thinking is all about me.  It says, ‘There’s not enough to go around.  I had better get something for myself and hold on to it with all I have’” (Maxwell, 226).

With this mindset, it is impossible to think of others and to put their needs first.  If we want to develop empathy, we have to start by replacing our scarcity mindset.

 

Combating Scarcity Thinking

Could it really be that simple?  I believe so.

I once heard, long ago, that the founder of the JC Penny stores was a generous man who tried to out-give God, so I looked a little into his life.  I discovered that the original name of his store was “The Golden Rule,” and he conducted business under that philosophy: “This company’s success is due to the application of the Golden Rule to every individual, the public and to all of our activities” (Barmash).

When he died, he was a very wealthy and successful businessman, in spite of having been wiped out during the Depression.  One of his applications of this principle was in how he treated his employees, whom he referred to as associates, by implementing a profit sharing plan.

There are other examples we can look at – C. J. Walker, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, to name a few – to find that an abundance mindset can make all the difference.

“Abundance thinking is the mindset of people of significance, and it has nothing to do with how much they have. … But whatever they have, they are willing to share because they don’t worry about running out” (Maxwell, 227).  This is the mindset necessary to develop empathy.

If you want to begin cultivating an abundance mindset in your own life, start with gratitude.  I challenge you to daily write down three to five things you are grateful for in your life.  Before long, you will begin to see the world through a different lens – the lens of abundance.

 

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.

 

Works Cited:

Barmash, I. (1971) J. C. Penney of Store Chain Dies; Built Business on ‘Golden Rule.’ The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/02/13/archives/j-c-penney-of-store-chain-dies-built-business-on-golden-rule-j-c.html

Collins, J.  (2001).  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.

Goleman, D. (2005) Emotional Intelligence

Goulston, M. and Ullmen, J.  (2013).  Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In.

Maxwell, J. C. (2015) Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.

Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

A Process for When Conflict Comes Along

I was recently asked how someone could deal with a person who dominated a conversation, never pausing long enough to let anyone else “get a word in edgewise.”  She had recently been at a dinner party where this had happened, and she had been quite at a loss as how to address the problem

We have all faced similar situations, where it isn’t clear what the best way to resolve the situation may be.  What I find is that many people are haven’t had the training to know how to address these situations.

Conflict is inevitable.  It is not possible that you will be in harmony with everyone around you at all times.  Whenever there are two or more people working together, there will be disagreement and conflict.

It is how we respond (or react) to conflict that defines our relationships. 

The authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High summed up the dilemma as “how can I be 100% honest … and 100% respectful?” (p. 22).  The question comes down to the “nature vs. nurture” debate, whether some people are born as natural conflict resolvers or whether these are skills that can be learned.

 

A Process for Resolving Conflict

I believe that conflict management is a skill that can be learned, a key element of emotional intelligence, and the sooner we learn how to address these conflicts constructively, the better:

Whenever I think about resolving a conflict, I always go back to “The 5 Core Concerns,” one of which is autonomy.  The best resolution will be one in which all parties have a say.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (p. 175-177), John Maxwell describes the process he uses to address problematic behavior, which meets this need for autonomy:

  • Meet privately ASAP to discuss their behavior
  • Ask for their side of the story
  • Try to come to a place of agreement
  • Set out a future course of action with a deadline
  • Validate the value of the person and express your commitment to help

 

Walking Out the Process

I have walked through this situation myself when someone I am leading is having difficulty.

  • Whenever I need to confront someone, I make sure the conversation is one-on-one.
  • I allow time for them to express their position and point of view.
  • I help them see the impact of not changing their behavior.
  • I let them express how they intend to do things differently and hold them to it.
  • Throughout the conversation, I am careful express hope that the person can change their behavior and meet expectations.

By following this process, I see change happen, even if it is slow in coming.

In the past, I didn’t always follow this process.  The result was defensiveness and stubborn refusal to change.  Today, the results are much more positive.

If I – an introvert who avoids conflict – can learn this skill, so can you!

100% honest.  100% respectful.

 

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

A New Year, a Clean Slate, a Fresh Start

January always seems to hold promise for me.  I’m sure you’ve felt the same way, too.

For the past few years, I have made time during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to take an inventory of where I have been and where I need to go to live out my purpose and achieve my dreams.  However, sometimes I am too action oriented and forget to plan time to invest in myself.

When you have the desire and drive to have more, do more, be more, you have to first become the person who can accomplish those things.  You have to “add value” to yourself, as John Maxwell puts it.  You cannot produce more unless you invest in yourself first.

This is where a lot of people fall short, myself included.  We often don’t see the point of investing in ourselves when there are so many other voices crying for our time and attention.  However, you have to understand that you cannot give what you do not have.  If you don’t invest in yourself first, you won’t have anything of value to give those who are depending on you.

 

The importance of small changes applied consistently.

If there is an area of your life you want to improve in, don’t underestimate the power of small shifts.  We often think that big results require big changes and action, but I have found that even small changes can have a disproportionately large impact on results.

Let me illustrate how investing in yourself can have a ripple effect.

  • Imagine you want to improve the team cohesion on a culturally and/or racially diverse team.
  • You decide to take the time to learn about cultural dimensions and the strengths of different cultures.
  • As a result, you begin to recognize and value individuals from various cultures for their strengths.
  • Finally, you can watch as your team follows you example and begins to respect and value each other for their strengths.

If you want to have more, do more, or be more, you have to first become more.  You must intentionally invest in yourself in order to become the person who can accomplish your hopes, 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

Five Keys to Connecting during the Holidays

By Tasha M. Troy

The holiday season is a magical time of the year that can bring people together who might not otherwise make the time.  For many, this is a wonderful time to bond with friends and family over shared traditions and values.  For many others, it is a stressful and contentious time because you no longer hold the same positions on important issues as your loved ones.

Are you doomed to live in conflict through this joyful season?  What would you think if I told you that you can control the level of conflict in your holiday season?

Keeping the Peace

If you want to avoid interpersonal conflict when meeting up with family and friends, you first need to challenge your attitude.  When contentious topics come up, it is easy to become defensive around your position.  However, you need to have clear goals for the interaction – do you want to defend your views at all costs, or do you want to enjoy the company of friends and family you might not interact with often?

I work in a field where many of my colleagues hold differing political positions from mine.  My positions are deeply held and tied to my personal values, but I choose not to engage in regular debates.  While I don’t agree with my colleagues on many points, there are many other points that I do agree on.  That’s where I will frequently make contributions in conversations.

Fact: You can refuse to respond to baiting comments.

The truth is, you won’t change anyone’s opinion with a rant or a lecture, so let it go.  Now is not the time, and here is not the place, for such conversations.

 

Tasha’s Tips:

If you want to make an impact on people at holiday gatherings this year, I believe that John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect holds a few keys to help us not only survive but thrive through holiday gatherings.  Here are a few tips.

  1. Focus on others.  You might have had an eventful year, but so has everyone else!  Ask questions and show interest in others.
  2. Expend the energy required to connect.  If you are dying to share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences with everyone, it might require quite a bit of energy to bite your tongue and to show genuine interest in those around you.  (However, usually once they have finished sharing, they will give you a turn to share.)
  3. Focus on common ground.  Even when divisive topics come up, there will very likely be at least one point you can agree on.  Keep your attention and comments on that point to encourage connection.  If that isn’t possible, work at seeing the issue from the other person’s perspective and speak to that.
  4. Keep it simple.  When confronted with a statement so abrasive that I simply can’t let it slide, instead of confronting the idea head on, I will usually ask a question to challenge the other person’s thinking, giving them the opportunity to discover any logical fallacies they might be embracing.
  5. Create an enjoyable experience.  By not rising up in defensive indignation, you can help maintain a cheerful, enjoyable atmosphere.

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.

Cultural Intelligence, Our Blog

Three Keys to Connecting as a Woman in a Man’s World

By Tasha M. Troy

I have been very fortunate to have been raised and lived most of my life in the USA.  It is rare that I am seen as less simply because I’m a woman.  This is not the case in many places around the world.

However, because of my career choices, I often find myself working with men from other countries.  In these situations, I have had to establish my influence myself, not necessarily starting from a place of mutual respect.

When I talk about cross-cultural communication and relationship building, one question women in particular ask me is how to navigate relationships in cultures that don’t esteem women in the same way we are used to here in the United States.  In addition to the perhaps obvious suggestion of learning about the cultural values and master a few key phrases, I have three things I do to establish trust and rapport.

  1. Respect the culture of the person you are interacting with.

I hate to say it, but the stereotype of the “ugly American” is based in reality.  I have seen so many Americans interact with other cultures and feel disgusted because the culture didn’t do things the same way as we do in the US.  That is no way to win trust, gain respect, and build rapport!

You have to first give respect before you can receive in these cases.  Take time to learn the primary cultural values and find things about the culture that you can appreciate.  Complimenting those things will go a long way towards gaining you goodwill with the people you are working with.

  1. Don’t fight the system; work within the system.

I may not agree with how the culture views women or even how women in that culture are treated.  However, I will accomplish nothing by pressuring for change or demanding an individual disavow his own culture before I can work with him.  Instead, understand your role within the cultural context and work within those expectations.  Trust me, it is possible to work with cultural norms, accomplish what needs to be done, and still take pride in who you are and what you do.

As an example, I spent several years working for Samsung in South Korea, training their managers in business English and intercultural communication.  When I was there, the culture in general was about a generation behind the US in terms of how women were treated, especially in the workplace.  To illustrate this, only about 10% of the managers in our training programs were women.  And don’t get me started on the “men only” drinking clubs and “hostess bars”!  It was very much an “old boys club.”

If I had decided to protest the cultural norms, as some of my North American colleagues did, I would have lost the opportunity to connect with the trainees and Korean management, removing me from a place of influence.  By respecting the culture and working within the system, my voice became trusted when advice and insight was needed.  Eventually I was asked to be “lead instructor,” a position similar to a program manager, partly because I was in a position to bridge differences between the management and the English language faculty.

  1. Exceed expectations.

Initially respecting the culture and working within cultural expectations can only go so far.  In the end, it is your performance day in and day out that will win over the respect you desire.  It is in going the extra mile – both at work and in learning to navigate the culture and language – that will help you to stand out as trustworthy.

Looking again at my time with Samsung, I committed myself to serving my students and preparing them for long-term success.  By standing out in this way, I positioned myself to be eligible for the promotion to lead instructor.

Of course, this is a longer process, but it pays the best dividends!

Take It Deeper

These three keys may sound simple, but they can be very challenging to live out.  They require maturity, humility, and self-confidence.  But as difficult as it is, success is all the sweeter.

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

Connecting Across the Generations

By Tasha M. Troy

Last week, I was leading a class discussion in my Business English class on branding. In the book was a list of top companies – McDonalds, Microsoft, GE, etc., all household names, or so I thought.

Then a young student asked me what kind of company IBM was. Wow! I felt old! This was one of those times when generational differences were very clear.

I am a member of Gen X, a smallish generation sandwiched between the larger generations of Millennials and Baby Boomers. What’s more, I’ve chosen a profession that regularly puts me in contact with people of all three generations, especially Millennials. What has made it possible for me to be successful in this environment?

 

Intentional Connection

At the beginning of each new course I teach, I have to find ways to connect with my students, just as managers and company leaders must connect with their teams and employees, regardless of which generation they belong to. This is to ensure that we can all reach our goals, individually and collectively.

For many years, I assumed it was the responsibility of the students to follow my lead, but upon reading John Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership a few years ago, my perspective drastically changed. John says that “[successful leaders] take the first step with others and then make the effort to continue building relationships” (p. 119). This struck me hard.

I had always just accepted that some of my students will naturally connect with me and others won’t. The paradigm shift for me was that I needed to intentionally reach out to those who didn’t naturally connect with me and establish the connection myself, no matter what generation they belonged to.

 

Keys to Connection

Here are several principles I now live by that enable me to connect with family members, friends, colleagues, and students from all different generations. Interestingly, they can be categorized according to Dan Shapiro’s 5 Core Concerns, the five key interests any individual has:

  • Appreciation:  Create a safe place for them to express opinions and views, and then listen to understand, suspending judgement until understanding is reached.
  • Autonomy:  Allow people to make mistakes, but be available to support them through the recovery.
  • Affiliation:  Find and build on common ground – shared values, goals, hobbies, interests, etc.
  • Status:  Respect people as individuals.
  • Role:  Recognize and encourage people’s strengths.

 

I have found that the secret to walking out these principles is asking the right questions. Show a genuine interest in others, and you will find it is often reciprocated back to you.

 

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, 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

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