Four Exercises That Will Make You a Better Leader

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Whether you’re running a large global enterprise, a small team, or a startup, the way you connect to others will determine your success. The key lies in recognizing that every choice you make has a ripple effect throughout your team and organization.

Here are four exercises you can practice that will ensure those ripples have the intended impact, whether it’s running meetings, handling conflicts, making decisions, or bringing changes in the workplace.

Start with you. Be honest and ask yourself about your values, vision, how you affect others, your style, strengths, and challenges.

Exercise: Get feedback from your boss and anonymous feedback from your peers, direct reports, and even clients. Then you can see what’s working and what’s not. Work with a trusted colleague or an executive coach on your challenges.

Practice Listening. A powerful leader knows how to listen and communicate effectively, how to provide constructive feedback (including to one’s boss), and how to manage conflict.

Exercise: We all listen, but not everyone hears what is being said. At the end of every conversation, ask the person talking if she thought you understood her. Then ask her why.

Team dynamics. Leaders don’t succeed unless their teams succeed. It takes awareness, attention, time, and skill to get the best out of your people. And it’s worth every ounce of investment when done well.

Exercise: Establish ground rules for what each team member needs to feel safe, be fully heard, believe that she belongs, and feel that what she has to offer matters to the leader and others. Then make sure the group follows the rules.

Culture is like air. Leaders understand that culture affects us much like the air we breathe, and it is almost as important. An organization’s espoused values may or may not reflect the real culture of the enterprise. You need to know, not guess or project, what the culture really is and how it affects your people and results.

Exercise: Walk around the organization, observing the way team members talk to each other; how are they dress; what their desks look like; how different groups interact; and how high or low the happiness meter is. Then ask people more questions about the workplace. Do not do this unless you can handle the truth without getting defensive or can address any issues that come up.

Remember, every choice has a ripple effect. It’s the leader’s approach and skill that determine if those ripples will be helpful or a hindrance.