You’ve probably heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for” haven’t you? Let’s assume you have.
That was my exact thought at the age of 26 when I was thrust, unexpectedly, into the role of Vice President/General Manager of one of Minor League
Baseball’s most successful franchises in the mid 80s in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Overnight I went from being comfortable in my role as assistant general manager into the top position of a $3 million business.
In looking back on that experience early in my career in baseball management, I realized I got into the game for selfish reasons and never envisioned myself as a leader. Well, to be fair, at that age, many young men are self-seeking when it comes to their career aspirations. Wisdom comes with age and experience!
But at that age, I never really aspired to be a leader; I just wanted to work in baseball.
I’m making this point because it took me a long time—probably 10-12 years—before I felt comfortable in my leadership role. It took me that long to realize how important investing time and energy is in what I refer to as Level 1 Leadership Communication.
Let me explain. Knowing these basic level skills provides an important foundation on which you build the trust and respect you need to lead people most effectively. It also provides the foundation from which you are then able to get great results from your more-advanced techniques. I call these Level 2 and Level 3 Leadership Communication.
Level 1 Leadership Communication is about becoming self-aware and defining yourself as a leader, then committing to be the type of leader you want to be, and then acting congruently and consistently with that definition.
Exercise Your Way to Better Leadership
To help you get a better grasp on this, I have created two separate, but related, exercises. One is called the WHO-WHAT-HOW Exercise, described below. (Don’t just read about it; I encourage you to take out a piece of paper and work on this exercise.)
WHO – Define who you want to be as a leader. Identify the traits, personality characteristics and the communication style you are committed to applying in your leadership role. If you know or have admired other leaders who you would like to emulate, list them and their traits.
- Early riser
- Physically fit
- Healthy diet
- Communicates with directness but with compassion and empathy
- True open-door policy
WHAT – What are the specific details behind each of the traits, personality characteristics and the communication style you want to use?
- Asks a lot of questions
- Listens actively and responds appropriately
- Always uses appropriate eye contact
- Is early for every meeting
- Always prepares meeting agenda in advance and lets others review it for comments and adjustments before providing final copy in advance
- Always has time for others when requested either in the moment or schedules a specific time as close as possible to the time the request is made
- Always follows through with an answer to questions/requests in a timely fashion
- Always maintains and projects appropriate emotional demeanor
HOW – How are you committed to manifesting these traits and how are you committed to showing up as a leader? This is where the aspiring Champion Leader commits to applying those traits, characteristics and actions into specific daily behaviors in leading their organization.
- I promise to be early and prepare in advance for all meetings.
- I will maintain a positive attitude and apply the most appropriate emotional responses to situations so that I can be a role model for those I lead.
- I promise to lead by example in terms of my personal health and physical fitness.
- I will treat all those who come before me with respect, empathy, compassion and genuineness.
The “HOW” section is the leader’s personal promise and standard statement to themselves and to those they lead. It is something those who aspire to be great leaders are willing to hold themselves accountable to and are willing to have those they lead hold them accountable to.
The WHO-WHAT-HOW exercise is a very powerful process offering a solid strategy for Level 1 Leadership Communication.
Once your WHO-WHAT-HOW is complete, it is meant to be a living, working document that should be evaluated and adjusted regularly, if required. It is also a great model to launch a 360 feedback process from those you lead, which will allow you to make adjustments that will have the greatest impact and results in leading your team and organization.