Simplify your communication.

We’ve all heard the saying “make the complex simple.” In a world of soundbites and shrinking attention spans, this is not just a motto for Lipton teabag tags -- it’s a leadership imperative.

Your ability to net out the message is crucial for others to understand what you are saying or asking  them to do.  If your communication is muddied by a sea of detail, corporate-speak or circular logic, people will be challenged to sort out the essential from the nonessential, and they will shut down.  They just don’t want to work that hard.

Start with your summary statement – a crisp expression of your bottom line (the “what”).  Then, move to a succinct description of the rationale (the “why”) and what it means to them. Then, if appropriate, tackle the “how.”  By following this basic framework, you can help ensure that your messages stay at the right level.

As you craft your messages, challenge yourself to use language that is conversational – simple, approachable and easy to grasp.  This will increase the likelihood that your audience will get it  (immediately) and remember it.

You are competing for mindshare in an environment of message overload.  People are bombarded with communication of all kinds.  As the saying goes, don’t bury the lead.  Your job is to make it easy for others to understand and act!

Today, ask yourself, “how can I simplify my communication?”

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Suffering from The Impostor Syndrome?

Do you feel you have faked your way to success?  You might suffer from the Impostor Syndrome, a well-researched, well-documented phenomenon that occurs when successful and intelligent professionals feel they do not deserve their accomplishments or position. This syndrome can cause negative stress, fear, anxiety, loss of confidence, and can eventually lead to derailment.  The fear of being “found out” drives some leaders to adopt unhealthy practices such as micromanagement, workaholism, perfectionism and procrastination.

You can overcome the Impostor Syndrome by re-framing inaccurate beliefs about yourself and your abilities. First, focus on the facts of your success, and document the skills and techniques that helped you achieve those successes. Next, identify and challenge your limiting beliefs. These beliefs may hold you back from owning your accomplishments because they give you an inaccurate picture of what success actually looks like. Next, get clear on your strengths instead of just focusing on your weaknesses, and take the time to maximize and showcase those strengths. Finally, talk to others to help obtain a clearer picture of your skills and accomplishments. Additional perspectives can help you see the flaws in your own perspective, and give you the information you need to accurately view yourself as competent.

These steps are not as simple as they seem.  They take a lot of work, introspection, and often, outside help.  But the payoff is worth it.  If you feel like you’re an impostor, take heart!  You can overcome this debilitating syndrome and truly embrace your accomplishments and abilities.

To purchase a guidebook on Beating the Impostor Syndrome (co-authored by ALA’s Susan Tardanico), click here

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Take control of your personal brand.

Whether we want it or not, each of us has a personal brand --- a set of perceptions and expectations that people have of us.  That brand can help or hinder our ability to influence, negotiate and achieve our career aspirations.

Depending on how you behave, your brand can vary from audience to audience, which makes it even more complex to manage.

How do you know what your brand is – how you are perceived?  It takes a keenly self-aware person to grasp it on their own.  Usually an assessment such as a verbal 360 is used to clarify perceptions.  Are you branded a “doer” versus a leader?  Are you perceived as a great people person, but too soft to handle the tough stuff?  Are you branded the office gossip?  The pot-stirrer?  The visionary? The contrarian?

Armed with this invaluable information, you can decide which perceptions you wish to strengthen or change. Often, others’ perceptions are not a true reflection of who you are or how you operate. They can be based on a single interaction or moment in time, or even hearsay. But as the saying goes, perception is reality, and it impacts the way you are viewed and treated.
Taking control of your brand, you can make very intentional, strategic choices about how you show up every day and which behaviors you dial up or dial back.

Remember that knowledge is power.  Today, ask yourself: do I know what my brand is, and am I managing it proactively?

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Build loyalty through humility.

A wise person once said that if serving is beneath you, then leading is above you.  Indeed.

Have you ever been inspired to follow an arrogant, self-centered leader?  Of course not.  You feel like a pawn in their game – simply a means to an end.

The ones you want to follow – the ones who earn loyalty at all levels - understand that their role is to serve; to provide vision, guidance, and support. They put others first.

Sadly, many leaders get intoxicated with being in a power position, losing sight of the people that got them to where they are, and forgetting that their primary responsibility is to serve their teams, colleagues and the mission/organization at large.  They lead with arrogance instead of humility.

Being humble does not mean putting yourself down or allowing others to roll over you.  It does not mean being weak.  It’s a quiet confidence and acknowledgment that no matter how good you are, there is always room to learn and improve.  In fact, true leadership humility only comes when one is comfortable enough in their own skin to openly ask for feedback (and act on it), confront their prejudices, truly listen, and admit that they don’t have all the answers.

Humility does not mean lacking in confidence.  In fact, to be effective as a leader, you need both humility and confidence.   It takes humility to truly acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers; and confidence to make and stand by your decisions, put top talent in place and trust them to do their jobs.

Today, pause and ask, “am I operating from a place of genuine humility?”

Absorb the heat. Don’t transmit it.

Early in my career, a very wise mentor gave me this advice.  It has stayed with me ever since.

As leaders, we are exposed to a lot of stressors. Internal politics. Unforeseen curveballs thrown by customers or employees. Projects that go off track.  An overloaded calendar.  Exhaustion.  Pressures at home.  And the list goes on.

There are days when it gets the best of us, and it’s tempting to lash out at others – transmitting the frustration, irritation or anger that we are feeling inside. When this happens, people run for the hills – sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally.  They shut down.  They feel unjustly punished or mistreated. They read into it, thinking they’re in trouble, you’re in trouble, or the organization is in trouble.  They may view your behavior as an indication that you’re unable to cope with the pressures of the job.  Be assured, nothing good comes from transmitting the heat.

On the other hand, when we absorb the heat and are able to project a sense of calm – even when fires are raging within – we inspire confidence in others. They are able to continue doing their work without the distraction of an angry or frazzled boss and all the drama and interpretation that goes along with it.

Today, ask yourself, “am I absorbing the heat, or transmitting it?”

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