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5 Checklists That Will Make You A Better Leader

William AWard

Unless the leaders of an organisation connect and collaborate effectively, culture change programmes are a waste of time and money. Too often culture change programmes are delegated to management while the top leaders stay in their ivory towers and wonder afterwards why the programme didn’t work. Culture change and collaboration is an outcome, not a process, and it has to come from the top.

Over the last twenty-five years of working with organisations and their people I have come to realise that the difference between people is not minor, it’s dramatic, and when we understand that we can collaborate much more effectively.

Here are just a few of the tips I’ve learned along the way. Strangely, it’s often the simplest, most obvious ones that are the most easily neglected.

Checklist 1: Take time to understand people, it’s one of the most important skills of an effective leader

  • Always make the other person your starting point.
  • When we understand why people behave as they do, we make better observations.
  • People who are interested in others are themselves more interesting.
  • When people feel good about the company they work for they produce more.
  • To understand people more, stop complaining and learn to appreciate.
  • Walk through your organisation with the eyes of a customer. View your people and departments as if it was the first time.
  • Be sensitive to other people’s needs within your team.
  • The best way to inspire people to superior performance is to convince them by everything you do.
  • Never assume that the other person’s values are the same as yours.
  • The most significant journey of your life is to meet someone halfway.
  • Know the natural talents of your employees.
  • Know their weaknesses as well.

Checklist 2: Collaborate through difficult situations

  • Take control of the situation, not the person.
  • Deal with difficult situations before they become disasters.
  • Work co-operatively towards solutions.
  • Always leave someone with the feeling that you are helping not reprimanding them.
  • Speak only about how you want things to be rather than dwelling on the past. Talk the language of solutions rather than problems.
  • Avoid any hint of blame, judgement or criticism.
  • Talk about what you observe and see rather than what you think or believe
  • Feedback on the behaviours not the person.
  • Use ‘I’ language by talking about your truth rather than implying you have the truth; that way you are less likely to appear accusatory.
    • “The way I see it…”
    • “My perception is…”
  • Remember conflict not only has a high personal cost, but it is also expensive to the organisation.
  • Build a climate within the organisation where people feel they can give feedback easily. Collaborate when faced with conflict; build bridges rather than barriers.

Checklist 3: Be likeable

  • Likeability is much more important than superiority.
  • Make eye contact when you shake someone’s hand.
  • Hold the handshake for no longer than two to three seconds.
  • Outstanding leaders have a way of using simple words.
  • Say what you have to say; keep it to the point.
  • Don’t impose your values on others; instead let your presence and your actions say what they are.
  • When collaborating with others, find shared passions.
  • Be natural, be yourself. There will never be another you.
  • Likeable people create win-win situations.

Checklist 4: Learn the power of silence

  • When we pause and stay quiet we develop the skill of being strategic listeners and that is an important skill for all leaders.
  • When you ask a question practise pausing and shutting up.
  • Practise strategic listening by asking great questions.
  • Learn to be comfortable with the silent spaces in conversations when you collaborate with another.
  • Remember, if you are quiet for long enough the other person will probably find the answers to the questions themselves.

Checklist 5: Do the easy, small gestures well

  • Never walk around the office with your head down. Think what messages you are giving out to employees.
  • Watch your use of words when communicating. Use simple, powerful words.
  • When you arrive at work each day go out of your way to say good morning to as many employees as possible.
  • Get into the habit of getting away from your desk during the day to meet people.
  • Why not hold a breakfast session once a month and get to know employees at a deeper level?
  • Eat in the company canteen. Every so often sit with employees and find out how happy they really are working for the company.
  • Act on some of the suggestions employees give.
  • Be consistent in what you say and how you behave.
  • Be careful in meetings that you don’t come across as having favourites while excluding others. Watch your body language; it never lies.

Many of us believe that in order to live a truly successful life we must achieve some grand feat that will put us on the front cover of magazines. Nothing could be further from the truth; a meaningful life is made up of small acts of kindness that over time add up to something truly amazing. I learned about the wisdom of kindness from a great mentor in Minnesota, Louise Griffiths. Her wise words were, ‘You can always choose kindness and it doesn’t cost anything.’


This guest blog is adapted from Molly Harvey’s book, ‘Seconds to Outstanding Leadership’.

Molly is an author and speaker who specialises in leadership development and organisational cultural change management. She will be discussing Pulse Leadership and the required assets of successful leaders of the future, in an interactive Bray Leino Learning webinar on Monday 17 February. Click here to register.

Copyright © 2014 Bray Leino Learning

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