Leading Large: Big skills in the leadership space
Published by The Canadian Society of Club Managers in CMQ (Fall, 2014)
So, you’re a club manager; that’s great! Anyone who’s ever tried to move up the ranks in their career understands just how difficult it can be to progress. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first management position, a move to a more senior role, or larger club, each and every step comes with new challenges (and some days, it seems like there are nothing but challenges in sight!).
What’s interesting is that many of the obstacles that managers face, especially at the senior level, have little to do with the “technical” aspects of the job, such as overseeing events or updating a club’s offerings. Rather, it’s the leadership related aspects of the role that can be difficult, leaving new or less experienced managers at a loss in terms of how to find resolution. Many of us have struggled through such “learning experiences”.
What might be surprising (and, perhaps, comforting), is that there are fundamental skills that successful, senior level people typically exhibit and consistently practice. Such abilities are not characterized by complex business practices or high brow academia; rather, they are more about the approach that the individual takes to fulfil their role on a personal level and are essential to generating a positive outcome. Characteristics such as, solid communication, high role engagement, and collaboration are all important skills that are typically exhibited by seasoned senior level managers, providing a powerful assist to generating success.
Accomplished leaders know that failing to do any of these things could result in a host of problems, including weak performance and low staff member engagement, running the risk of negatively impacting the broader club environment. Despite this reality, too many fail to utilize these vital skills, especially those in the mid-level ranks with expectations to progress further. What these people don’t realize is just how much a lack of attention to the leadership aspect of a role can limit their upward mobility (and might even result in being labeled as not having the potential to progress). Or, even worse, there are those who ascend to the senior level ranks based on their technical ability alone, but fail to be successful due to poor leadership skills.
A better approach is to take the initiative to understand how successful senior leaders approach their role and start to adopt these behaviors; now. Consistent practice of these skills will not only differentiate you from others in your peer group and generate better results today, but will also help to prepare you for climbing the ladder tomorrow. In this series, we will consider several important skill areas that will help you to lead large. Let’s get started with the first skill: communication.
Trouble in the Club
Have you ever tried to advance an initiative or project with a group that just doesn’t seem to be moving forward? Group members seem confused about their responsibilities. A lack of clarity over who is supposed to do what reigns, and, after a while, no one seems to care much. Meetings are held, but at the end of an hour or two, no one is quite sure what the next steps are. Subsequent conversations are repetitive (with the same few bits of content), little is accomplished, and enthusiasm starts to fade. Sound familiar?
This type of situation can arise due to a number of factors; however, one of the main problems is always communication. This includes everything from having clear meeting agendas, to how the discussion process is managed, to meaningful documentation of decisions and next steps. In the absence of being diligent about the process, it’s really just “meeting for the sake of meeting”. How discouraging.
But, it’s even worse than that. Consider this: every day, thousands of hours of staff and management time are wasted by working on initiatives that lack the clarity, communication, and practical steps to move forward. As disturbing as this is, it’s an opportunity for you to take a leadership role and cast some much needed light on a bleak situation.
Put yourself on the leadership path by making a conscious effort to always strive to be understood, investing in the practice and attention to detail where required. As a result, not only will you develop important leadership skills, you will also make a meaningful contribution to improve how your club functions. However you look at it, that’s money in the bank. Here are some tips:
- Let simplicity reign. Anyone can make something sound complicated, and too often, they do. Stand out from the crowd by demonstrating the ability to take something that is complicated and make it understandable to others. Any situation can be distilled down to a simple concept that others can easily absorb; make it your talent to find it.
- Make clarity the objective. Applying a deliberate level of focus to delivering your message in a way that is as clear and understandable as possible can greatly enhance the likelihood that it will be easily understood by others. The concept is simple, but developing the necessary skillset to do so isn’t; make it your goal to get there.
- Less is more. Excessive wordiness and hiding the heart of the matter in too much chatter and anecdotal information doesn’t facilitate good communication. Use words selectively and seek to get from Point A to Point B efficiently; make it your practice to not leave others in the conversation behind.
- Focus on writing skills. Like it or not, real benefit exists in taking a business writing, grammar, or presentation course to improve your communication ability. A practical option is to spend more time working directly with people who write well or volunteering to take on tasks that have a significant communication component; make a commitment to pursue one of these options for tangible skill development.
- Document what matters. It’s obvious that no one really enjoys the process related aspects of meeting planning, such as developing agendas, taking minutes, or updating project plans; however, these are important components of the management world. Set yourself aside from the pack and raise your hand next time these types of tasks are being assigned; make it your own opportunity to learn and excel.
- Forward, march! Leaders are always thinking about the next steps or the “why does this matter?” aspect of everything that they do; make it a personal strength to hold the attention of others by keeping communication practical, relevant, and action oriented.
The funny thing about communication is that it can quickly become contagious. Some of your team members might actually start to improve their communication skills just by following your example. Just look at who’s leading now!
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