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By Dr. Bethanie Hansen
Faculty Director, School of Arts & Humanities, American Public University
When you think about improving or fine-tuning your leadership abilities, the amount of tips and resources available to you can be overwhelming. Leadership guidance typically comes in categories like philosophies and practices, traits, and skills such as serving, asking questions, and listening and checking biases and assumptions. With so much guidance available, it might be difficult just to know where to start.
Three simple questions can help you immediately refocus, reflect and reset your leadership approach. Answering these questions could be the catalyst for your continued growth:
- What are my skills and abilities in my leadership role?
- What kind of effort do I put into my role?
- What kind of impact am I having on others and on my organization?
I first considered these questions when they were posed during an Arbinger Institute workshop titled “Developing and Implementing the Outward Mindset.” I’ve discovered the power of asking myself these three questions regularly, and the ways in which my answers can lead to major changes in my own leadership skills.
What Are My Skills and Abilities in My Leadership Role?
This question prompts you to think about your role, the skills and attributes you need to serve well in that role, and your current skills and abilities.
Your answers can guide you to determine:
- If you need further development
- If your skills and abilities are already well suited for your current role
- If the skills and abilities needed for your position are well beyond your current capacity to develop
As an example, if you need to coach others but lack coaching skills, you might realize that you need to develop your coaching abilities and skills. You could accomplish this goal through self-study, taking a class or working with a mentor.
Identifying the demands of your role and your level of each skill and ability needed to serve well can either guide you forward confidently, prompt you to seek training, or search for a new position that is a better fit for your capacity and potential.
What Kind of Effort Do I Put into My Role?
This question leads you to think about the amount of energy you are putting into your current role, and whether any adjustments are needed. If you already have the skills and abilities to lead in your current position but recognize that you are putting forth only limited effort, adding initiatives, projects and other innovative steps could help you develop further.
You might ask your manager how you can further contribute to the organization’s success, seeking out opportunities to broaden your contribution. If you are putting forth such a significant effort that you feel overwhelmed, it’s time to consider the impact of your effort and determine how to cut back.
What Kind of Impact Am I Having on Others and on the Organization?
Answering this question leads you to consider whether your efforts are having the desired results. Is your work contributing to improving your team, supporting others and leading the organization toward its strategic objectives? Or are you putting forth effort without seeing the needed effect to make a strong contribution?
This impact question is the most significant. By asking it, you can determine where your efforts are making a difference and where you would like to adjust your approach for a better outcome. This question has led me to meet with colleagues with whom I work closely to learn more about my impact.
As a result, I have reordered my priorities, set shorter timelines for projects that depend on my participation and communicated more often with members of my team.
Seeking feedback from others about how we as leaders affect their work and adjusting our approach to find better results are effective ways to consider this impact question. Then we can make adjustments that yield better results in our leadership.
About the Author
Dr. Bethanie Hansen is a Faculty Director and Certified Professional Coach for the School of Arts & Humanities at American Public University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Arts & Letters from Southern Oregon University, and a DMA in Music Education from Boston University. She is an educator, coach, manager, writer, presenter and musician with 25 years of experience helping others to achieve their goals.
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