I sometimes have a problem keeping up with my blog bits during this season. Truth be told from May 1st through October 1st I head off to the beach for the weekends. Most times they're long weekends which means that business happens for me in sort of a compressed work week. I do try my best though, to draw insights from all my summer experiences - even those that take place at the beach!
We've been going out to this beach community for close to two decades. Generally, long term summer residents, over time, involve themselves in community activities. I am no exception. A few years ago I volunteered to serve on the board of directors for a group that provides a charitable service during the summer season. Most volunteers do so out of the goodness of their hearts and are enriched through the experience of community service. Volunteering in general and board service in particular, however, can also provide insights and experiences that can be brought back and applied to professional and business pursuits. I had one such experience recently when I found myself along with several other board members directly in the middle of a battle for control of the board between the current president and a board member. This battle was classic: the accomplished incumbent with powerful community relationships, a good track record and a natural ability to lead vs. the brash, outspoken subject matter expert whose skills align perfectly with the services provided by the charity, a forward thinking vision and the will to assume the leadership role bolstered by the strength of his personal brand.
Occasional power struggles are a normal occurrence in any leadership situation and provide an opportunity for new ideas and strategies to surface for consideration. It's been my experience and I'm sure yours as well, that the tactics leaders employ while engaged in these "struggles" differentiate the worthiness of the combatants. Good ideas, changes in strategy and disagreements with the status quo need to be introduced in a productive and rational way so that they can be appreciated and considered. Power struggles, after all, are challenges and how one responds to a challenge will make all the difference in terms of your professional reputation and the perceived quality of your proposals.
Using emotional intelligence is a good way to approach power struggles. Self aware leaders recognize the impact that the actions of others and changes in the system have on their own emotions and they are able to convert those emotions to positive actions rather than reactive behavior. Leaders who can convert intuition, observation and experience into an ability to relate and empathize with other stakeholders will maximize their connections with business allies. Additionally, leaders with well developed social skills have a keen ability to communicate, influence and motivate others to a preferred point of view and strategy. In short, handling power struggles with an emotionally intelligent framework will support your effort to obtain the best possible outcome.
The key takeaways are these:
- Remove strong emotions from the struggle by focusing on a rational and constructive argument. Healthy conflict can bring forth great ideas - discord will stifle them.
- Encourage discussion about the alternatives. Everyone wants to be heard and become frustrated if they are not. Frustration is not a productive emotion and worse - it is contagious.
- Be open to new ideas. Often times new ideas marry well to and enrich your present method of operation.
- Focus on what you do well. Think about a time when you were most effective and repeat your process.
Each board member used a different approach to achieving this leadership position. The challenger used a broad side approach by reaching out to the entire community with a letter about him and how he wants to transform the charitable service. He then built support among like-minded friends and colleagues to win the vote. The incumbent reached out to community leaders with whom she had long term relationships to shore up their support. She demonstrated her ability to lead by communicating her strategy, accomplishments and vision for the charity going forward. Finally, she established an advisory committee to evaluate and act on suggestios submitted by her adversary, thus including him in the solution. She ultimately retained power with overwhelming support.
At Real Leadership Associates, I use business coaching to help you think through your strategies, articulate your accomplishements and define your vision so that it's easily applied to actions with the expected outcomes. Contact Beth for more information.
I hope you and yours are enjoying the summer. I certainly am taking advantage of this wonderful weather to relax and rejuvenate! Take care and I'll talk to you next month!