Smart Strategies of High Impact Leaders

Oct. 11, 2018

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It's the end of another busy day at work. You have worked hard, made a difference, yet looking back it feels like you are spinning your wheels. And that you are simply kicking the "accomplishment can" a little bit further. If this state of mind applies to you, you are not alone. Our leadership faculty at Eller Executive Education has interviewed over a thousand managers across the globe who shared similar sentiments. It is a feature of our post recession economy: limited resources, a frantic pace and challenging goals that never seem to get accomplished. There is a better way and our interviews identified what we now call "high impact" leaders or "exponential" leaders. These are individuals who have identified coping mechanisms and leadership tools that help them and their teams stay ahead.

Work on smart goals

Most managers over-prescribe goals when times get tough, thinking that it will better direct their teams' efforts. Research by my colleague Lisa Ordóñez demonstrates that it can have the opposite effect. Teams can get demotivated and at times engage in unethical behaviors. As a leader that could mean wasting more time correcting actions than reaping the rewards you had identified for accomplishing those goals. ACTION: Work with your leaders at selecting a FEW smart goals: ones that are 1. clearly aligned with the organization's strategy, 2. specific and 3. closely supervised.

Build time for reflection

Our frantic pace makes us think that we do not have time for reflection. In some cultures, taking time to slow down and think is even frowned upon. Yet, neuroscience tells us that the brain needs processing time for self-monitoring and self-regulation. Without building time for self reflection, we cannot be effective as leaders. Turns out that our learning abilities is also stunted. Research shows that those who reflect can perform up to 23% better than those who do not. ACTION: Take 15 minutes in the evening for quiet self reflection and ask yourself "what action did I take today that I am proud of?" and/or "how could I have been more effective in a meeting today?"

Work on your candor

Sometimes our effectiveness at work is stunted by what we do not share or say. We often refer to a little known NASA study from the 1980s on airline accidents and the pilots' decision making process in the 30-45 seconds between the first sign of a potential accident and the moment it would happen. The study found that pilots who involved their crew made better decisions than their peers who took immediate action without consulting their colleagues. Professor Stephen Gilliland here at Eller also says that this leads to greater personal engagement.


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