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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

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6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

“Great leaders are born, not made.”

I believed it to be true for the majority of my career — and only recently did I realize how much this perspective limited my personal growth and career development. Maybe you’ve also fallen for the myth that leadership is a skill reserved for an elite few, and in the process, cheated yourself out of a powerful opportunity for growth.

While all of us do have talents and traits inherent to the personalities we were born with, some of the most important components of a successful career can be learned, including effective leadership skills.

If you want to become more productive and efficient in your work environment and inspire others to do the same, start by focusing on becoming a stronger leader. The good news is, developing these skills doesn’t require a special education or degree, or even an official management title; anyone motivated enough to grow can become a leader.

In my own career journey, I’ve noticed some of the most important traits most great leaders have in common. Want to be one of them? Here are six effective leadership skills to adopt and refine in your work, starting now.

1. Communication

To lead well, you have to have a vision — but you also have to know how to communicate it effectively.

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When I first started my company, I was so passionate about my vision. I developed my product with this vision in mind, knowing it could transform our customers’ lives. The challenging part was learning to communicate that vision as I grew my team.

It’s one thing to inspire people with a big-picture vision when you’re launching a company, but it’s an entirely separate skill to find creative ways to articulate aspirations for the future and rationale for transformation.[1]

Good communication isn’t just the ability to write a good email or nail a presentation. It’s the ability to inspire, motivate, and challenge people with a broader vision, even in the doldrums of everyday work — finding ways to help each member of your team understand the big picture of where you want to go and how their roles and projects contribute to it.

2. Integrity

When I think of effective leadership skills, the first thing I think of is integrity. And I’m not the only one. In one study of 195 leaders across 15 organizations, 67 percent of participants rated “high ethical and moral standards” as the most important leadership attribute.[2]

Taking shortcuts or being dishonest might lead to temporary wins. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that cutting corners doesn’t lead to lasting success. And it certainly won’t be rewarding.

As author and business leader Jon Huntsman, Sr. writes in his book Winners Never Cheat, character is the defining trait of a successful leader:[3]

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“There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people, the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.”

I think of integrity as integrating your values with your words and your words with your actions. When you lead with integrity, you build trust among your team and stakeholders, which means they’re more likely to go the direction you steer them.

3. Decisiveness

It’s not always easy to make a high-stakes decision, especially if you know people are relying on you to make the right choice. More often than not, a critical decision you make won’t pan out the way you planned. If this happens, you will be faced with another critical choice: Will you assume responsibility? Will you be willing to take the blame? And, more importantly, will you be motivated to find a better way forward for your team?

The ability to make a decision under pressure is an important part of leadership, but the true mark of a decisive leader isn’t the ability to make the right decision. Great leaders don’t just know how to make good decisions for those they’re leading; they’re also willing to take the risk of knowing if things don’t work out, they will be the ones held accountable.[4]

4. Focus

Imagine you’re a passenger on a boat. There’s a storm approaching, and the waters are becoming choppier by the minute. Not only that, but it’s getting dark outside, and you’re not sure which way the shore is. Who would you look to for a sense of safety?

A leader is a lot like the captain of a ship. The person at the helm isn’t just responsible for deciding where the ship is going to end up at the end of the journey, but actually steering it in the right direction, even during a storm. That’s why staying focused is such a crucial part of effective leadership.

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Great leaders keep their eyes toward success, which requires planning ahead, staying organized, and thinking through potential scenarios and outcomes — all the while considering other paths forward if things don’t work out.[5]

5. Humility

If you want to encourage others to learn and grow, you have to be willing to learn and grow yourself. This requires humility, or a willingness to be flexible, admit you’re wrong, and even more importantly, openness to learning from other people. Another way to look at humility is teachability.

Practically, how can you implement this skill in your workplace? Problem solving is a great opportunity to practice being a teachable leader.

For example, if you’re trying to find a solution for an issue, try not to push your own agenda. When your team senses you’re open to (and eager about) their ideas, a greater diversity of potentially transformative ideas will emerge.

Plus, when your team knows you encourage free thinking, they will likely be more motivated to take initiative and work independently to develop their own solutions and ideas.

6. Connection

As a leader, you have the privilege of bringing out the best in the people around you — a key ingredient for success in your company. But to foster success, you have to focus on connection first.

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Neuroscience teaches us that if people don’t feel emotionally safe, they won’t be able to access the creative, strategic part of their brain. Instead, they’ll be focused on survival — which isn’t exactly a recipe for flourishing, in life or at work.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to facilitate connection and belonging in the workplace so that others can live up to their full potential.

To foster a deeper connection among your team — and empower them to live up to their potential — view them as people, not just as workers. Say hi with a smile. Remember details about their personal lives. Compliment them when they do well, and let them know you see their hard work and contributions.

As you build meaningful relationships with your co-workers, you’ll be able to live up to your potential as an effective leader, too.

More Tips on Leadership Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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