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Key Takeaways

  • Effective leadership relies more on asking the right questions and setting clear expectations than on having all the answers.
  • Assertiveness should integrate respect for both one’s own needs and those of others, facilitating mutual understanding and compromise.
  • Self-awareness is crucial for personal and professional growth and can be enhanced through tools like DISC assessments, Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, and emotional intelligence assessments.
  • Feedback is vital for improving self-awareness; focus on the intent behind feedback and maintain a constructive approach.
  • Mid-level managers can significantly impact professional growth by empowering their teams and fostering a culture of innovation and ownership.
  • Communication is key in maintaining trust and accountability, especially when discrepancies between what is said and what is done.
  • Effective delegation requires addressing trust issues and ensuring thorough communication about expectations, resources, and success metrics.
  • Organizational culture plays a critical role in handling crises; positive cultures facilitate resilience, whereas negative cultures can exacerbate challenges.

Executive Summary:

Hey everyone, welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Sally Foley-Lewis, a leadership development expert who specializes in helping middle managers enhance their skills and authority. 

In Part A, Sally emphasized the importance of humor in leadership and explained how it can help individuals cope with challenges and build stronger connections with others. She also discussed a middle manager’s potential to inspire, collaborate, and influence within an organization.

Additionally, Sally highlighted the need for middle managers to understand their senior leaders and tailor their communication styles accordingly. She also explained the concept of the “trilogy of success” for middle managers, which involves inspiring the frontline, collaborating across the organization, and influencing upward. 

If you haven’t checked out Part A yet, we strongly recommend that you do so first. Now, without further ado, let’s jump in.

The Importance Of Direct Communication And Inquisitive Leadership In Effective Management

Firstly, Sally underscores the importance of direct communication. She urges the listeners to specifically ask senior leaders about their preferred methods for receiving information, focusing on details such as the frequency, and format. She emphasizes the need for consistency in adhering to these communication preferences. 

Contrary to the belief that leaders must have all the answers, Sally asserts that effective leadership depends more on asking the right questions and setting clear guidelines for being a trusted advisor.

Balancing Assertiveness And Respect In Organizational Dynamics

Moving on, Aram explores the delicate balance between being assertive and respectful, a key aspect in influencing, collaborating, and inspiring within an organizational context. Sally addresses the common misconceptions about assertiveness in her response. 

She clarifies that true assertiveness involves equal respect for both one’s own needs and those of others rather than merely insisting on being heard. Assertiveness, she argues, naturally includes respect and is not in competition with it. 

Sally references a book by Robert Bolton called “People Skills,” which she praises for its depth in explaining the real meaning of assertiveness. She notes that assertiveness is about mutual understanding and finding compromises, highlighting that it is an ongoing process rather than a perfect solution.

Cultivating Self-Awareness For Personal And Professional Growth

Next, Aram and Sally delve into the role of self-awareness in personal and professional development. Aram suggests that self-awareness requires considerable insight, acknowledging that not everyone possesses it consistently. 

Sally confirms that self-awareness can indeed be coached, especially for those open to understanding how others perceive them. She recommends tools like DISC assessments, Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, and emotional intelligence assessments as effective for enhancing self-awareness.

Additionally, Sally highlights the benefits of increased self-awareness, including better regulation of emotions and responses to challenging situations. She emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, particularly in moments of stress or conflict. 

Feedback plays a critical role in improving self-awareness, though she acknowledges that receiving and delivering feedback can be challenging. Sally advises focusing on the intent behind feedback and granting grace to those attempting to help, even if their delivery is imperfect. 

According to her, this approach helps in distinguishing constructive criticism from less helpful comments.

A Mid-Level Manager’s Impact On Growth And Autonomy

Sally shares a story about empowering leadership demonstrated by a mid-level manager during her brief work experience in Australia. Upon her return from Germany, Sally took on an eight-week project similar to an internship. The manager assigned her a project, encouraging her to independently think through a strategy before discussing it further.

Sally describes how the manager balanced providing support with encouraging autonomy. The manager praised Sally’s skills, encouraged her to trust her judgment, and emphasized her long-term impact, viewing her as a permanent team member beyond eight weeks.

This experience exemplifies how mid-level managers can effectively cultivate a culture of empowerment and innovation by trusting in their team members’ capabilities, even when they might lack confidence. 

Sally credits this manager with significantly influencing her professional growth and even becoming a dear friend, highlighting such empowering leadership’s deep personal and professional impact.

Strategies For Enhancing Trust And Accountability In Leadership

Moving on, the speakers address the issue of the “say-do gap,” where leaders’ actions fail to match their words, creating challenges in trust and accountability. 

Sally discusses how often leaders in her experience use the phrase “just leave it with me,” which has become synonymous with inaction and has eroded trust among team members. She emphasizes the need for ongoing communication, even when there are no updates, to manage expectations and prevent rumors and speculation that can negatively affect morale and culture.

Furthermore, Sally suggests that mid-level managers need to be proactive in communicating with their teams about the status of projects, even if the progress is stalled at higher levels of management. It could involve sharing that there is no new information but also exploring alternative actions and preparations for various potential outcomes. 

According to Sally, this approach helps keep the team engaged and informed, reducing the space for negative speculation and maintaining a healthier organizational culture.

Additionally, Sally advises on how to handle situations where a higher-up may be contributing to the say-do gap. She recommends addressing these issues tactically by asking strategic questions that can help move projects forward or clarify priorities, all while maintaining a non-confrontational tone to avoid defensive reactions. 

This method fosters a more open and cooperative environment, enabling better problem-solving and alignment across different levels of management.

Key To Time Management And Team Empowerment In Leadership

On a similar note, Nolan and Sally address the challenge of time management in leadership, focusing on the critical role of delegation. 

The latter notes a significant discrepancy observed in a study: while over 50% of companies recognize the importance of delegation, only 28% actually teach it, leading to a gap in effective leadership skills.

Sally argues that many leaders feel they don’t have time for tasks because they fail to delegate, often defaulting to handling tasks themselves because it seems faster and easier. However, this approach perpetually burdens them and prevents team development.

Aram then asks Sally for a quick guide to effective delegation. Sally responds by emphasizing the necessity of addressing underlying trust issues first. She advises leaders to build strong, respectful relationships with their teams to foster an environment of trust and safety where team members feel comfortable expressing disagreements or concerns.

Furthermore, Sally critiques the common practice of “dump and run” or “drive-by delegation,” where leaders assign tasks without proper briefing or support. Instead, she advocates for a thorough setup process for delegation that involves clear communication about expectations, resources, responsibilities, authority, potential obstacles, and success metrics. 

Sally underscores the concept of “slow is fast,” meaning taking time to properly set up delegated tasks leads to quicker and more accurate completion with fewer mistakes. Besides enhancing productivity, this approach empowers team members by showing trust and respect for their capabilities.

Building Resilience Through Positive Leadership And Communication

Sally also discusses the impact of organizational culture on how companies handle crises. Although she doesn’t provide a specific example, she notes that a positive, open culture with strong relationships can significantly aid an organization in navigating tough times. In such cultures, individuals are more willing to exert extra effort to overcome challenges.

Conversely, Sally describes a situation where a negative culture led to disastrous outcomes during a crisis. Here, mid-level managers engaged in gossip with frontline employees, exacerbating an “us versus them” mentality that widened existing rifts within the organization. The behavior of these managers, driven by fear and uncertainty, ultimately led to their dismissal or redundancy, as it contributed negatively to the crisis and worsened the company’s culture.

Sally’s commentary underscores the critical role of communication and leadership behavior in organizational resilience. She suggests that fear-driven actions are counterproductive in crisis situations and stresses the importance of leadership that focuses on constructive responses to ensure the organization emerges with minimal damage.

Challenges And Strategies For Middle Managers In A Technological And COVID-Infused Era

Towards the end, Sally discusses the future challenges middle managers may face and the strategies to address them, particularly in adapting to technological advancements and managing in a “COVID-infused world.” Sally highlights the importance of embracing technology as a lever for enhancing productivity.

She stresses continuous improvement in leadership skills, especially in communication, listening, and engagement, pointing out that these so-called “soft skills” are critical, though misnamed, as they are fundamental to effective leadership. Sally also touches on the transition from focusing merely on survival during the COVID-19 pandemic to building resilience and navigating the complexities of hybrid working environments.

To effectively lead in these changing times, Sally advises shifting focus from mere activities to outcomes and rethinking productivity in the context of ongoing adjustments to living with COVID-19 impacts. She wraps up the discussion by emphasizing the significance of self-leadership and personal development, suggesting that investing in oneself can lead to substantial returns in leadership effectiveness and organizational impact. 

According to Sally, this self-improvement is crucial for middle managers aiming to be more influential and effective in their roles.

Sally, Aram, and Nolan discuss more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Write to us at team@negotiatex.com and share your thoughts on this informational podcast episode. Also, if you enjoyed the episode, we’d be thrilled if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts. Your ratings help us grow and improve.

Thank you for your time!

Transcript

Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Sally Foley-Lewis. If you haven't already checked out Part A of this show, be sure to do that first. Let's jump into the conversation with Sally.

NM : I know we hear a lot these days about being a trusted advisor to senior leaders. In your mind, how does being a trusted advisor connect to a concept that you discuss as being your manager's first choice?

Effective Communication And Consistency In Leadership [01:06]

Sally Foley-Lewis : Yeah, so to me, when you are a trusted advisor, you are someone who doesn't suck up or pucker up. You are actually in a position to maybe first and foremost sit down with those senior leaders or senior leader and say, how do you want information delivered to you? How do you want good news and how do you want the bad news? And be explicit like that because that helps you to then know how to craft that information. How often do you want the news? In what format? How do you want me to be your trusted advisor? How would that work for you if you saw me as a trusted advisor?

We often have, when we get into leadership positions, we often think we have to have all the answers, and I think that's totally false. I think we've got to have really good questions and including being explicit about asking how can I be your trusted advisor? To me, that's your first port of call when becoming a trusted advisor to the C-suite or a senior executive. And then after that, your consistency is really critical. Being consistent in delivering it the way in which you've just agreed to deliver it.

Aram Donigian : This gets to an idea, which is it is a difficult balance, I think, between being assertive and at the same time balancing that with being respectful. And I think that it probably goes in all directions within the trilogy, certainly obvious to think about that in terms of influencing, but also as we collaborate across and we inspire down, how do you help individuals navigate that balance between being assertive and still staying respectful?

Redefining Assertiveness: Balancing Self-Respect With Mutual Understanding [02:44]

SFL : Yeah, so first and foremost, it's really understanding what assertiveness actually is versus what we think it is. When I do communication workshops and I ask the room, what's your definition of assertive? And nine out of 10, it's an incorrect definition because we've learned to think that being assertive means that I get my point across, I be heard, and that's only half the equation. That's only half the definition of what assertiveness is.

Assertiveness truly is understanding and respecting my needs as much as I'm understanding and respecting your needs. And so to me it's not a competition between being assertive versus being respectful. When you're truly being assertive, you are being respectful. And so we need to actually come to terms with the true definition of assertiveness. There's a great book by Bolton and I always go Michael Bolton, but it's not the singer. I think his name Peter Bolton, and it's a book called People Skills.

It's a brilliant book, if you want to go to sleep. It's a heavy book. I love it. But in his book, he talks about what assertiveness really is and he says, and it doesn't work all the time, so stop expecting it to be, stop expecting it to be perfect. Assertiveness is the intent to respect assertiveness is the intent to have the desire to understand what you need and the desire for you to understand what I need. And somehow together, when we know that and understand it and respect it, we will find some sort of compromise, something in the middle that we can both live with. And so that's where that comes in.

AD : And what you're describing requires I would say a hefty degree of self-awareness. And let's be honest, we're not all probably as self-aware all the time or as often as we probably should be. Is that something you can coach? Can you coach somebody become more self-aware?

Learning From Feedback And Understanding Emotional Triggers [04:43]

SFL : Absolutely. I think can. I think if you are willing to learn more about yourself and who you are and how you show up in the world and how if you are game enough to learn how others perceive you and how others read you and how others avoid you, then yes, doing assessments like a disc assessment or a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or an emotional intelligence assessment, anything that helps you understand you better is going to amplify your self-awareness.

And the more self-aware we are, the more understanding of our own self-talk, how emotions trigger us, what emotions trigger us. When we understand them, we're in a better position to regulate them. Also, we're in a better position and more confident about ourselves that when things don't go well, when we blow up, when we have a of steam come out in the most inappropriate way with self-awareness and emotional intelligence, we get to come back around and say, Hey, I apologize for that delivery. It was not right, and I hope everyone's okay. Is there anything I can do to resolve this and move this forward and owning it, right, that responsibility and accountability piece.

So yeah, I think you can absolutely learn self-awareness. And just the other day I was delivering a keynote speech and I said to the group, if you are the one that walks in a room and everyone leaves, it's you. So that we've got to be in a position to accept that little bit of tough love too. So feedback. Feedback is what's critical also for increasing our self-awareness

AD : And not always easy to receive.

SFL : Not always easy to receive. And we could all do with learning how to deliver it a little nicer. Well said. So it's the delivery and it's also the acceptance. Sometimes I say to people, when someone delivers you some feedback, just wipe the mess off and look for what the actual it was. Don't shoot the messenger. Sometimes they just don't know how to deliver it and they're doing the best they can. Look at the intent. Was the intent a positive intent? Was it an intent to help? And if it was, then give them a bit of grace. Mind you, if there are people who are just giving you feedback because they just want to shoot you and shoot you down, then that's a whole other different debate to be had.

NM : Building high performing teams is essential for most middle managers. Do you have an example of a mid-manager effectively inspiring down to develop others and cultivating culture of empowerment and innovation?

Empowering Leadership: Fostering Confidence And Autonomy In New Talents [07:11]

SFL : Absolutely. I had been living in Germany and I just came home and a friend of mine was wonderful and said, would you want to come and work and do an eight week? Like, in Australia, we didn't have internships, so they're very big in the US but this was a similar to an internship, and so it was paid eight weeks of work experience. And I said, well, I've got nothing else to do because I've just got off the plane. I'd love to. And the manager of our team was amazing.

She said, you're here for eight weeks. Here's a project I would like you to get into. I want you to do this reading, think about what you would do, and then come to me and we'll talk about what the next strategy is. And as I was reading through all the information and then trying to work out what I think I should do, because I was new and I was a little bit unsure, didn't have a whole lot of confidence around what I'm supposed to be doing, I went to her and I said, can I catch up with you?

And she said, absolutely. I said to her, this is what I'm thinking, but I dunno if I'm on the right track. And she said, I need you to know that even though I've thrown you in the deep end, I know what you can do and I trust you. You are on the right track and if you have any other questions, keep coming back to me, but I will be pushing back when I know that you are seeking reassurance that you don't need because it's within you.

And I thought, oh, that's really cool to hear that I was okay with that. And then she also said, because I was also concerned about just being eight weeks and what possibly could we get done in eight weeks? And she also said, I want you to think like you are a permanent employee because what you're doing will live past you.

What you are working on has to live beyond whether you're here for eight weeks or you're here forever. And so that was a really good frame as well. And I think her ability to empower and say, I trust you was great. And she could see that I had the capability even if I didn't have quite the confidence yet. And so I think mid-level managers who can help people see their own capability are going to be ones that will get the productivity. She's actually one of my dearest dearest friends now, but she's the best boss I ever had.

She said, you've got this, my door's open if you need to ask me anything, but I know that you're going to do it. And when you And that pushback, that beautiful gentle pushback that she could see I was tipping into, I need reassurance versus No, you got this. She didn't just let me come and drain her energy just to fill up my tank of confidence. She gently pushed back. And I think there's something in that for leaders, because a lot of leaders, they say, I've got an open door policy, come and ask me anytime. And usually what they're doing is nurturing parenting, they're pumping up tires, which is nice. But is that long-term helpful? That would be my question to that. Yeah.

AD : And I would say even, I've certainly experienced times when leaders have said one thing but then not followed through, and that opens up a whole another kind of can of challenges. And I wanted to ask you kind of about the common thing we see these days is the need to align what we, as leaders say, and then that our actions match.

I wonder if you could talk to the importance of eliminating the say-do gap and what do you do if you find yourself caught in the situation where you're trying to tackle this issue for your organization? Maybe it's not you who has a say, do gap existing, but it's someone else, it's a leader, maybe someone reports or it's a colleague, but how do you go about trying to put the spotlight on this issue?

Keeping Teams Informed And Engaged Amid Uncertainty [10:58]

SFL : Absolutely. I don’t know whether this translates to other countries or not, but we have a thing here where a lot of leaders say, oh, just leave it with me. Just leave it with me. I'll get back to it. Just leave it with me. And I was working with one organization and they were saying to me, the frontline staff were giving me some background and some feedback around their managers before I worked with the managers.

And so one of them said, oh, if I hear, just leave it with me one more time. And they were getting really upset and working themselves up. And I said, well, tell me what happens. Then someone else chimed in and said, oh, “leave it with me” means nothing's going to happen. That's where ideas go to die. So that say and do thing I think is massive and managers need to be really mindful of what they're saying and the promises they're inadvertently making.

And so that's where we come back to communication. And a lot of the times, a lot of middle managers say, well, I'm trying to get that up the line. I'm trying to get that paper's already gone into the executive team and I'm waiting for their feedback and I'm waiting and I'm waiting. And therefore they don't say anything because there's nothing to be, there's no new news.

So they don't say anything. Well, what they miss out on or what they forget is that someone's also sitting here wondering what's going on and they think that that idea's going to die, that that proposal's dead, that fix or whatever's happening is not going to happen. And what mid-level managers need to remember is that okay, it's still with the executive, I'm still pushing it through. Is there something else that we could be doing in the meanwhile like be creative and keep talking about it even when there is no new news.

Because I don't know if you've ever watched a passion fruit vine along a fence line. If you grow passion fruit, it's got these little things that come out and they hold onto things and they circle around the wire and as they keep growing, and to me that's just like what happens at the front line. People will hang on to anything and they'll speculate and they'll gossip and then it becomes bigger and then it infiltrates the culture.

So as mid-level managers, you might be sitting there thinking, I've got no new news. Well talk about that. Say you've got no new news. And then maybe take that a step further and talk about, well, what else can we do? And also even scenario plan, okay, if this doesn't get up, what do we do? If we only get half of this? What do we do if we get all of this? Are we ready to go? Are we in preparation mode? Talk about these things so that people don't then go off on their own tangent and speculate. And then you as the mid-level manager, you actually giving yourself a bad reputation

AD : And people will, people are going to fill the gap with assumptions or whatever it may be. And it's probably wrong.

SFL : Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Because they want to understand what's going on. We need signposts. You don't get from A to B without a signpost telling you to either stop or give way to the left, give way to the right, whatever it is. We need signposts. And so that's critical. And I think to the other point that you asked about where you've got a position above you and you are still having that say versus do I think it could be critical for a middle manager to ask those questions, but ask them in really strategic ways as an example, I know you are still working on that and that's something that's still to be decided.

Is there anything else I can do to add to it to help it move it forward? Is there anything else I could be focusing on that prepares for that? And it's just as you are doing down the line with your team, you can do that up the line with your boss and be saying, I know this is not here yet. You said this, but I'm seeing this is something that I need to know in between because I'm getting mixed messages.

My perception is this versus this. Could you help me close that gap or understand the gap and therefore help me know to know what I need to be working on as a priority. But we've got to own it because if we go in going you you you, like we're pointing a finger, we're going to walk into someone that's going to get defensive. So, yeah.

NM : And then kind of digging into these common complaints, I know another one that you likely hear is, I don't have the time to do all of this. And maybe that's just an excuse for also not practicing some of the things I know that we're discussing today. How do you respond to the statement and are there ways leaders can become more productive, maybe even helping their team members as well with this challenge?

The Delegation Paradox: Recognizing The Need VS. Providing The Training [15:42]

SFL : Yeah, there's one word for that. It's called delegation. And so I think when it's interesting, I saw an article that had a reference to a study that I think it was 300 companies were asked about how they saw the value of delegating for their leaders. And it was over 50% saw it as a big valuable thing that leaders should be doing. Delegating was important. And then they went back to that cohort that said, yes, delegation's important. And then they asked that cohort, do you actually teach those leaders to delegate? And it was 28%.

Only 28% of that group actually saw it as important enough to teach it. So we are not teaching delegation. And if anyone is listening and can sit here and they'll say, yeah, my boss tells me to delegate, but no one's taught me how to delegate. A lot of leaders complain about being pulled down into the minutiae and their boss tells 'em to delegate, but the skills for delegating are not at all put forward. So I think it's really critical that all leaders learn how to delegate effectively because when they do that, they'll then understand that they're actually also developing others as they do it.

And when leaders say, I don't have time, then you'll always not have time when they say it's just easier and faster if I do it myself. Yeah, it is. I'm not going to lie to you, you're absolutely right. It is faster and easier if you do it yourself and you'll always be doing it yourself.

AD : Sally, and this is the impossible question. Can you give us the 60 seconds keys to delegation since it's not being taught? And I know you could give an entire full day or two days program probably just on delegation and delegating well, but what are the keys to doing it well? Can you give us the cliff notes?

Mastering Delegation: Building Trust And Setting Clear Expectations For Success [17:31]

SFL : You're funny. I wrote a book on delegate and I do have a workshop. It's called DELEGATE.

AD : You also wrote a book called The Productive Leaders, is this?

SFL : So I've got a few books up my sleeve. So the 60 seconds, all right, so to me it starts with you. If you need to understand the self-awareness piece comes back in, right? Yeah. If you feel as though you can't trust what is really going on, you'll say things like, I'm too busy, everyone else is too busy. I dunno what to delegate. I don't think they'll do it to my standard. But then if you go under the surface, you know the old iceberg, what's under the surface and what's really going on, I don't trust them.

What if they make me look bad? What if I get my butt kicked because they've made a mistake? What's really going on? If you don't deal with that first, then you are really going to struggle to have effective delegation. So to me, one of the critical things you need to do is start building stronger relationships with your people so that you do have the trust.

Because once you've got great relationships and a great relationship isn't agreement, it's respect and trust. And so you've got a group of people who feel safe to say, I know your point Sally, but I don't agree with it. I think it should be this. And they feel safe enough to say that to you because you are willing to listen and you trust that they've thought this through and they're actually bringing you some really important information.

So that's the first point for delegating to be successful. And the other thing is people dump and run. Now, I call it a drive-by delegation and it's actually, it's not. It's dumping and running. And that's what I had in my experience and partly why I blew up. And what we do is I love the concept of slow as fast. I think Steven Covey had that slow as fast.

If we slow it down in the setup for delegating and we actually take the time to understand who resources, responsibility, and authority, who else is going to be impacted, what are the milestones, what does success look like? What's going to get in your way? Now really unpack that and take the time to unpack that at the beginning. Then the actual doing is like that happens really fast with less errors. And I think that's the thing.

If we just do a drive-by delegation, we leave people sitting there going, well, the boss gave it to me. They trust me. It must all be here. If they've given it to me, then they think I can do it. And then they start making assumptions. They start working on something and it sometimes is the wrong thing or they procrastinate because they don't want to get it wrong, don’t know where to start. And if you have those conversations at the front end, then slow is fast.

AD : Wondering if you could talk, in your years of experience, have you ever seen a company in crisis mode, whatever it might be, internal, external, but maybe on the cusp of complete meltdown and in that in extremis moment, what did leaders, and I know we're talking specifically today really are a lot today about mid-level managers, but what did they step up and do that was necessary to save the company?

The Impact Of Culture And Communication On Organizational Resilience [20:55]

SFL : To me, I don't have an exact example on top of my head, but I know that when the culture of the organization is open and positive and they're good relationships, then everyone is willing to step in and go the hard yards to get through the crisis. If the culture is not there, if it's all about the organizational chart and that's it, then people jump ship and they jump ship as fast as they can because they don't want to be on a sinking ship. That's what they'll see.

And I have seen in a situation where what not to do in one particular situation I just thought of was where the mid-level managers, this crisis was coming and the mid-level managers actually started getting into the gossip with the frontline and it really did a lot of damage. It did a lot of damage because all the frontline and mid-level management started this us and them.

And the rift just got bigger and bigger. And the outcome of that was a lot of the mid-level managers were asked to leave, were sacked or made, some were made redundant, but a lot of them were basically sacked because their behavior was a direct contribution to making the crisis or the situation worse and making the culture worse. And it came out of fear. These mid-level managers could see that there was horrible things going on, weren't sure about the organization, and they were operating from a place of fear as opposed to a place of, well, what do we need to do to survive this?

What do we need to do to come out the other end of this with as few bruises and scratches and being able to pick up and keep going again? And I don't know whether senior leadership actually were communicating well or not. So I can't answer to that piece of it. But I do know that the mid-level managers really operated from fear and not the best choices of behaviors.

AD : Thanks.

NM : As we look towards the next five to 10 years, what new challenges do you anticipate middle managers encountering and do you have any thoughts about how to best prepare to face and overcome them?

Adapting To A COVID-Infused World For Enhanced Productivity [23:05]

SFL : Yeah, a lot of the tech stuff like the AI and all those sorts of things, and I'm not a tech head, I've only just bought ChatGPT 4, so I'm playing with that, trying to work out how to get groovy images. So I'm real basic level, but they're the impact that I think a lot more conversations need to be had around how do we embrace it and how do we use it to help us be productive? How do we use it to, because it's not going away. It's like email for the first 20 years we all complained about how email is the scourge of the world. Well, it ain't going away either, is it? So we've actually got faster versions of email with WhatsApps and messagings and all sorts of, and so it's about embracing that technology to a level where we know that we can leverage it for productivity.

And I think that's one thing around the tech, but one of the other things is that especially for mid-level managers is always, always, always be looking at how they can be constantly being a better leader. And that's what the old soft skills, I don't like that phrase because there's nothing soft about communicating, but how can I be a better communicator? How can I always be a better listener? How can I look at engagement in different ways? How can I really tap into helping our people be more productive?

And I think because of things go in cycles, and I've had this conversation recently, we've had the COVID, stay alive, everyone go home, everyone be okay, be physically okay. And then it's mentally okay. So resilience, it went from survival to resilience was the buzzword and now it's how do we manage a hybrid opportunity that we've got in front of us?

How do I lead when I can't see you? How do I shift out of activity to outcome as a leader? And then I think what we're going to be moving into is a new phase of productivity. Again, we are back working, we're back doing, I don't think for one minute that we are living COVID free. I'm calling it a COVID infused world now. And so would you like a bit of COVID with your coffee kind of thing?

And I'm being flippant and it is a serious thing, but you also got to know we aren't free of COVID. We are a COVID infused world. So I think the next phase that we might be seeing is coming back and looking at productivity in today's environment. That's where I think we're headed.

AD : No, it's great. And I really love the expression of shifting out of activity back to outcome. You talk about soft skills. I agree that one really aggravates me just because on my skin had a colleague call 'em human skills. And since we are leaders of humans and we know humans can be difficult, they are hard skills to master. I just liked that reframing to call them human skill.

SFL : Yeah, I love that. Well, we're weird. We are weird and we're unpredictable. And like the book from, I keep giving it to Michael Bolton, Peter Bolton, people skills, he says the assertiveness piece, it won't work every time. It just won't because we're human.

AD : Well listen as we get ready to wrap up, if you had a final thought to give to middle managers listening to this, or maybe it's a challenge, and I don't know if it might be around the importance of aligning expectations and values, maybe communicating. You talked a lot about the importance of communicating and being consistent, but doing that more effectively, building more positive relationships, trust you talked about that or something entirely different. What would it be? What would you leave with our listeners to help them become more influential, persuasive, and let's say effective leaders?

Investing In Personal Growth For Organizational Impact [26:48]

SFL : Yeah, thank you. I think the first thing that comes to my mind is work on yourself. Because when you've got really good, that will have a ripple effect to being a great leader. So the more work you do on you, the more it will have a positive impact all the way around you, 360. And to the point where I've got a program which we've had, it was all self-leadership, and we got a return on investment of 12 as to one.

So for every $1 invested in that program, they got $12 back and they got 64 days of productivity back as well. Now, I'm not plugging the program, I'm plugging the value of self-leadership here. So the more you work on you, your emotional intelligence, your self-awareness, your mindset of moving towards a growth mindset, your ability to influence, understanding what you can control, what you can't control, and how you handle those, anything that does anything to amplify your self-leadership will have an absolute positive impact on your leadership in the organization.

AD : I love that, Sally, what a great way to wrap up. And that is a challenge for us all to take on ways that we can work on ourselves. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being with us today. Really appreciate your insights.

SFL : It's been an absolute honor, a privilege to be with NEGOTIATEx. So thank you so much for having me.

NM : And that is it for us on today's podcast. If you haven't already, please rate review and subscribe to the NEGOTIATEx podcast and we'll see you in the next episode.

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