Article Sign Up

Don't miss my articles
on Authoritas.
Find out more here »

About Jacquie

Jacquie Molloy guides senior leaders to develop and display leadership authority (what she calls Authoritas); helps Boards to discover the power (and imperative) of exploring differences of opinion through Debate; and shares the practices for personal authority, high-performing teams and cultural excellence with individuals and organisations so they can be Visible in all the right ways.

More about Jacquie »


Follow me on TwitterConnect with me on LinkedInLike me on Facebook


4 Reasons to be Receptive to What Others Think & Say 

If you want to increase the resonance and connection in your communications — whether that’s in how you hold a conversation with another person or how well you capture the attention of a room full of people — you need to be receptive to what others think and say.

Here's why:

1. It makes you a better listener — and we can all be better listeners. When you make a concerted effort to understand another's point of view (in other words, be willing to be less attached to your own view), you will not only hear better but you are more likely to hear nuances you would have missed. Nuances are the difference between feeling like you're discussing opposite points of view and knowing there is room for negotiation. Needless to say: priceless information.

2. It allows you to 'play back' and demonstrate awareness. One of the quickest ways to engage your reader or audience is to use some of the words or phrases they use to describe a problem or situation. Most organisations or departments have particular ways of talking about a project or issues — even creating slogans or statements to help guide the effort — be careful not to exclude others because ‘you all know what that means’.

3. It makes you more sensitive to what isn't being said. All of the skills discussed here help: listening well and demonstrating empathy allow you to be more perceptive about gaps, to frame and ask the right questions to elicit the information, and to help the other person feel more inclined to disclose information even if that might not reflect well on the organisation or leadership team. This is certainly a skill to hone and with practice you can distinguish when you are 'tapped in' and aware and when you are at risk of imputing motives.

4. It helps you to acknowledge the positives. The lure of being able to 'come in and solve the problem' is seductive — and not just for consultants! Of course, if you are a consultant, it is a large part of what you're being hired to do, but it isn't necessarily where you start. Consider too the new Board Director who can identify a change that would make meetings more effective or a new senior manager who knows how the team can set, and reach, breakthrough goals. Many times the organisation or department or Board or individual has already started to make changes or reach new goals, however incremental or remedial they might seem to new eyes, and these must be acknowledged. Everyone likes to be valued and appreciated — it's a basic desire built into our human nature. And when you acknowledge another person (or organisation or department) you open the door to share openly and build trust. 


Keep your eye on what matters most [3 tips]

It’s understandable that at this time of year, things feel busy. Crazy busy.
Too busy.
And if you haven't yet mastered how to set and keep the boundaries that allow you to stay focused on your actual priorities then chances are you will be overwhelmingly busy.
You’ll feel frustrated and all too aware of how many demands there are for your attention.
But are you the one getting in your own way?
Are you sabotaging yourself? Even just a bit?
It goes without saying that you want to be a good leader.
But if good health, a relaxed body, an open mind, and quality time with the family are also on your list of goals for 2018 then take note of these 3 tips:

1. Remember this ‘not enough time’ feeling and how much you hate it for next year! Get into your schedule with your EA now and block off dates and times for next November and December (at least) to give you a fighting chance of being able to complete your actual priorities and real deadlines — the ones that matter —  and provide you with ‘time in the bank’ for when you need it. Don't release these dates and times unless it is an honest-to-goodness high-value priority that only you can do. Otherwise keep them blocked until the week they fall due and then decide how best to use that time. (This is Boundaries 101.)

If your diary is your touchstone and dictates all you do, then also commit time in it for this: reflection, review, imagining, insight-generation, personal and professional development, conversations that allow you to learn about other. 

2. Knock off the passive aggressive non-communicative isolationist behaviour! Do you avoid replying to emails because you don't have the headspace to deal with it, have to say no, or because you resent having to deal with it in the first place? Clean communications are one of the hallmarks of great leadership. You can't be stuck in resentment or ‘wish you didn't have to’ and be a good leader. You are, however, able to delegate. Do that, effectively and well. (This is Managing Expectations 101.)
Are you hiding in your schedule? Are you using your title and your calendar as a way to hide behind your importance or avoid engaging? Ask yourself: is that real leadership?
3. Stop with the back-to-back and busy busy. If this is your day-in day-out MO, you not only do a disservice to those you are meeting with, you prevent yourself from developing and displaying genuine leadership authority — and getting the results (and reputation) you need in the short- and long term. You rob yourself of the chance to think critically and generate insights. Critical thinking and generating insights are the currency of your leadership. (This is Self Awareness 101.)
You’ve got to get out of the day-to-day fighting fires and business-as-usual mentality to do your job and elevate your leadership.
I’m not one for new years resolutions, but I do love a good dose of resolve.
How about you?



’Tis the season for feedback

Is it possible to observe and identify the good and the bad in others (‘the strengths and the opportunities’), particularly those who report to you? What might influence you without your being aware of it?

Do you know your own blindspots and biases?

I suggest that if you are not fully aware of your own blindspots and biases then it is not possible for you to be fully objective about others.
And you must bear this idea in mind when giving — and getting — feedback.

Working on stage has given me an interesting take on feedback and blindspots.
When you work in theatre, you are constantly getting feedback: from your
Director, from your Stage Manager, from your cast, the audience, the
critics, and even the furniture.
That's because the feedback isn't always formal.

Sometimes it's minor course correction (can we re-block this move to get you downstage without clipping that damn chair?); sometimes it's mirroring (I was flat tonight — no wonder the audience was so quiet); sometimes it's curiosity (why did you smile tonight on that line? It worked so well!); sometimes it's advice (your costume change is too slow — if we set up a blue light and mirror in the wings it'll be faster); and sometimes the feedback is biased and irrational (I don't know why I expected to like it — I've never liked her in anything).
The feedback is available from all directions. It can help you or it can just get in your head. Some of it feels useful; some of it irrelevant; and some of it too much about the person giving it.
The Director's feedback, however, is key.
The Director is the one you trust to see what you cannot.  
A good Director sets clear boundaries so you know when there is time and opportunity to push back or discuss and when it is time to simply accept direction and act, literally.
And a good Director understands the need for all of those dynamics to be part of the process: push back, discuss further, just do it.
You want that kind of environment too when you are giving, and receiving, feedback in your reviews.
Knowing our own blindspots requires us to see what we can’t — yeah ;) — so it can be challenging to be objective. Which is why it’s our responsibility to be able to question any feedback that doesn't feel right or relevant for us.

HEADS UP: This is not the same as being pre-emptively defensive about receiving any feedback.
And when we are the ones giving the feedback we need to stay alert to the responses and reactions — verbal and non verbal — that will clue us in on if and why someone might be having trouble hearing what we're saying.
Unfortunately though many review conversations are fuzzy.
If you’re being told you need to show more of something (gravitas, undefined, seems to be the leadership quality du jour), or you're being advised to stop a certain behaviour that doesn't feel like it was ever yours, then don't be shy about asking my favourite question:

can you give me a specific example of what you mean by that please?

If they don't have the specifics of a situation or can't fully explain a recommendation and set clear expectations about what exactly they are asking to see more of, then they haven't prepped or they are winging it or they are hiding behind the inherent power dynamic of reviews. Sorry to say this happens more than we’d like.
If it’s your review, then it’s your meeting. It’s up to you to get the right information that you need. And the best way is to ask for it.

(And most clear-thinking well adjusted individuals will welcome your active participation, respect the push to clarify and amplify their own thinking, and appreciate the opportunity to co-create what comes next.) 


How are you preparing to give and receive feedback this year?


Preparing for a Critical Conversation

Some people are naturally very good at conversation, no matter what the circumstances. Others appreciate tips – especially when it comes to what I call ‘critical conversations’.
Critical conversations can be short (you get 5 minutes with the Minister or the CEO or the Chair in between appointments) or long (a performance evaluation or a prelude to a negotiation). It could be with someone you don't know or don't know well. Or it could be someone you do know well — one of your direct reports — and you need to deliver some hard feedback or bad news.
Or it could be that you want to discuss some very good news. Don't be surprised that even the good news version can feel 'heightened' or uncomfortable.

A critical conversation, by its nature, means it requires intimacy, tact, sure-footedness — and it will almost certainly be 1:1. These conditions can be present in both positive and negative contexts.

Genuine intimacy — that is, our own vulnerability or the witnessing of someone else’s vulnerability — can make us feel uncomfortable, especially at work. We're uncomfortable because, for these conversations to be effective and productive, we need to bring all of ourselves into them, and sometimes that means feeling and showing some different sides to ourselves than we normally are comfortable sharing.

It's not possible to be intimate without risk. And critical conversations are risky (and human).

No wonder many execs put off asking for the conversation they need or want. Even for 5 minutes, and a potentially game-changing pay-off, the risk and discomfort feels too high.
But when you are a leader, your ability to build genuine intimacy in your important relationships is non-negotiable. You must be willing to create a safe and trustworthy dynamic within these conversations. And you must be willing to be vulnerable in the conversations that you need to have. 

If not, what is the point of having an open-door policy and claiming that you are approachable?

How do you prepare for critical conversations?
When I work with my clients to prepare their approach and messages for critical conversations, I guide them to drill down and define what a successful outcome will be (and what elements will be needed to ensure that), and I draw on a number of tools and practices to get them in the right ‘headspace’ and prepared to ride their, and the other person's, discomfort and emotional behaviours that might show up, including modelling some helpful language.
As we approach the time of year when you will be having many development and opportunity conversations — as well as terminations — how will you prepare yourself and your direct reports to show up in the most healthy, approachable and professional way?

I'd love to know!


Create a culture for men and women to thrive

We need to see more women represented at senior levels of our organisations as well as in fields that have historically been dominated by men. We want this if for no other reason than it will more accurately reflect the make-up and dynamics of the societies we live in. 
We should all have a strong appetite to ‘crack the code’ on this — not because it is politically correct to do so but because when we do we will have created an organisation or industry that attracts all kinds of talented, interesting people and probably attracts the kind of customers and clients and suppliers and contractors you want as well.
Only one thing stands in our way!
(Or at least makes it more difficult than a simple policy change.)
And the medical and social sciences all agree: Men and Women are different.
1. Anatomy, Chemistry and Electronics (nature). We have different hormonal make up. Hormones affect what we do and how we feel (that’s all of us by the way, not just women). And it’s not so much that our brains are wired differently, but that men and women use the neural circuitry in different ways. Plus there are actual anatomical differences between the male brain and the female brain. You can read some of the latest interesting research and findings around all this here and here.

2. Social Conditioning (nurture). Boys and girls are treated differently by our society from the moment they are born. And because of how we treat children while their brains are at their most impressionable, they develop cognitively in different ways.

And the family, society, media, culture — all of it — rewards certain behaviours to perpetuate and embed so that we know how a man (boy) should act and a how a woman (girl) should act.

Thus we have a kind of ‘worms and frogs’ conditioning for boys where we expect and, if not reward, then tolerate risk taking, action, getting dirty, being loud. And a kind of ‘kittens and flowers’ conditioning for girls where we expect and reward quietness, gentleness, stillness, helpfulness, being pretty.

For both genders, this conditioning can be debilitating — see next!
3. Sense of self  (independent belief). How we choose to see ourselves, and our rights and choices, as a result of all of this is what matters the most. We can choose any path, any behaviours, any ethics when we are consciously aware of who are and what we want. Doesn't make it easy though. If we are going against generations of insidious social conditioning there will be resistance and push back (from the outside and on the inside).

To make it harder, a lot of the time we won't even know that we are resisting.

We won't know, for example, that because the person on our team is a lot like someone else we know, we’re going to go out of our way to not engage or limit our exposure to them. (Think what this means if you are that person's leader! True story.) We might not know that the reason we are unable to accept or trust someone else’s experience or perspective is not because it is 'unlikely' or 'illogical' but simply because it is different from our own.  

How do we create an environment where both men and women are encouraged to actively display and demonstrate a range of traits, encompassing what we might refer to as the masculine and the feminine, the hard and the soft, the practical and the creative (even emotionally intuitive and 'available')?
How do we make it both impressive and desirable to continue to grow and develop as well rounded empathetic individuals — including a commitment to a healthy and vibrant personal or family life — instead of making it weak or unnecessary or remedial?
Quotas and incentives and gender-specific policies can certainly ‘push’ more women into each level of the org, but for us to enjoy all the benefits of a truly equal environment and culture we also need to understand how to both 'see' and ‘pull’ qualified and prepared women up into the organisation to senior levels.

We need to create a culture for both men and women to showcase the full range of masculine and feminine traits and capabilities — the full spectrum. When we do, we will give permission for people to belong and trust that there is a place for them — who they are, not who they pretend to be or think they should be based on the dominant gender representation.

And, if we're paying attention to the next generation, to what people under 25 value and desire out of their career, we will also be creating a culture and workplace that will attract and retain a wide assortment of smart and intelligent and creative and fair people.

How are you participating in developing such a culture?

If you'd like to step up, do more or start the bigger conversation in your team or through the organisation, here are some ways I can help you:
  • Invite me to speak — formally or informally — on one of my signature topics: Authoritas, Visible, Debate.  All of these topics can be used to launch a bigger discussion and skills work around permission and dynamics and how we can take responsibility for how we participate and how we influence those around us, explicitly and implicitly. 
  • Have a private conversation with me — explore working with me either in a consultative engagement or through a coaching relationship, structured over a period of time or as a one-off intensive. 
  • Read and learn and discuss! I recommend The Athena Doctrine by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio*. We can adapt my Executive Book Club program for this purpose — combining it with related resources that I curate for you — and I can facilitate conversations for you so you are able to fast-track how you extract the learning and apply to the org's broader initiatives of leadership and personal effectiveness and responsibility.
* If you've heard me speak on Authoritas, you'll know the significance of Athena, the Greek Goddess of War and Wisdom, for me so I'm inclined to think well of anyone who invokes her in the conversation of leadership ;) But make up your own mind — you can learn more about the book in this 3-minute video.   

Now is the perfect time to set up the way you need 2018 to unfold — for the good of all.