Monthly Archives: October 2011

Persuasion Skills for Leaders

Outstanding leaders envision the goals they would like to achieve.  They understand the current situation and determine what needs to be done to make their vision a reality. Realistically speaking, not many people are capable of doing this. However, this is just the first step.

The next step is to PERSUADE others to understand the vision and commit to themselves to achieve the goal. Here is where the PERSUASION skills come to play.

As a leader, you should be able to communicate your vision as well as the ways to achieve it. PERSUASION is a very touchy science. The message itself is very important and many people with leadership experience recognize it. However, the message, even a very powerful one, must be properly delivered.

Let me use a computer analogy. Computer can send a message to another computer only if they use the same protocol (a language computers talk to each other). This ensures that the message will be interpreted correctly.

In the case of human interaction, the proper framing of the message contributes to the correct interpretation of the message.

Framing is one of the many persuasion techniques that distinguished leaders use.

Adding PERSUASION TECHNIQUES to leader’s toolbox is CRITICAL.

In order to master persuasion skills both knowledge and practice are required.

I highly recommend Dr. Kevin Hogan’s Persuasion Science Courses. This is a great learning opportunity for everyone who needs to master persuasion skills.

The great thing about these skills is that you can practice and apply them almost everywhere: at work, in business, at home, and, of course, in non-profit organizations. 


 Photos appear under license agreement with istockphoto.


Political Skills of a Leader

It is difficult to imagine something even more controversial than politics and political skills of leaders. 

What is interesting is that if you ask two different people to define politics and political skills, you will get two different sets of definitions. 

I define politics as an art of presenting and defending interests of others (people or groups of people) while accomplishing leadership goals

Accordingly, the political skills is the ability to present and defend interests of others (people or groups of people) while accomplishing leadership goals.

While accomplishing leadership goals” is critical here. If you remove this part from the definition of political skills, you will get a definition of diplomatic skills.

Yes, diplomacy is essentially an art of presenting and defending interests of others. This is one of many definitions, of course!

What is the difference? Presenting and defending interests of others is the END GOAL of a diplomat. For leaders, this is just one of the means to achieve their LEADERSHIP GOALS based on their VISION. 

 There are three critical parts of political skills: 

  1. Excellent knowledge of the environment
  2. Excellent knowledge of the hierarchy of stakeholders related to leadership goals 
  3. Personal quality

The first two parts contribute towards understanding of terrain and allow to identify opportunities for presenting and defending interests of others while pursuing leadership goals. The third part allows leaders to take advantage of these opportunities. This part includes other leadership skills such as persuasion skills and negotiation skills as well as outstanding self-control (as I mentioned earlier in my articles, all leadership skills are interconnected).


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Delegation Skills for Success

 Delegation Leadership                                                                                                      As either formal or informal leader, you are only one person and can do the work for only one person.  A good leader leverages the effort of his team to accomplish goals.

Delegation is one of the most important leadership skills that contribute toward efficiency of a leader.

We can define delegation as the transfer of authority to other people for specific task or decision.

Proper delegation always involves excellent understanding of strong and weak sides of people you are leading, outstanding communication skills, ability to grant appropriate level of authority to the person, and ability to establish the feedback on the process.

Successful delegation will tremendously amplify your personal power. However, failed delegation can entirely kill your reputation and create turbulent environment around you.

I highly recommend practicing delegation skills outside of your work or business, until you reach at least intermediate level of competency.  

Many people mistakenly believe that only formal leaders can delegate.  Actually, both formal and informal leaders can leverage delegation skills. Nevertheless, the best delegation always involves the combination of both.

Delegation always involves two critical elements: RESPONSIBILITY and AUTHORITY.

To be ready for delegation, you need to understand the tasks, activities and duties that you can delegate.

It is also important to identify tasks and decisions that should not be delegated.

Strong leaders distinguish between the following four categories of jobs:

  • High importance/high urgency
  • High importance/low urgency
  • Low importance/high urgency
  • Low importance/low urgency

Usually leaders perform high importance/high urgency tasks themselves because there is not enough time to delegate successfully. 

Next, you need to decide to which of your team members you will delegate a task.

You should have a clear picture in your mind of what you want the person to whom you are delegating a task to achieve. Then, choose the level of control you need to execute. This will depend on two critical factors: SKILL LEVEL of a person, and the DEGREE TO WHICH YOU TRUST THIS INDIVIDUAL.

Moreover, it is vital to develop a method to monitor the progress of a person you delegate to.

Your next step is to state your expectations, including milestones and how they will report the progress.  Another important thing to do in order to prepare for your delegation is to allocate appropriate resources. Then, you need to implement the monitoring method.

If monitored task requires correction, you need to inform a person how you want to change the process.

After completion, you need to review the assignment. This review should provide a positive feedback including the lessons learned to improve the future performance. 

Here is an example. Let’s assume that You need to prepare a meeting and decided to delegate the following tasks:

  • Reserve a conference room
  • Pick up an electronic key
  • Print out agenda
  • Configure projector and laptop for Power Point Presentation.

You ask person A to reserve a room (ask him if he had ever done this before; if not send him an email with detailed steps required to accomplish this task). Ask him to forward you the confirmation email (to make sure that the room has been reserved); be very specific regarding the deadline and if you don’t get an email, follow up to identify the status of the task. 

Ask person B to pick up an electronic key (Instruct her to do it several hours before the meeting and send you an email to confirm.) Also, ask person B to print out the agenda two hours before the meeting and send you a confirmation email. Make sure that she has appropriate resources (file with agenda). These two tasks are relatively simple and you should not be concerned too much. Check your email one hour before the meeting and if you still did not get a confirmation, then, do it yourself.

The last task requires a person who already has experience configuring projector and laptop. If you have a person with this experience, make sure that he has a laptop and that the conference room has a projector (this info should be included in the confirmation email from person A). Call him three hours before the meeting to make sure that he is available and keep in mind the assignment. Remember, technology sometimes does not work, so print out Power Point Presentation to backup yourself.

The next level of delegation skills is to delegate responsibility that in turn involves delegating responsibility.

Toastmasters International is a great place to practice this advance skill. Toastmaster of the Day (whose responsibility is to prepare and facilitate a meeting) supposed to delegate responsibility to General Evaluator, who in turn needs to delegate part of that responsibility to each member of her team.

I will provide information related to other CRITICAL LEADERSHIP skills in my future articles.


 Photos appear under license agreement with istockphoto.


Leadership Skills Development and Non-profit Organizations

Let’s take a look at different types of non-profit organizations. There are many types of non-profit organizations, however, in the article I would like to focus on the following two types:
1.  Organizations whose primary goal is to develop and promote specific professional skills.
2.  Organizations whose primary goal is to develop leadership skills.
The Project Management Institute is one example of a professional organization. Its primary goal is to help project managers to develop project management skills and promote Project Management Body of Knowledge.
Professional nonprofits have numerous volunteering leadership positions that can help you develop your leadership skills. In addition, you will have a great opportunity to build your professional and business network.   
One example of the second type of non-profit organization is Toastmasters International. Its primary goal is to create a mutually supportive positive environment, in which people can develop leadership and communication skills.
Toastmasters International offers two different tracks to its members: the communication track and the leadership track.
General Public knows Toastmasters International as an organization that developed highly skilled speakers and leaders. Yet, this organization is primarily associated with development of public speaking skills. However, this summer Toastmasters International announced rebranding with main emphasis on Leadership Development.
From experiences of many people, as well from my personal experience, I know that Toastmasters International creates excellent framework to practice leading different groups of people ranging from 20-40 people at the Club level to thousands of people at the District level.
Toastmasters International provides high quality leadership manuals. However, people can either fully explore this opportunity and earn leadership skills and habits or take a more formal approach to complete the manual.
I will discuss in my future articles the best ways to leverage this organization to maximize leadership development.
By the way, the cost of membership is almost symbolic. At the end of 2011, the membership fee is $39 for six month (It includes several manuals.). 
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