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The Champion Forum Podcast

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The Leadership Skill Top-Level Managers Master

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Your leadership style sets the tone for your team and the results that you will yield. But how do you know what leadership style to choose? Can you change your leadership style if it is ineffective? In this episode, Jeff will give you several techniques you can use to build the confidence you need to become assertive. When you start using these strategies, you will also become more productive, efficient, and respected.

Three Types of Leaders

Passive: People who avoid conflict, get taken advantage of, and apologize often. You might be a passive leader if your team is always late to meetings, deadlines are missed, or you are being publicly disrespected.

Aggressive: Aggressive leaders are quick to criticize others and be dismissive of others' opinions. Sometimes they act like this because they don’t want to be seen as weak, they are falling in line with an aggressive leadership culture in their company, or they are naturally prone to outbursts of anger. Aggressive leaders see hurting other people as a by-product of successful communication and aren’t afraid to attack others if it will help them get their way. They lead by inspiring fear instead of confidence.

Passive-Aggressive: Passive-aggressive leaders want to avoid confrontation and do so by being manipulative so that they can highlight their power. Leaders who are passive-aggressive are often insecure, so they avoid interacting with their people and place a wall between themselves and their subordinates.

Assertive: Assertive leaders communicate their feelings and opinions truthfully and seek ways to create solutions that are win-win. Assertive leaders respect others and expect to be respected. They value a fair exchange of ideas and are firm without being hurtful or dismissive of their team members.

Q: What kind of leadership do you think you naturally gravitate toward? Go through each of these types. In your experience, what is it like working with each of these types of leaders? What other behaviors characterize these types of leaders?

Steps to Being A More Assertive Leader

1. Voice Your Needs and Wants Confidently

Do not wait for other people to recognize your needs. Instead, clarify what you need in your mind and determine what steps you or others will need to take to see that need met. Finally, tell your people exactly what it is that you need so that they can meet your expectations.

Q: How have you seen people respond to a confident leader? What is the difference between a confident leader and a cocky leader? How can a leader help people see them as confident instead of cocky? How can a leader help people see them as confident instead of doubtful?

2. Acknowledge That You Can't Control Other People's Behavior

Passive leaders overthink what the other person might say or how they might react. Don't make the mistake of accepting responsibility for how people react to your assertiveness. You can only control yourself and your own behavior, so do your best to stay calm if things get tense. If you believe in what you are doing and saying, then it is your obligation to deliver the message to your team, regardless of how they react.

Q: Why do you think it is so important for a leader to realize that they cannot control other people? How do you think understanding this will help build your confidence and empower you to be assertive?

3. Learn to say NO

Saying "no” is hard to do, especially when you're not used to doing it. Trying to please everyone will earn you a reputation for being indecisive and a pushover. Remember, you can't possibly do everything or please everyone. Setting clear boundaries will help you manage your tasks more effectively.

Q: Why do people find it hard to say no? How can you say “no” without looking lazy?

4. Use Assertive Communication Techniques

  • Use "I" Statements

    • Use the words "I want," "I need," or "I feel," to communicate your expectations and get your point across firmly.

    • For example: "I feel strongly that we need to bring in a third party to mediate this disagreement."

  • Empathy

    • Make an effort to recognize and understand how the other person views the situation before you make your own point.

    • For example: "I understand that you're having trouble working with Janelle, but this project needs to be completed by Friday. Let's all sit down and come up with a plan together."

  • Escalation

    • If your first attempts at asserting yourself have been unsuccessful, then you may need to escalate the matter.

    • Be more firm and explain what will happen if your expectations are not met. Follow up and hold that person or team accountable.

    • Remember, firm does not mean getting mean and nasty.

    • For example: "Jacqueline, this is the third time this week I've had to speak to you about arriving late. If you're late once more this month, I will activate the disciplinary process."

  • Change Your Verbs

    • Try using verbs that are definite and emphatic when you communicate.

    • To do this, use verbs like "will" instead of "could" or "should," "want" instead of "need," and "choose to" instead of "have to."

    • For example: "I will be going on vacation next week, so I will need someone to cover my workload."

      • A passive leader might say:

      • “I want to go on vacation next week, so I could use someone’s help in covering my workload.”

Q: Can you think of a time when you have used either weak or assertive language? Did you see the results you wanted after that conversation? Why do you think people shy away from using assertive language?

Application Activities

  1. Confidence is an important part of being assertive. Journal about a time when you overcame an obstacle. Think about how it felt, how you made your decisions and the outcome. Acknowledging your past success will help you feel more confident in your ability to navigate challenging situations in the future.

  2. Practice using “I” statements in your next accountability conversation. Plan out what you are going to say before you go into the conversation so this language will come more easily. As you plan out the conversation, ensure that you leave time to ask questions. Schedule more time for the meeting than you think you will need so you can listen without being rushed and engage in genuine curiosity about their feelings and needs.


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