Webinar Recap: The Art of Modern Leadership

Please find a transcription of the audio portion of Ravi Raman’s The Art of Modern Leadership webinar being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions such as those steps included in product demonstrations. Watch the complete webinar on-demand at your convenience.


The Art of Modern Leadership
Posted: 4/25/2018
Presenter: Ravi Raman
Moderator: Kyle


01:50 – Slide 1 (Introduction): About a year ago, I got the chance to share a topic I care about which is achievement and goal setting but today I’m even more excited. I get to talk about a topic I think is especially important right now and that’s the topic of leadership. I titled this the “The Art of Modern Leadership” deliberately using “art” and “modern”, those two words. Leadership really is an art and as I talk about the content today and share some ideas and principles around leadership, I want to make it super, super clear that how this shows up in your own career, your own business will be unique. Leadership is an art because the same principles applied by 100 different people yield 100 different results. But what I am confident of is if you do apply some of the principles and ideas we talk about today, it will move your leadership capacity forward. That’s what I mean by the art of leadership. I put in “modern” in the title because I think we’re now in a world that is uniquely situated for all of us to step up and be leaders. We’re now no longer working in an environment where only people with the biggest title can be leaders. In fact, I think we all know, maybe even have experienced working people who had the big title but we wouldn’t consider a leader. I know I’ve had that experience personally and on the flip side, I think we’ve all had experience of working with people who may have been early in their career, didn’t have the big title and yet they struck us as tremendous leaders. Modern leadership is about leading regardless of your title, regardless if you’re being asked to lead or not and regardless as to whether you actually manage a team or not because frankly we’re all project managers, we’re all up to something. We all have a change to exhibit leadership in a profound way and I think that’s exciting about the way businesses operate now where you really can lead from anywhere.


04:07 – Slide 2 (About Me): Now, a little bit about me. I am an executive coach, I work with people who are interested in making something amazing in their businesses, in creating something great in their careers. Most of my clients work in the tech center. I’m coaching leaders at Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and a handful of startups. Some are C-level executives, most are middle to upper level managers and they’re looking to step up their leadership game. Get more done and just feel better about their career and the direction it’s moving in. Now before that I spent almost 14 years working at Microsoft where I was a leader for 6-7 years in the office division and another 6-7 years in the Windows and Cloud groups. This is a topic that really hits close to home. I experienced what it’s like to work in an environment with tremendous leaders. Experienced what it’s like when there’s a lack of leadership and I just know how much better it is to have strong leadership and feel like you’re moving forward in your own leadership capacity.


05:18 – Slide 3 (Who this talk is for): This talk is for a wide variety of people. When people think about leadership, they tend to think of “oh, I need to be a manager, or a CEO or running my own company for this to be relevant”. But the truth is, this talk is relevant for anyone. If you’re a CEO, you might be interested in how to create a vision that’s more inspiring from your team and how to get buy-in from people. If you’re say a project management or program management leader in your company, you might just be looking to be more influential in your role to move your career forward. If you’re an individual contributor, knowledge worker, you might just be looking to make a difference. To get more engaged, feel like you’re performing better in your job. So this talk is for all of the above if you’re looking to be a leader. The truth is, leadership is not just limited to our careers. We get to establish and demonstrate leadership in our personal lives, with our families, with our friends, social communities that we’re part of and so no matter which place you are in your career, this talk will be relevant for you.


06:30 – Slide 4 (What you will learn today): What we’re going to talk about are essentially 3 things. The first is leadership because it’s hard to have a conversation about anything until we’re clear on what exactly it is and leadership can be one of those buzzwords that’s just misunderstood  and it can be very confusing to people. So we’ll spend a bit of time talking exactly about what it is. We’ll also talk about why it matters. I think I’m preaching to the choir, I think all the MPUG members “get” leadership, it’s part of your competency. Developing plans I’m sure but I want to share just a few data points to help you understand why right now is an important time for each of us to look at our leadership level and ask “how can we step up our game?”. Most of the time we’re going to spend today is on how to lead effectively and the way I like to give talks is…I know I’m basically talking to you right now, we will have some time for questions in the end but I want to make this interactive. As I talk about how you can lead effectively, I’ll do that by sharing some exercises you can go through that will help you actually apply things we’re going to talk about.


07:42 – Slide 5 (Call to Action): To make this interactive, I want everyone to, as much as possible, close your email, close your web browser and feel like this is an interactive training for you. In fact, if you can open a tab in your OneNote, a fresh tab where you can take a few notes that’s perfect. If you’re a pen and paper person, have a clean sheet of paper available in front of you with a pen so that you can jot down some notes and insights that come to you as we’re talking.


08:16 – Slide 6 (How satisfied are you?): In fact, we’re going to start with having you explore a question. If you were to think about your own leadership right now and just do your own gut check on how satisfied you are with your leadership right now, what comes to mind? Are you super, super happy with the level of leadership you’re demonstrating in your day to day work? Or do you feel like you’re showing up, you’re doing a good job but you’re not really stepping up and considering yourself a leader. Now I know this is a self-assessment, self-assessments aren’t perfect but they’re at least going to help you get clear where you are right now. So on your sheet of paper or on your OneNote, if you were to rate yourself, 0 to 10, how satisfied are you with your leadership? Right now, what would you say? Just 0 to 10, whatever number comes to you. Just go ahead and write that down. Maybe you’re a 7, 8 or 9. You feel like you’ve been volunteering for projects, proposing ideas and sort of moving things forward. Maybe you’re 5 or less. You’re feeling like you’re stagnant, you’re doing work but you’re not really stepping up and seeing yourself as a leader in any capacity. Just write a number down, you don’t have to share it with anyone. Now I want you to think of a second question. As you think forward to end of 2018, now we’re talking in April 2018 for those on the recording, look ahead 6 months towards the end of the year and imagine you’ve really been able to make massive progress in terms of your leadership capacity in whatever way you’re thinking about it right now. How satisfied do you want to be in 6 months, in 8 months, towards the end of the year? On a 0 to 10 scale, where do you want to be? Do you want to be an 8,9 or 10? Do you want to just move from a 3 to a 5? Go ahead and write down a number. The reason I’m asking you these questions  is because once we start getting clear on where we are in whatever competency we’re looking to improve and we get oriented in a direction of improvement…let’s say moving from a level 6 to a level 9, all of a sudden our mind starts working behind the scenes to ask: how can it close that gap? I hope right now you’re feeling like you have a certain level of leadership today but you want to improve and move forward.


10:42 – Slide 7 (14%): If you’re not really sure that this is super important, I want to share a few datapoint that I discovered that just underscore the fact that leadership really matters. There was a study down just a few months ago…this study was incredibly exhaustive. They surveyed 28,000 leaders in over 2500 companies and a whole set of the questions revolved around leadership. What was stark to me is that in the responses from CEOs, company leaders, they explored the perception of these CEOs as to whether they felt that they had a strong bench. Now a bench, as you can imagine, as the direct reports of a CEO leadership team and a strong bench would mean someone has no concerns that they have the right skills and talents and people capacity to accommodate anyone who might be retiring or moving on or dealing with any turn of their company. Amazingly only 14% of the CEOs at these companies felt like they had a strong enough bench and when we just look at how many people work in organizations, it’s staggering to me that there would be such a low number here, such a large gap and that more companies don’t feel like they have a strong bench and I think this underscores the need for all of us to ask how can you be a bigger and better leader.


12:07 – Slide 8 (For CEOs, It’s Still About Developing Leaders:): Now, the second thing I    found from this study was just how top-of-mind leadership and talent issues are for CEOs. In fact they explored the top challenge that CEOs were seeing in their businesses and then looking at the responses I expected to see things like fears of a reception or competitive threats or even technology and security threats as being among the top challenges that CEOs would see but the truth is two of the top 10 challenges related to developing next-gen leaders or other talent related concerns. I hope you really are feeling like leadership is a crucial, crucial thing for all of us to to do something about.


12:55 – Slide 9 (Picture of a bookshelf): You’re probably thinking “okay, how do I do something about it. Leadership is a buzzword and so now what do I go do?”. Well, this is where it gets very confusing. I was at Barnes & Noble down the street from me the other day. There’s an entire book case, this isn’t the bookcase they had but they had a separate book case just on leadership books. Actually this morning, just for fun, I went to Amazon and I search for leadership and guess how many books on leadership there are? Just take a guess, you can even write it down on your sheet of paper. Over 100,000. 100,000 leadership books in the English language mind you, on Amazon and so it’s very easy to get confused on how to go and build leadership. One book will talk about levels of leadership and ways to move between levels. Another book, and the irony of this just is amazing, I have one book on my shelf over here next to me in my office that’s on fearless leadership and another book on mindful leadership. Two opposing concepts.


14:12 – Slide 10 (The Art of Modern Leadership): What I’m going to talk about is what I believe not to be another framework. I don’t think that’s what you need but what I see is two core ingredients to leadership that I think as we talk about them will strike you as being both intuitively obvious and also important and these two qualities are what I believe go into the art of modern leadership.


14:38 – Slide 11 (Picture of a road): The first quality is…leaders have a sense of direction. It sort of makes sense, doesn’t it? Think about someone who is a leader in your life. Could be the leader of your company or somebody you just know in the world, who is really some you consider a super leader. Do they have a sense of direction or they do they feel a bit lost and are just reacting to what the world throws at them? Well if you see things the way I see it you see it…that the strongest leaders tend to have a sense of direction and in fact they’re up to something big in the world and so when we think about modern leadership one core quality is having a strong sense of direction and we’re going to spend quite a bit of time today exploring your sense of direction, what it is and if you don’t feel like you have one how to create one. That’s the first quality.


15:26 – Slide 12 (Picture of birds flying): The second quality of modern leadership is leaders have followers. Again, I’m stating the obvious here but it is an important thing to understand. I mean there are lots of ways to do great work and lots of people that do great work but there are fewer who can turn around look behind them and see if people are genuinely following. Now doing great work will make you a fantastic knowledge worker but if you have followers behind you who are not only connected to you but engaged in whatever mission you’re on, then you’re truly a leader and that’s the second quality. So not only having a sense of direction but having followers and so the second thing we’re going to talk about today is how to think about a following. Both in terms of connecting to people and relating to people in a way that they get really engaged in whatever you’re up to. Those are the two things we’re going to talk about today and then address a few common questions that tend to come up in working with clients and also what I’ve witnessed myself working on leadership. I’ll just proactively address those and then we’ll have some time for questions and answers at the end.


16:45 – Slide 13 (What are you up to?): So here’s a question for you and it’s an important one: what are you up to? Being up to something is important. Now most people when I ask…what are you really up to, they’ll proceed to give me the entire laundry list full of all the projects they’re working on…all the to-dos they have going, all the meetings they have scheduled. All the double booked meetings they have on their calendar and it’s a whole bunch of tasks and activities but really when I asked this question I’m asking something deeper. I’m asking it what’s the mission you’re on? What’s the direction you’re heading in and for someone who maybe is a team leader this is an interesting question but it applies to you even if you’re an individual contributor. You know, just imagine for example a CEO and imagine if the CEO was simply spending all her time reacting to the needs of the company, delivering projects but just going through the motions and plowing through an action item list and imagine if this CEO didn’t really have a vision. Didn’t really have a mission,  didn’t operate their company with a set of core values and didn’t really have a journey that he or she was leading the company on. Would you consider that person a strong CEO? Well, I wouldn’t and when we ask ourselves about our own level of leadership, it’s important to ask “okay what are you up to?” Beyond the to-dos and tasks, beyond the double booked meetings and all the other stuff that’s going on in your career and your life, ultimately, where is all this moving towards?


18:27 – Slide 14 (Passion/Purpose): Now a way to explore all this that can help, particularly if you feel like you’re just super busy don’t have time to even think about how to be a leader. Is to ask yourself when it comes to the work you’re doing if you have a sense of direction, if you feel like you’re up to something big? That’s fantastic, you can just listen to this and just get what you get from it. If you feel like you’re just drowning in the minutiae, I’d like you to ask yourself two things: when it comes to your work, what do you really care about? In other words, what are you passionate about? That’s question number one. And question number two is: what’s meaningful for your team, your company? In other words, what has a high degree of purpose because here’s the trick: when we can align the work we’re doing, at least a chunk of the work we’re doing, around a set of things that both interest us significantly, these are things we’re passionate about, with a set of things that have a deep sense of meaning, not only for us but for our team, then we’ve hit the jackpot. Then we’re working in carving out some of our time and energy to apply on something that’s both fulfilling for us and fulfilling for our team and then all the sudden your sense of direction starts to become more clear. All of a sudden when your team starts providing feedback perhaps on your annual review or as they start reflecting on what it’s like to work with you, to others or start giving you feedback, you start noticing that they feel like you’re up to something. Another example: let’s suppose I’m the director of project management for a large construction company. My entire day and I have a team. My entire day is managing a dozen projects around the world and my singular goal is making sure projects get done on time and on budget. My entire day is simply spent doing my work. Meeting to meeting, running my projects, that’s what I do. And maybe as that person I feel like I’m not really being a leader. Yes I’m getting great work done but I’m not really moving the team forward to deal with the next set of challenges that the company has to get prepared for now. As that director ofPM,  I might ask myself “what are the set of things I care about and what does the company really need going forward?” and I might discover the following: I might discover I have a whole bunch of passions. Maybe I have some passions around data and analytics. Maybe I really care about new technologies. Maybe I care about product innovation. And maybe where most of my job is spent just proverbially keeping the trains running on time and delivering projects, I really care about how we can manage projects in a way where we can help teams be more Innovative at the early phases of the project. Maybe that’s my passion and maybe when I looked at the company I see that there’s really an opportunity to help the company be more innovative. Maybe I see that my company, while we’re delivering great projects, we’re not seeing as the most Innovative player in our field. Maybe I noticed that we’re losing some deals to competitors that are more Innovative in how they design building. That’s a great example where I can integrate passion and purpose and ask myself how can I carve out time to help my company and team think more innovatively and use project management methods to help with innovation processes in my company. So again, it’s really about stepping away from the day-to-day and ask yourself “what direction do I want to head on that’s not just doing a job well done but helping to move things forward in a way that matters now.


22:17 – Slide 15 (Being vs Doing): There’s another quality as we talk about the direction you’re headed in that’s as important if not more important than what you’re actually doing. In fact, think about someone who you believe is just a remarkable leader. Absolutely remarkable, could be anyone. Someone you work with, someone in the world. What is it about him or her that makes them a remarkable leader and I want you to really think about this. What is it about them that make them a remarkable leader? Now if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking “sure, they get stuff done, sure they deliver projects but there’s something beyond what they do”. That makes them a remarkable leader. It’s how they’re doing their job that makes them a remarkable leader In fact it’s not just about the doing, it’s who they’re being. And so as we go about doing our work, an important question to ask is “what kind of person do I need to be as a leader, as someone who is taking on a new project, someone who is working on leading a team. What kind of person do I need to be in order to get to to be a leader?


23:28 – Slide 16 (Being): “Do I need to be someone who is confident? That is open-minded? Do I need to be someone who is willing to let go of low priority projects to make time for the high-priority ones? Is it someone who needs to be focused so that I can carve out the time to really devote to the projects that will help me be a good leader and help myself in my company?” The question for you is as you start thinking about your direction and what you can do, ask yourself what kind of person you need to be. If you have trouble thinking about this, go to your favorite search engine and type in adjectives. You can say “ways of being adjectives” and you can come up with a list of a thousand adjectives and you can start scanning to see which ones give you a gut sense of being true in terms of the kind of person you need to be as you’re going about your work to be a leader. The truth is, neuroscience now showing, psychology research is now showing that how we impact others is far beyond what we’re actually doing. In fact, as I was reading a study that showed in communication that 7% of the information is transferred by our actual words, another twenty-five to thirty percent is transferred by vocal tonality and then the vast majority is sort of a mystery. That people come away with an impression of others and an impression of teams not just based on what you’re saying with your words. So focusing on the doing and being is all about again you’re having a sense of direction and the important thing is not to feel like your sense of direction is the perfect one, it’s to feel like you have one and then as you start engaging with your team and with the world, you can have all that as you go.


25:24 – Slide 17 (Who’s following you?): That’s quality one, right? What direction are you headed in? Two is if you look behind you, who’s following you? I mean if you think about the work you do, are there people you feel like are following you? Now following is an interesting thing because I’m not saying that they’re people who agree with you. In fact, if you’re like me, some of the people who are most bought into your concepts and ideas who are truly engaged people following you are your biggest critics. You know, they feel so close and connected to you that they’re able to raise objections, they’re able to raise disagreements. Following simply means “are there people who feel like they’re up to the same goals as you? Are on the same mission. They care about what you care about. So the question is how can we create a following and work on this aspect of our leadership?


26:19 – Slide 18 (Connection + Engagement): Now if you read a lot of books or listen to Ted Talks, you might come away with the sentiment that building a following is just about being a better presenter. It’s about being more influential but I actually don’t see that’s the case. I know plenty of outstanding leaders who are not the best presenters in the room who don’t have brilliant PowerPoint slides. I mean my powerpoint slide that I’m showing you right now, this deck is pretty simple, there’s nothing great about it. You know it’s less about just being incredible at communicating your ideas. It comes down to something much, much deeper than that.And I believe there are two ingredients when it comes to having a following that matters. And these are two things that we can both work on our in our day-to-day work. The first quality is focusing on connecting to people and I mean truly connecting to people and we’re going to spend some time talking about what this means and how you can practice. The second is understanding the difference between someone who is simply going along and someone who is truly engaged because when someone is truly engaged, that’s the mark of amazing leadership versus someone who is simply following along. So these are two elements of having a following that go into being an outstanding leader.


27:44 – Slide 19 (Drawing): Now let me share a little scenario when it comes to connecting to people. Let’s suppose that I’m director of project management, again I work at a construction company and I really, really care about rethinking how we do project management at a fundamental and I believe that we need to be more agile in terms of the methods we use to be more innovative. I feel really, really passionate about that. In fact, I feel so passionate and spend a lot of time thinking about it. I do research, I talk to people, start scoping out what it might look like to run some projects using a new method of project management. A whole bunch of ideas but I know that in order to make these ideas work, I need to engage with other people. I need to go out and talk to Bob in finance and Sue in the sales team and I need to talk to Rick the CEO and I have to get some feedback and start seeing I get some buy-in and engagement from people. I think about “okay let me go and build a connection to people so that I can just get out of me—thinking about this idea and start putting it into the world”. As I go out, I start meeting with people. I meet with Bob and Sue and Rick and I meet with the CEO and other people and I start talking. Start talking all the time, I’m thinking of how great my idea is, how amazing it is and I’m just waiting for them to say yeah that’s a great idea. And all the while I think I’m building deep, deep connection with people but in truth and listen very carefully, this is subtle but important: I think I’m building connection with all these people but in truth, I’m just listening to my own thinking. Because the truth is when we often times when you go in and engage with people, engage with a hole, like a briefcase full of ideas of our project and in a sense, instead of truly listening to other people and connecting with what they have to say with nothing on our mind, we tend to listen to other people through the filter of whatever it is we’re thinking. So if I go and talk to Bob and Bob “here’s my idea”, takes a deep breath and says “you know, we’ve tried that before. We tried it before 10 years ago and 5 years ago and here are 5 reasons why it doesn’t work”. What’s the likelihood that I’m really going to listen to what Bob has to say? Really listen to his disagreement. Really probe and be curious about the reasons behind the rationale of what he’s saying? Well, if I’m stuck in my head and convinced my idea is the only right idea then I’m just going to listen to Bob but I’m also in my mind going to pay more attention to my own thinking which is going to say “yeah, Bob’s crazy” and I’m going to move on and while I think I’m connecting to Bob, I’m really just reinforcing my own ideas. Likewise, if I go to Sue and Sue’s like “oh my gosh, I’ve been thinking about this too. I can’t wait it was a brilliant idea. In fact, here are some ways we can take action on it”. All of a sudden, instead of listening to Sue and maybe probing for some more depth in her answer, maybe asking her for a rationale…maybe helping her explore in see “well, are there reasons she thinks the project idea might not work?”. I’m just going to, again, connect to my own thinking and say “wow, Sue agrees, that’s great, that’s awesome”. And so instead of truly listening to people without much on our mind, we’re just listening through the filter. We’re amplifying what we hear people say what we want to hear and we tend to dismiss what people say that we don’t want to hear but there’s a different way that leaders should listen if they’re interested in really connecting to people. That is listening with less on their mind. Now, forgive my cheap stick figure drawing, I’m not the best artist but so here here I am. Without trying to agree or disagree, really being curious about the other person. I’m really trying to connect and the truth is when I think about leaders that are high-level leaders even when I disagree with their ideas, I feel like I’m connected to. I feel like I’m being listened to. In fact I remember countless times when I was working for leaders who you know we had disagreements but I felt incredibly connected because I felt hurt. I felt like they listen to my ideas, they listen to my reasons why I disagree. And even if we ended up moving in a different direction than I thought was right, I was still connected and moving along because I felt her and I did not feel dismissed.


32:48 – Slide 20 (Listen): And the irony of highest level leadership is that it starts not by just working on the power of your communication skills to bowl people over with your ideas. It starts by being able to build connection by truly, truly listening.  ]Just think to a time when you felt really listened to you. You can’t help but be connected and there’s a way to practice this and I’m going to offer an experiment for you.


33:14 – Slide 21 (An Experiment): I call this “listening for leaders” and what’s cool about the MPUG community is you have a great peer group in which you can practice. So here’s the experiment: sometime in the next week, I’d like you to find someone to pair up with. Maybe another MPUG member you can trade emails after and pair up. And here’s what you’re going to do. You’re each going to talk for about 9 minutes. It doesn’t matter what you talk about. In fact, you can pick a project that you care about. You can talk about your favorite sports team and if you want to keep it work-related that would be fine but it really doesn’t matter. Now each of you are going to speak for 9 minutes and the person who’s listening is going to do the following.For the first 3 minutes, you’re going to listen like you approve of every single thing the other person is saying. I think we all know how to do this. When we’re with our friend and we’re often very approving even if they say something crazy so what you’re going to do is just going to do in terms of your responses, your head nodding and your inner state, imagine “wow, I’m just going to agree. Agree to everything this person is saying”. Inwardly. And you’re going to nod and smile and do whatever it is, natural to you to agree. So for the first 3 minutes that’s what you’re going to d. Then I’d like you to switch. Instead of agreeing, I want you to reject everything they say. Now we all have experience doing this, there are some conversations where I feel like everything the other person says I’m just disagreeing with. I think we all have that experience sometimes so as the other person is talking, so for 3 minutes, just imagine that you’re denying, that you’re negating everything they’re saying. Nothing they say is right. You’re putting that filter on and you’re listening and then for the final 3 minutes, you’re going to listen with nothing on your mind. You’re going to listen in a complete neutral open-minded way. So that’s a 9 minute experiment you’re going to agree for 3 minutes, disagree for 3 minutes and then just be neutral. Now you’re not going to speak, you’re just going to listen but have that inner feeling of agreeing, disagreeing and neutral then after nine minutes switch. After you’ve switched, you can debrief with your partner and notice what you notice. Now having done this a lot myself and having coached many, many people it’s incredible what people start noticing as they practice this. One thing they notice is that while they thought they’ve been listening for most of their life, they really aren’t. They’re listening through a set of filters. The second is the experience of listening with nothing on your mind is incredible. My clients say that they’re incredibly more curious about the other people. They feel like they’re more clear on what questions they asked and they feel like they’re building a stronger sense of connection with the other person. In fact when you’re the receiver when you’re actually listening and also when you’re talking when you’re the only one speaking, you feel like you’re really being heard and if being a leader is about being connected to people listening is where it starts. So this is an experiment, I hope you all get to practice it. If you can’t practice with someone in person and I hope you do, you can even practice this in a meeting where you’re not talking, you’re just listening, practicing inwardly. Agreeing, disagreeing or being neutral.  You can practice when you’re watching a video or a training video and just notice how the filters in our mind can get in the way of building a strong sense of connection.


36:54 – Slide 22 (Engagement): Now there’s another element to to having a following that matters. Have you ever had the experience of leading a team or maybe leading a project or where you’re just pulling teeth? Where you feel like you have to beat the drum every day, every week for stuff to happen? When you feel like you need to be on top of people to make sure work gets done? Well it’s in those scenarios where there’s a lack of engagement and if you’re looking to be a high-level leader, it’s crucial that you not only have connections to people but they’re following. I mean imagine if you’re all in a boat and people on the right are just passive and the people on the left are engaged. And they’re rowing and people on the right are passive and not rowing, what would happen? Well the boats not going to move very, very fast but it’s even worse, the boats going to go in circles. The question for you is how can you not only be up to something that’s important, that matters to you, matters to your company? Not only can you be connected but can you start noticing the difference when your team is passively active and truly, truly engaged? And one way to start understanding how to start creating an engagement is to feel the difference in your own life of the difference between passive activity and engagement.


38:13 – Slide 23 (An Experiment): Here’s an experiment. I’d like you to pick something that you do, you can pick something at any part of your life, could be something work-related like a weekly status report or something at home like mowing the lawn, something that you know you’re going to do. You know you’re going to do, you always do it but it’s really a drag. You know what I mean? It’s like “wow don’t really want to file my expense report. I’ll get it done at the eleventh hour, it’s going to get done but I’m not super excited about it” and I want you to personally do this experiment. Pick something like that. And for the next week I want you to do that thing like it’s the best thing in the world. I want you to do that thing like this really is super cool and there’s nothing else you’d rather do so for me it was mowing the lawn. And so if I’m getting engaged mowing the lawn, I’m on the lawn like I love to mow the lawn. The important thing in this exercise is to notice the difference you experienced in yourself when you’re engaged doing something versus when you just passively getting it done because once you start intrinsically understanding the difference, it’ll be much easier to spot it with others as you go about running a team whether it’s your own team or it’s a virtual team you’re managing via a project.


39:34 – Slide 24 (Leadership Panel): Let me just recap everything at a high level. Again, the last thing I want to do is dump another framework on you, there are enough of those when it comes to leadership. But I want to orient around all the ground we’ve covered. We started talking about leadership and we talked about two qualities, two ingredients that go into a leader. And these make sense. Leaders have a direction, they’re up to something. Leaders have a following. If no one’s behind you you’re doing great work but you’re not a leader. If you don’t have a direction, you might only be a leader because you have the title but it doesn’t mean you’re truly a leader. When it comes to having a direction, the question for you is “are you doing what you need to do, not only that interest you but that’s really important for your company long-term?”.  This means stepping away from the things that are always urgent and focusing on things that are really important. And who are you being as you’re doing that work? Are you being confident, patient and mindful? Are you being stressed out and worried?Because who you’re being, that matters a lot terms of the outcomes and how people perceive you. On the following side, we spoke about being connected and you get to practice that in terms of your quality of listening and you can start noticing instantly how you can create connection through the power of your listening. Enter engagement, moving beyond passive activity to being engaged and you get to practice that by picking one or two things and practice being engaged. While we spoke about leadership breaking it down from left to right, the truth is we start on the right hand side. Just start doing stuff, being a certain way. We practice listening so we connect to people, we practice our own engagement and then we’re able to notice when our team is or isn’t engaged and as we do that stuff on the right hand side, leadership shows up.


41:29 – Slide 25 ( 3 Challenges): Now I was going to end here but I was thinking yesterday that there are some common objections or challenges that show up. And so just moving the questions I thought well let me just prepare some of these and share the top three challenges that come up when I talk to anyone about leadership and share just a few quick thoughts on how to move past these challenges and then we can open up for questions. Number one response for people is “I don’t have time”. I don’t have time for this and the truth is not having time or resources, ends up being the number one objection in almost anything we want to do and it’s common with leadership. Now the question for you is how you can fit this into your existing work. This should be something that can be practiced with no extra time. In fact, if you’re doing any project you have the opportunity to step up and be a leader. You have an opportunity to explore not only what it means to do the the work that’s expected but is there some bigger direction to move in relating to your project? Is there some additional thing you can do that can help not only solve the current challenge but maybe improve the process you’re working in so that future challenges get solved automatically. Ask yourself how you can connect to people on your project team. Ask yourself how engaged you are in your work, that’s a good one. Once you know that, how engaged are people on your team and if they’re not and how can you start connecting to them to understand how maybe they can get more engaged. You fit this into your existing work. If you’re working on any project, you can fit it in. The other thing I’m really going to challenge you is to watch out if you start seeing urgent work crowding out the important work. I work with clients who are incredibly busy and without fail each and every one of them identify a whole handful of things they’re doing that aren’t the most important things. This is for some people who are running entire divisions of hundreds and hundreds of people. So an exercise I like to do monthly or anytime is I just make a list of the things I’m working on and I ask myself which of these things can I defer? In other words, I don’t need to get it done right now. I can defer it for a week or a month or a year or next quarter whatever. Which of these things aren’t super important, I can probably just delete them. And if someone comes back and says they need it then I can do it but for now I can just delete from my plate. And then, which of these things can I delegate to someone? You might be able to delegate to someone in your team or outside your team. You might to to talk to your manager about what can be delegated but I have yet to find a case for someone who couldn’t defer, delete or delegate some not so important stuff to free up time for you to really work on a project that’s going to help you demonstrate leadership in your role.


44:49 – Slide 26 (I’m not good enough): Now the second challenge I hear from people is the idea of not being good enough.  Now the truth is the best leaders are not necessarily the experts. Now I don’t know why this is the case and I’m trying to find research to back it up but I’ve just inevitably seen and then talking with my other executive coaching peers, that people who step up into leadership often times are not necessarily the best at their job. They have certain other qualities. Now what seems to be the case from from my vantage point is, if you’re the best at the job, you might not have the humility, the quality of listening it really takes to be a leader. When you can imagine someone who is on a learning curve, they’re looking to get better at something and so they put their heart and time into something and they become a leader around that domain, around that area and because they’re not an expert, they’re more open to be proven wrong. They’re more open to other people’s ideas, they’re a better listener. So that’s my hypothesis for why not being an expert at something is actually a good reason to be a leader. If you feel yourself saying “well, I’m not an expert in this area”, well that might be why you should. Move into that space and look to be a leader in that space.


46:15 – Slide 27 (What if nobody cares?): The last is “what if no one cares?” and this is a very common one. What if I work on this great new project, I volunteer to give a great new talk on something I believe in and no one shows up? What if no one cares? What if my idea gets shot down? Well, look, anything we do has an outcome that can be either good or bad and if you find yourself dwelling on a potentially negative outcome on the fact that you might be delivering a presentation to an empty room or that the project idea is going to get shot down by the executive team. If you find yourself dwelling in that, all it needs is that you’re living in the world of expectation instead of the world enough of action. Because the truth of leadership is leadership gets billed through action so you’re trying things and seeing where it leads you. Know if the project you take on fails it might lead to some lessons and learnings that help you succeed in the next project but it’s in the world of action that you start feeling leadership grow. If we dwell on the outcomes and where expectations are going to lead us, it can be common to feel a bit of fear. What are the actions and tasks that I can focus on that are going to move me forward? What are the skills I can learn that are going to help me deal with some of the challenges of trying to push this new project idea? While setting goals are important…I mean heck, last year I gave a whole talk on smart goals. While setting goals are important, having an outcome clear is important as you get into the work it’s important to not dwell on those expectations but focus on what you can do to move forward.


48:04 – Slide 28 (Leadership slide): This is what we talked about and what I’ll say is as we just wrap up here…the only way this becomes actionable and really useful for you is if you put it into practice and I’m preaching to the choir when I say there’s something sort of magical about taking a theory or an idea and creating a project around it. I truly believe this, if we treat leadership simply as this great vague fuzzy scaler competency to work on, it’s very hard to get better at it. But if we treat leadership like a project, all of a sudden we start marshaling all of our resources, our focus, our energy around it. Something that’s concrete. So my question to you is, what is your leadership project? What is that thing you care about, that skill you want to get better at? That thing the company needs that no one’s working on? How can you start working on building a following around that, putting some energy around it? So that you’re actually practicing leadership in your job and not just treating it as some thing you’re thinking about on the side. So you might even find that brainstorming your own leadership project, picking an idea-maybe you already have an idea that you want to work on. Thinking about some milestones and deadlines. Brainstorming a list of people that you want to talk to to get their feedback and opinion on the thing you’re looking to work for. Maybe talking with your manager or your business leader around an idea you have that might be worth pursuing. Whatever it is, my only challenge to you is to come up with a project so you can start moving this information, moving this idea of leadership forward in your own life.


49:49 – Slide 29 (Slides & More): And I do have some content to you, we’ve covered a lot of ground and in less than an hour we’ve covered something I could spend a whole day workshop on. What I’ve done is, on my website, very creative, it’s my name Ravi Raman. If you go to that site, you’ll see a button. Click the button put in your email. I’ll send you the slides. I’ll send you a few references including the source data for the study I referenced earlier that showed that there’s a need for leadership. A couple useful blog posts you might like. Also what I’ve done is, you know after creating this talk I realized I’ve posed a lot of questions to you and it might be hard just to track all those questions so I created a companion workbook for this talk that has all the questions in order so you can print that out, type in your answers to each of the questions I asked and if you may be set aside an hour and just filled out that workbook, I think you’ll get massive clarity regarding your leadership and what your project could be. Also what I’ll say is…you know I care a lot about leadership and I believe, I truly believe that each of us need to step up and be a leader, there’s tons of challenges that we can address if we were able to do that and if you’re interested in exploring your leadership or frankly any aspect of your career where you see a challenge and you’d like some coaching to help get through it, if you visit this website, put in your email I am offering a half-dozen complimentary coaching sessions and these sessions will be 45 minute conversations we’ll have. No obligation and there’s no pitch, there’s nothing like that. I’ll talk to you in whatever challenge you have, we’ll coach through it and it could be on leadership, it could be about career direction, whatever it is you’re looking for. So if you put in your email, I’ll follow up with you and we’ll set aside time in the next month or two. I do only have half a dozen of those sessions though just from a timing perspective so if you’re interested go ahead and respond when you get my email.


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Written by Ravi Raman

Ravi Raman is an executive career coach and long-time veteran of Microsoft, where he led product management and marketing teams for several global software products and services. As a coach, Ravi has helped countless clients– including management consultants, technology startups and Fortune 500 company leaders — unlock higher performance and build careers they can be proud of. Stay in touch with Ravi via Facebook, LinkedIn, his website and @YogiRavi.

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  1. Thank you for your video and your article, Ravi. Your ideas were very clear and useful!
    I have just one question: Leadership necessarily requires a collaborative team work or it doesn’t matter? Grettings!

  2. Hi Jorge,

    Yes, teamwork matters – but that comes from a strong connection with people (stakeholders) who are bought-in to the vision of the work. I go into those components in the webinar.

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