When you think of people you want to follow, what is it they say and do that makes them a leader for you? As you develop your leadership skills, you must be able to inspire others, bring out their ideas, and get the best effort from them. Here are five ways leaders successfully engage others:
1. Ask questions.
We may think leaders do most of the telling, but the best leaders ask great questions – those that engage others’ best thinking. The best questions come from a mindset of curiosity and provoke the imagination or a deep reflection. Phrase it like, “how might you go about that goal if you had all the resources you needed?” or “How else could we approach this problem?” Listening is the best route to success. Summarize what you heard by paraphrasing back to the other person.
2. Develop a vision.
Close your eyes and imagine what your team will accomplish in the next 2 to 5 years. What will success look like? What difference will it make to customers, the market, the company, and the way people work together? Write down the description of what you see and reflect on how you would make this vision real and exciting for others in speaking about it. Visions are engaging because they are about what is meaningful and possible.
3. Get a team involved with an engaging conversation.
People love to discuss things that matter to them. Conversations are most useful when they bring out new thinking and ideas. Suggest topics about any relevant subject; new research or something you read about that could spark new ideas. Ask your group questions such as:
- What might be pertinent to the work we do?
- What’s exciting or interesting about this idea?
- What are some things we could each try to do in a new way that might make a difference to our results?
Then, ask those in the conversation what they would commit to doing differently that would make a positive difference to them. Great conversations energize people to see possible new ways to achieve results.
4. Brainstorm ideas.
If you have ever been part of a brainstorming session, this raises energy and gets some great ideas for solving a problem. Bring a question before the group that isn’t answerable with a yes or no. Have everyone write down an idea about how to address the problem. Then, collect ideas on a white board or flip chart that all can see. Don’t discuss each idea before getting all the ideas (no matter how crazy). No one can challenge or argue the ideas. Encourage everyone to build on others’ contributions. Then, you can circle any ideas that look attractive or possible. Then, discuss and evaluate those. Brainstorming is fun and engages everyone’s best thinking.
5. Celebrate achievements.
Have you ever completed a project just to move on with the next one? Isn’t it more rewarding to celebrate an accomplishment and be recognized for the success? Good leaders take the time to acknowledge and appreciate achievements. They often do this by having a small gathering of those involved to debrief the project and discuss what worked well and what was learned. Recognizing and appreciating achievements raises energy and engagement.
Try out these leadership ideas and notice how much any one of these raises the energy of your group.