Effective Leadership in Changing Times — Looking Back at the Year Where the World Had to Pivot

effective leadership in changing times

Is there anything to be said about the past year of dealing with COVID-19 that hasn’t been said already?

I believe, yes, there is. The year 2020-21 has been the year of momentous change where every individual, irrespective of race, faith, gender, socioeconomic class, and organizations across sectors had to pivot.

The world witnessed unprecedented changes and our collective ability to adapt to challenging times and channel our leadership abilities on an individual and community level.

As a leadership coach and mentor, it was hard to miss the resilience of individuals and organizations, the power of teams and that of our leaders in hard times.

How did professional development and effective leadership training adapt to the ‘new normal’?

The first few weeks were unsettling because of the lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and preventative measures. We at CCI chose to work from home for what I originally thought would be a few weeks. I quickly realized this would be a lot longer hiatus and reached out to each of our clients to let them know we were still there for them. Like many within our industry, we had to pivot to a completely virtual setting to deliver all our programs and services.

Prior to 2020, I spent many hours at airports and lounges while traveling worldwide to support our clients. I would spend time in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and many places around the world to deliver training and private coach some of our elite senior level clients.

Now, both our clients and I have benefited from virtual sessions, which make better use of our time, financial resources, and the reduction in travel for non-essential reasons, has also helped the environment.

My leadership takeaway for the year has been to review our strategy and processes to be more efficient constantly.

I didn’t expect us to be equally successful at training or facilitating online, especially when dealing with topics such as body language and presentation skills.

However, through effective leadership training and interactive communication, we could easily replicate results in our virtual sessions, as indicated from our client’s feedback. Our success with our virtual sessions demonstrated how many non-essential processes we hang on to out of habit.

As human beings, we need connection. Connecting might be challenging for some when the recipient may choose not to have their camera on, limiting the visual cues available to the speaker. But I have learned that when the speaker chooses to be open, warm and authentic, listeners and team members do engage with the speaker through different means.

With that in mind, here are some of my takeaways on how organizations have adapted to the ‘new normal’ and are developing leaders who are thoughtful, inclusive and authentic:

We are human beings who value and need connections

Our evolving leaders need to rethink how to build connections and ensure the well-being of individuals within their teams given the complexities of a virtual workplace

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw a surge in organizations doing happy hours and free pizzas for employees to maintain team morale. At first it was different, but then ‘Zoom fatigue’ sunk in and the novelty of these types of activities wore off, as the pandemic extended beyond a year, with several lockdowns and restrictions, impacting individual circumstances and at times, mental health.  

  • Do virtual social activities really help employees feel better equipped to handle their circumstances?
  • Did it empower them with the tools to demonstrate their skills online?

These are questions each team leader/organization must ask themselves before determining the right method to provide value to their employees.

For example, one of our biggest successes over the past year has been our How to Fascinate Workshop because it’s entertaining, informative and helps team members understand themselves and each other better.  

The workshop allows teams to bond, gain greater insights as to why people behave the way they do and how to ensure everyone can work together more effectively. It really is fascinating.

There are opportunities everywhere

The only way to really achieve success is to make your people your highest priority.

I delved into the increased resource efficiency with reduced traveling at the start of this blog, but I need to make a special mention of how much that has helped individuals. I noticed many of my clients benefiting from the reduced travel. They have more time for their families and themselves, and it’s less tiresome.

Many clients have told me they have been able to use the time to focus on their personal goals and health, while still being as productive as before.

Organizations and leaders must reconsider their work culture policies about working from home and traveling for work, as well as ensuring that employees are creating work-life boundaries that allow them to thrive.

Private coaching for your teams is a great way to invest in their personal development

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw an increased interest from organizations about providing private coaching for their teams to help them deliver their presentations, sales pitches, and lead their teams virtually.

The demand for it led us to create our Leadership Presence: Online Training Program. Such programs empower leaders with the skills, confidence, and knowledge they need about human behaviour to inspire confidence and foster trust among a diverse team of employees.

Now, what can individuals do, you ask?

Here are my lessons for you on how to become an effective leader

Take the time to reflect!

This is my biggest advice for you.

Although traveling to work every day may have been stressful for some of you, the everyday commute provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our lives, listen to our favorite podcast and give our brain a break from our work. This time is essential. The only way to adapt and embrace change properly involves a lot of reflection and introspection.

Please take the time out in a day to reflect, and it can be as short as 10 minutes. This time will allow you to be more creative and approach your challenges from a different perspective. Maybe you do this by going for a walk or getting up a bit earlier than everyone in your household to have me time.

Yesterday’s leader is not tomorrow’s leader

Adapt to changing times.

The last year has demonstrated how leaders who lead with empathy perform better. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, is a perfect example. Not only is New Zealand one of the most successful countries in the fight against COVID-19, but it is also a source of inspiration to many because of its use of empathy to inspire.

Our ideas of effective leadership have changed, and leaders today are expected to be personable, empathetic and inclusive. Authoritarian leadership has not performed well across the world.

Invest in yourself

This advice on how to become an effective leader is tied to the previous two points. With increased flexibility and the rapid changes in leadership expectations, it is vital that you invest in yourself.

Be it choosing a program to develop your leadership and presentation skills, your emotional intelligence, understanding how your brain works to improve your performance, or understanding how to lead diverse teams virtually.

I recommend taking the time to reflect and identify your strengths, weaknesses, and identify opportunities for professional development.

leadership presence training program

You need to up-skill to be the leader of tomorrow. And, there’s no better time than now.

More power to you!

Leadership Training Online: Virtual Learning Proven to be 600% Better!

While the full implications of COVID-19 are still unknown, one of the major shifts most businesses have experienced is clear — customers scaling back their in-person purchases and going online instead.

In the key area of “Learning and Development” emerging evidence points to the same, a huge shift in how training, coaching and consulting is delivered.

In our training and coaching practice, we saw very quickly that teams around the world had to rapidly learn how to collaborate with one another virtually all whilst working remotely and under great stress brought on by uncertainty at so many levels.

At CCI, recognizing the pressure this was adding to leaders and workers around the globe, we quickly pivoted, offered virtual workshops and accelerated the completion of a robust Leadership Training Online Program we had been working on.

Why Leadership Training Online?

Recent research, conducted by the Neuroleadership Institute, shows that virtual learning, when done right, can be dramatically more effective than in-person workshops.

“In fact, an analysis of the likelihood of people taking action on a learning program, showed that a smart virtual learning program was around six times more likely to get people to take actions than the usual way learning is delivered in person. Not 6% better, or 60% better, but 600% better.”

The purpose of learning is to better ourselves, our skills, our decision making and ultimately our environment. Much of the training organizations are now investing in, involves human skills.

The ability to work effectively together, motivate, inspire and influence, especially under times of uncertainty and changes, is critical to the success of an organization.

And, leadership training online, a new way to virtually learn and grow, can take you from where you are to where you want to be.

Whether it is about:

  • How you show up in a Zoom meeting
  • Engage in difficult conversations
  • Stand out when you speak as you deliver an important presentation
  • How you provide psychological safety for everyone to have their voices heard
  • Run inclusive meetings
  • Mitigate biases
  • Enhance your emotional intelligence for greater effectiveness in your daily interaction
  • …And more

One thing is undeniable — being present, intentional and in the moment is where great leaders shine.

CCI’s Leadership Training Online Program

Our Leadership Presence: Leadership Training Online Program has been designed with a unique approach for sustainable learning.

Our modules are short and highly interactive. Through the use of videos, quizzes, coaching tips, extra resources, a comprehensive workbook, and the possibility for private coaching as an option, the learning is impactful, transformational and long-lasting.

Leverage this unique opportunityand seize the moment to grow and flourish, individually, as a team and as an organization.

This is your moment to shine, elevate your confidence, and increase your competitive advantage by embarking on a life-changing learning journey!

Silence Speaks Volumes and Why You Need to Master it to Get Heard

silence speaks volumes

Recently I read an anecdote about the power of silence. It described an event with thousands of people crowded into one room, with everyone chatting at once and no one paying attention to the individuals speaking at the front of the room.

Three speakers failed to get the attention of the crowd – until, at last, one speaker simply stood in silence in front of the microphone. Soon after, all eyes were on him and you could hear a pin drop in the room.

He achieved this using no words at all.

Immediately it reminded me of a keynote speaker at a conference I had attended a few weeks earlier. He was introduced by the Master of Ceremony and once the introduction was complete, the keynote speaker started his way up to the podium. He was already all mic’d up and started speaking before he even reached the lectern.

Results: No one was ready and missed his first comments.

By the time he got to the lectern, he was well within his presentation. It felt like we had missed the beginning of a movie and then were trying to figure out what’s happening. Had he waited to reach the lectern, paused, looked at the 4 corners of the room to make sure he was connecting with everyone, and then began to speak, it would have made a world of difference.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recover.

He had failed to get everyone’s attention by not using silence to create anticipation, and not waiting for everyone’s eyes to be on him, before he began to deliver his message.

This story inspired me to think that silence speaks volumes, and of the great value of silence in business, and what using silence can accomplish to:

  • capture the attention of a crowd
  • demonstrate respect
  • speak using other forms of non-verbal communication
  • help you be the most articulate you can be

In this post, we’ll cover a few of the many ways silence speaks volumes, and why you need to master it to get heard.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Listen Up!

silence speaks volumes

In a conversation, sometimes the most important thing you can contribute is simply listening.

To remain silent and listen may seem like no contribution at all, but it takes effort to be fully present in a conversation – and the rewards pay off.

Some people may have the “gift of the gab” but ultimately, being a skilled listener takes equal or more attention to detail.

Listening is hard work that requires focus, practice, and patience. Apart from being the hallmark of a good conversationalist, the ability to really listen is invaluable. 

  • Listening at Level I

This is all about grabbing control of the conversation.

For example:

Person A: Where did you spend your last vacation?

Person B: I went to India.

Person A: I love India. The Taj Mahal is amazing – gigantic, beautiful. I have never experienced so much poverty and so much luxury at the same time. And we took a train; then we had a driver for part of our trip…

  • Listening at Level II

This is a give and take – a two-way conversation.

Person A: Where did you go on vacation last summer?

Person B: I went to India.

Person A: What did you enjoy most about your trip?

Person B: The people! 

  • Listening at Level III

This is all about listening to the environment.

When you enter a room — what is the mood?

Or, when you enter a boardroom — do you sense tension? How do you adapt? Is the mood somber? What can you do to lighten things up? If the boardroom is quiet, it would never occur to you to speak loudly.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Pay Attention

What can you expect to learn from another individual, whether a mentor, colleague, superior, or friend, if you constantly feel the need to assert your own opinion?

  • In a professional setting with new or unfamiliar information, keep your ears open constantly. By taking in the most knowledge as possible from others, you will continue to learn and grow — which will lead to upward mobility in your career.
  • Show the utmost respect to the person you are conversing with by silencing your other conversations. Unless absolutely necessary, take your cell phone off the table during meetings. When someone comes to your office to talk, darken your computer screen or close your laptop. This will help you focus on the individual and will make your meetings more efficient, too.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Choose Your Words

silence speaks volumes

Never be afraid of letting a conversation hang in brief silence before answering a question or responding to a comment. In fact, you should get used to it!

  • Before immediately jumping to respond to a question or comment, take a moment to reflect on your words. Not only will this help you to craft a more articulate response, it will also incite the attention of others. People will begin to notice that you take time, energy, and thought into answering a question — and that you are not simply blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind.
  • This is an especially important tip during a job interview or a first-time meeting with a client. It creates a positive first impression that you are a thoughtful, conscious individual. This first impression will inform your professional relationships and will work to your advantage.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Body Language

Silence speaks for itself.  

When you are silent, in no way does it mean you are not communicating. The next time you are not talking, pay close attention to how you may be speaking without words.

  • Body language, even when standing still, says a lot about you and your attitude. Are you standing with slouched shoulders, arms crossed, or fidgeting? If so, others may perceive you as bored or apathetic. Or, is your posture aligned, your shoulders back, and hands on your hips or at your sides? This suggests you are confident, prepared, and alert.
  • When listening to someone, eye contact is key to let that person know that you are interested in and engaged with what they are saying. If you are truly listening but your eyes are wandering around the room, the speaker might suspect your indifference.
  • Just like silence speaks volumes, your professional image speaks volumes about you too. If you do not take the time to polish your image by paying attention to dress codes, fit and cut of clothing, age-appropriate attire, and grooming, your image can silently override anything you have to say – no matter how articulate you are.

At Corporate Class, our expert facilitators provide in-person and live online leadership training that covers everything you need to know about mastering body language, communicating with confidence, nailing first impressions, leading with purpose, and more!

Learn more about our Individual Training programs or get in touch with us to host a customized Business Workshop.

You can also master your leadership, body language and presentation skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

The ONE Thing You Must Learn to Share to Improve Your Leadership Presence

improve leadership presence

So, you’re a leader. You inspire and motivate those around you; you have a dedicated, loyal group of followers; you have a vision for the future. You’re doing great!

Wait. Do those around you, including your dedicated group of followers, know your vision? Do you communicate that vision with them? Do you know what it will take to attain that vision, and how those in your circle can help you get there?

We often hear leaders identify themselves as visionaries. Perhaps they are, but they don’t seem to be perceived as such. When we debrief our clients on their Executive Presence 360, many of them indicate that they are visionaries. To their surprise, their respondents don’t indicate that as an attribute. Why the disconnect?

Leaders are laser focused and move towards their goals with that vision in mind. They ask their team members to work on certain tasks without sharing their vision. They omit to explain why what they asked them to do is so important. Sharing your vision will not only help you attain that vision, it will inspire and motivate your team to forge ahead and help you make that vision a reality.

The “Why” Factor

Simon Sinek, popular author, speaker and consultant, explains how great leaders inspire action through their vision during his Ted Talk. According to Sinek, all great leaders and organizations think, act and communicate in the exact same way, which just so happens to be the opposite way of everyone else. Sinek calls this method of communication the Golden Circle.

In the middle of the circle is the “Why”, then comes the “How,” and finally, the “What.”Everyone knows what they do, some know how they do it, but very few know why they do what they do (the purpose, cause). That’s why most of us communicate from the outside in – we share our “What” first.

All great leaders, on the other hand, communicate from the inside out; they share their “why,” or their vision, first. As Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He uses the example of Apple to demonstrate this theory by explaining that Apple, a computer company, shares their vision first, and that’s what we buy into – it just so happens they make great computers. But it’s the “why” that Apple shares with us that leads us to buy any product that they develop, whether it’s a computer, DVR, MP3, television, etc.

Being a visionary is a core trait of a great leader, however the secret lies in your ability to communicate that vision to others. If those in your circles do not see you as a visionary, and you see yourself as one, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage and inspire your followers even more. Be the leader you know you can be, and share your vision!

To find out more how you can increase your leadership abilities, including learning how to share your vision, take a look at our Leadership Presence workshops!