If you have read leadership books or looked at various leadership resources, you will have noticed that there are many different leadership styles and frameworks around.
It can get a bit confusing as to how we actually pick our style and learn how to lead best.
To lead effectively, we need to know which leadership style comes most natural to us, what impact we have on the teams we lead and also how to adapt our style if needed.
In this episode, I talk to Amy Lezala-Zahr, Engineering Manager at Metro Trains.
Together we explore:
- The different leadership styles
- How to know which style works for you
- The importance of using the right leadership style in the right situation
- Potential blind spots of each leadership style
- Why Self-Awareness is key for every leader
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Other links from this episode:
Amy’s book recommendation
More about Amy:
Amy has been in rail since 2007, working across rolling stock maintenance, rolling stock manufacturing, infrastructure design assurance and network asset management.
Amy has worked in safety and assurance for the majority of her career, from her early days as a rolling stock fire safety engineer to her current role as Level Crossing Engineering Manager at Metro Trains Melbourne.
Currently, she manages a team of 50 engineers. Amy has been leading teams since 2013, growing as a leader as her team sizes have grown. She takes a people focussed approach, ensuring her teams have the resources they need to deliver their role.
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Anne: [00:00:00]Hi everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the Lead Like YOU! Podcast.
Today I’m joined by my beautiful friend, Amy Lezala-Zahr. Amy and I, we do go a [00:01:00] while back because we actually used to work for the same company. Amy is an engineering manager at Metro trains at the moment, but she has lots of years of experience in the rail industry in general. But she’s also very engaged in non-for-profit organizations and in the engineering space in general, and is really passionate about helping young engineers and graduates to find that path in the engineering world. So I’m really excited to welcome her today. And today we will be talking about how to find your leadership style and what that actually means for you.
And we’ll talk a bit about Amy’s experiences over the years.
So welcome Amy.
Amy: Hi Anne, how are you doing
Anne: So maybe before we go into the topic, maybe just describe yourself to the audience and tell them a bit about yourself.
Amy: I’d have to say empathic, kind, stubborn, very stubborn. Passionate and determined.
Anne: What are the things that people might not know about you based on your bio or [00:02:00] when they look you up on LinkedIn?
Amy: I think my, my career is one part of my personality and my aspect, but there’s also a lot outside because I’m very musical. I love music, either attending music like gigs and seeing friends do choirs or playing piano or playing ukulele. I used to play the saxophone as well. So music is a very big part of my life and also dancing. I met my partner through dancing and I’ve done many salsa performances and even pachatta performances. So yeah, the Latin dance is another big part of my non-work life.
So speaking of non-profits, I’m an ambassador in Victoria for playing for change organization, which raises money for music schools around the world for kids in developing areas, fantastic company and fantastic project. So highly recommend people look at playing for change.
Anne: Amazing. We can include a link in the show notes for everyone to check it out.
So tell everyone a bit about your career, your journey. How did you get to where you [00:03:00] are right now?
Amy: So my journey is a little bit obscure. It was never planned, but it’s been step-by-step growing and then moving in a certain direction.
It was nudging a little bit to the left and right. As you mentioned before, I’m engineering manager at Metro trains. I look after the level crossing portfolio from an engineering assurance perspective. I started as a rolling stock maintenance engineer as a graduate with Bombardier transportation. I spent two years at depots working on the trains and doing modifications to the train.
So doing the engineering work for modifications, making sure the products would fit where they needed to go, make sure they were fit for purpose and they’d actually deliver what we needed. I did that for two years and at the end of my graduate scheme, I wanted to get more into the design space. then I moved with Bombardier ,I moved to their design area working as a materials and fire safety engineer.
I then started mentoring or not mentoring, but because we were British standard is a high fire standard compared to others around the world, we then became a reference point for [00:04:00] other projects around the world. Got to work in Sweden and France and all these other really fun places as a young engineer, getting to travel the world and do some fire assessments.
It was really interesting. And from there, I started working with the Australia team and then they offered me a role in Australia. So I came and moved here and it was with the Brisbane team. First of all, working on the Adelaide trains, the EMU Adelaide and the fire team in Australia actually sat within what we call the RAMS team reliability, availability, maintainability, and safety.
And so with the RAMS team, I was doing fire engineering by also started to do reliability analysis. And I got very interested in reliability analysis because it’s a really nerdy, fun topic.
So I started doing reliability analysis and Queensland rail, the government were buying new trains. And to begin with it was a direct purchase and it was, you know, my reliability analysis was a little quiet piece of the puzzle that sat in the corner. The contract then changed to a [00:05:00] public private partnership, also known as a PPP.
And my reliability analysis became how the bank were going to get their money back because it’s a monthly payment based on performance and mainly reliability performance. So suddenly my numbers and my little mathematical analysis became a very important financial analysis and that opened up a whole other viewpoint and world to me.
And I got really excited and interested in lifecycle analysis of not just the performance of the asset, but also the contractual performance and the funding. So I started getting into what’s called through life engineering of balancing the operational costs and the capital expenditure. So that then led me on a journey of developing this performance analysis tool that we used in Bombardier.
And that was both in Australia. And then I moved to France and I was mentoring in France. I was working with five different projects, one in Germany, one in Sweden, the Australian team, an English team, and a US team.
That got cut [00:06:00] short because I wanted to come back to Australia and get my passport. And at the same time, there was a bid kicking off here in Melbourne for some new trains, the high capacity Metro trains. So I moved back to Australia and this time to Melbourne and I was doing the same performance analysis on that, because again, it was a public private partnership.
And at the end of that, despite having been with Bombardier for eight and a half years, I was wondering what was next on my Bombardier journey. And there didn’t seem to be many opportunities in Australia. And that’s when SNC Lavalin and was starting their through life engineering team. And I applied to lead that because obviously it was a passion area and I was lucky enough to get the role and I spent 18 months with them trying to grow that part of the business.
for various reasons, it didn’t quite kick off as much as I wanted it to. And I was traveling a lot. And that was impeding on my health. So I had to stop traveling so much and a role appeared at Metro trains, which was for the head of engineering for rolling stock. And given that I had maintenance experience, I had fire [00:07:00] experience materials, reliability.
It was a, it was a good fit for what I could bring to that role. Having seen many facets of the different engineering sides for rolling stock. I did that for about two, nearly two and a half years. And then my boss was saying to me, oh, we need someone in level crossings and you’ve been here two and a half years.
I can see that you’re getting a bit antsy and a bit itchy for something new. Do you want to do the level crossings engineering manager? Because it’s very similar principles to what you’re doing in rolling stock, but it will help to build your infrastructure knowledge because I’ve never worked in the infrastructure space.
So it was taking what I had as far as an engineering manager and an engineering leader, applying that to level crossings and for myself to develop the knowledge about the infrastructure technical side and the language and the different dialect of infrastructure compared to rolling stock. And I’m very, very grateful for that because it was such a good move for me to understand the broader railway industry.
And that’s where I am now.
Anne: Amazing. Thank you so much. What a journey, so many great experiences [00:08:00] along the way and travel around the world, which I’m sure a lot of people are envious . It’s pretty amazing in a young career to be able to move around the world and work and field that fulfills you so much. So beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that. Yeah.
So today we do want to talk a bit about how we can find our own leadership style and what that actually means and why it’s so important that we talk about it.
And so maybe let’s just start with thinking about how would you define a leader? What is a leader for you?
Amy: A leader for me is someone who brings people together and moves them in a certain direction. Hopefully for the better. Sometimes you get leaders who take people in directions where it can actually be detrimental, but they’re still a leader.
They still have brought people together and move them in a certain direction. So yeah, to me, that’s a leader. And it can be a leader in an organization, in politics, or even in a household. You always have that one person when they enter the room, people listen to them. So to me, that’s, that’s a leader.
Anne: I like that. And on the podcast even we’ve spoken [00:09:00] to a lot of different leaders so far, and it always comes up that leadership can be in so many different areas of your life. And you don’t have to have a team at a corporation, it can also be as a volunteer or as a, as a parent, even as just a family member or a friend, you can be the one that guides people in the direction. So. Wonderful. Okay. And why do you think, is it important to know our leadership style?
Amy: I think it’s an important thing to know about yourself, not just your leadership style, but mainly what you, what your impact is on other people, whether it’s a positive or negative impact, or whether you have that leadership factor that you can then use to support others.
If someone in the team doesn’t have leadership skills or isn’t confident being a leader, but says, I really want this to happen. If you know that you’re a leader, you can say, okay. And then you can drive that on behalf of someone else. So I think it’s really important to understand what your impact is on others.
If you do have those leadership skills and you [00:10:00] are being a leader of a group, whether through practice or by nature and understand what that type of leadership is so that you can drive in that direction. If you’re a very authoritative aggressive leader, that’s useful in some areas, if you are a very soft kind leader, then that’s useful in other areas.
So I think it’s understanding what do you bring and what’s your style and what you’re effective at so that you can apply it to the right situation. And also even for the right role, depending on what the role calls for, or if it needs some very hard to direct action, that will suit some leaders. If it’s a very slow, soft need, some people development, that’s a different type of leader.
So I think for yourself to make sure you get the right fit of the right role or that you can lead the right activities. You need to understand what your leadership style is, so that you can be the leader for the right situation. If you have the wrong leadership style for the wrong situation, it can actually make much more of a detriment than a benefit.
Anne: Yeah. So you already mentioned a few examples of leadership styles.
Amy: There’s so many different styles.
[00:11:00] Anne: Yeah, there’s so many different styles. The theory starts with Kurt Lewin who defined three different leadership styles. And he’s talking about autocratic, democratic and also the laissez-faire leadership styles.
when you started to think about leadership, did you start to look at the theories and like books about it, or did you go more and trusted your own gut and starting to figure out who you are as a leader and then the theory came later. How did you go about that?
Amy: That’s a really good question. Through high school, I did, this is going way, way back in high school, I did the international baccalaureate. So I did the international high school certificate. And within that you have three majors, three minors. And one of my minors my humanities topic was business. So I’d already, even though I was going down the engineering pathway from the age of 16, I was already studying business.
And I remember in that course, We were talking about leadership styles and the autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. And we studied them when we talked a lot about it. even at [00:12:00] that age of 16 and 17, we’re talking about what style we would have and what we would want to have and what we think we are.
I don’t think I’d ever be able to be an autocratic style. It’s just not, you know, it’s like my empathy kind of kicks in and my people focus, kicks in and it compromises a few of my values. It’s very useful for certain areas. Like I say, if you’re the right person for it.
Let’s describe it a bit for the audience in case they haven’t heard about the three styles that we just mentioned. Those are not all the styles , obviously, as we just said, it’s kind of where the whole theory started. And we’ll talk about a few different styles, but how would you describe those three styles?
Amy: So bear in mind. This is going back a number of years now
Anne: That’s ok, we just talk about it and we don’t have to be completely correct here, but just that the audience can start to get a feeling for what are these different styles?
Amy: So for me, from my, my memory of my high school studies, the autocratic style is very directive and very task focused and more of a get on and do it.
The [00:13:00] democratic is fielding opinions from the group. Getting the ideas from a group and then making a decision. So you’re still the person making the decision, but you have input from the group And laissez-faire is kind of you sit back and you let people self manage and self lead. So that’s my, my understanding of the three.
Anne: Yeah. Wow. That’s wonderful. Good memory there. The engineering brain works really well. So exactly. That’s how these three styles are defined. And what would you say- over the years how has that developed for you and what have you, what do you think now about those three styles?
Amy: I’ve seen them. Actually going through my career. I even have three very, I wouldn’t say stereotypical the three very distinct and defined categories of leader. So yes, there’s some grey in between these ingredients, but you can categorize people into those three. And going through my career, I have seen all three different types and some people are just naturally one versus the other.
And it very much depends on your own. Like, as we’re talking about Lead Like YOU! [00:14:00] It depends on your own personal style, your own, kilter, what you want to do and also how you want to influence people. So some people are very clear that they are autocratic. Some people are very clear that the democratic and some are very laissez-faire. And I’ve had all three.
yeah, it’s interesting. There’s everybody leads differently and you will have many different leaders through your career. And I think it’s just understanding that leadership style really helps to then communicate and to manage upwards as they say, and to work with that type of leadership.
Anne: Yeah. So true. And yes, you’re right. So it really depends. Everyone has a bit of a talent for one of these styles, based on their strength and based on their experiences and also based on their values. And I think, um, no matter what we call the different leadership styles and, through the years, styles were added like the transformational leadership style, that is leader that’s more authentic uses emotional intelligence, then you have the coaching style. So there’s a few different styles that have been added, but I think in general, one important thing to say is there’s no right or wrong [00:15:00] leadership style. Because as you said before, there are certain situations in certain roles that require a certain leadership style and everyone has a natural tendency where they sit best based on their strengths. And that’s kind of your, I would say your fall back leadership style is where you feel super comfortable, and where you can act just really naturally. But not every role is suited for that. Right? And there’s moments in business and operations that require a certain style.
If things are really getting tough and tough decisions have to be made, then you do need someone that is more authority driven and autocratic. Cause you need someone who can make the tough decisions. And then the laissez-faire, democratic these styles can, can work more when, you know, when the business is going well, and you have that luxury of time and including people, I think.
So I think that’s really important too, to just note that we all have this natural way where we sit. But then from there we do have some flexibility and I think that’s something that we can start to develop that we can tap into. So how did it develop for you?
Do [00:16:00] you feel like over the years, did you have a play with certain things you just described that you’ve seen all different types of leaders? How has that impacted you? Have you tried on different styles and it didn’t quite work. How did you figure out where you sit.
Amy: So I think I’ve always been in the democratic pot.
Like that’s just, that’s the way that I naturally fell into. And that’s, as you said, everyone’s got their fallback and that’s, that is always my fallback, even now. Like I see myself doing it and you know, I field ideas from the team and then like, okay, the majority say this and that’s kind of what I was thinking of as well.
So yeah. Okay. Let’s go that way. and obviously when the majority is against what I was thinking, I kind of explore it more and ask more questions. So that’s definitely my little, my home as a leader. I did try the autocratic, but it just, just doesn’t work. it’s not my style and because I can’t do it authentically, it just doesn’t work.
It kind of ends up being like a toddler, having a tantrum. It’s not the same thing. Um, yeah, I’m not [00:17:00] convincing as an autocratic leader. Laissez-Faire Yes. I think I’ve done that in a couple of roles in different areas. I think where the roles have had to be more creative it’s had to be a bit more laissez-faire at SNC-Lavelin in particular, we were building a team and I had four people that were working in different cities and I had to be a little bit more hands off because they were working in that city and then knew a little bit more about what we’re doing. but then again, that went down to my a little bit like control section where I was like, no, I just, I need to be a little bit more involved in this.
I can’t let you be fully, on your own terms when you’re representing myself and my team, like it’s, I have to have some interaction and authority of what you’re doing, but also I don’t want to control. I don’t want to micromanage. So, yeah, that’s I did try to step into the others, but it just democratic is the best for me cause I get the best of both worlds where I’m not micromanaging, but I’m also involved and have a bit of an influence if I need to on what’s taking place. actually, [00:18:00] the word micromanaging, obviously it’s mentioned that one, but it’s something that I say to people and I’ve been interviewing people for working in my team or for, uh, as a direct report, particularly.
I asked them, what kind of management do you need? Do you need that micromanagement style or you’re more that laissez-faire . You know, hands-off I touch base every once in awhile and you are very much self managed. and there’s only been once where someone says, I know I need a micromanager and I’m like, Oh, I’m not, I’m not the one for you.
Like, I won’t be able to give you that. It’s not anything about you and your competency. It’s if you need someone to be managing you on an hourly or daily basis in that, you know, do this task and then you come back in and do this task, come back. That’s not my style and I wouldn’t be able to help you with that.
So I think that’s a really important thing as a hiring manager, recognizing your style, communicating your style to prospective staff members, and then making sure that it’s the right fit for them as well as for you.
Anne: That’s a really good point, I think because everyone has different needs and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with [00:19:00] micromanaging, if it fits the person and if it fits the purpose.
Right. There is situations and people who need micro-managing so that they feel they’re on track, that motivates them to actually have someone that checks in regularly. Some people are driven by that. Some people need the reassurance. Some people need the directions and detail.
They need to have a lot of information to feel like they can make decisions. And I think that’s also fair enough to acknowledge. I think often micro-managing gets thrown around as this negative way of being a leader. Whereas I don’t think it is because there’s also task where you. I’m sure, especially in the engineering world where you have to micromanage in a certain way, because obviously if there’s decisions that are being made that are really critical, safety related and obviously also highly regulated, then it’s really important that you know, exactly what’s happening and you are completely involved.
There is a space for micromanaging and some people love it. Some people need it. And some people just don’t do it, but you, as a manager, there will be lots of moments where you will have to follow up. And as you said before, [00:20:00] that’s why just laissez-faire doesn’t always work because you do have to be able to check in and get some updates as well. As leaders, it’s important that we have this toolbox. We need to practice to have authority, to make the tough decisions, or to step back, and had over, delegating can be quite difficult.
So yeah, it is. Isn’t it. So over the time, have you kind of observed leaders and learned from them how to behave and how to act in certain situations, or have you even seen leaders where you thought, ah, actually, Oh my God, that’s really not good leadership. I’m keeping that as a lesson for me not to do it this way.
Amy: Absolutely. It was something actually my dad said to me when I first started my career because I was a graduate and I was having the luxury of going around to different departments in the business for two years, all within the maintenance of rollingstock field, but I was going to be in different teams.
He said with all the leaders that you are interacting with, [00:21:00] write down what you like about them and what you don’t like about them, not personally, but just from their leadership style. And he said, by the time you get to the end of your graduate scheme, look at the positives, like what you liked about them and make sure you take on those treats and be cautious about the negative ones that you’ve noted down, because everyone has a tendency to go into those areas and you will have seen, you’ve monitored, the impact that has on you as a young graduate, don’t put that on someone else, if you didn’t like it for yourself. And that was really good advice. And I did that and that did help me to be more actually think about the, the leadership styles I was interacting with and also to be more reflective of my own leadership style going forward.
There were a few different people that some were more laissez-faire than I needed at that time. Because as we were just talking about micromanaging could be very useful, particularly for young graduates who need clear direction, that don’t have the autonomy yet. They need that very specific direction of every day you’re doing this and you’re doing that.
[00:22:00] and then when I got to a more senior position. This is probably seven, eight years into my career. I had a leader who was very, very autocratic, which didn’t work well with me. It was very necessary for what we’re working on at the time, but then it got to a point where he could have stopped being so autocratic and be more democratic.
But that autocratic continued to a point where I was actually detrimental to the team and people were feeling uncomfortable in the team because they weren’t getting, you know, we’d gone through the hard yards and then it needed to be a bit more of a fostering of development and encouragement, and it was still an autocratic mode.
And so it actually became a really hostile working environment. And then I chose to leave that team. And when I left, they said, why are you leaving? I think they were quite offended that I actually chose to leave because it was a good role for where I was in my career. And I said to them, I feel like I said it really confidently.
I probably really didn’t, but I just, I [00:23:00] did say to him, it’s a hostile working environment and I’m not comfortable in this team and how it’s being led at the moment. And the response was, well, that’s, you know, that’s management. I don’t, that’s not, that’s not the kind of management I want to work in and I don’t want to work with that.
That was a big lesson to me of recognizing that’s not the kind of leadership I liked and it’s not the kind of leadership that I want to deliver. So that was a big learning moment. And. I could have walked away and not given that feedback.
And it was really challenging to me personally, to actually give that honest feedback that I found it hostile and it wasn’t comfortable. I don’t know if they took that feedback on board and did anything with it, but I would have felt very hypocritical if I didn’t say anything when, to me leadership style and understanding leadership style is so important.
Anne: Yeah, for sure. And I think important here to mention is, I mean, we said before that every leadership style has its place, but even with an autocratic or authority leadership style, emotional intelligence is still important. [00:24:00] So even if you are the one taking command, making the tough decisions in a company, in a project at a certain time, emotional intelligence is still key for any leader, no matter what your style is.
So I think it gets dangerous when somebody who enjoys leading with authority. If they don’t have done the self-awareness and self-development to invest in their own emotions and reactions, then the authority driven leadership can go really the wrong way. And it can go way too extreme because even while, um, you know, a project or a company is going through a tough time, Yes, you need authority driven, but there is nothing to say that you still can’t nurture in-between little moments of nurturing, supportive, right?
So even if it’s tough, you can say, guys, I know this is tough, but we can do this and you can still use your emotional intelligence to, to make sure that you take care of everyone. So I think it’s important that we realize that just saying I’m an authority driven leader is not an excuse to [00:25:00] not take care of your people and really realizing, yes, I know what I’m doing right now it’s needed. I need to make the tough decisions. We don’t have time to, to, to get everyone involved, get everyone’s opinions and, and let everyone figure things out themselves. There’s no time and business right now. Right. But it’s still not an excuse . And I think often when people and leaders have not done, no matter which style you have, if you haven’t done the self-awareness work and the self development work, then a lot of the times your own emotional reactions and your immature emotional intelligence gets in the way.
So then you, you are the one yelling maybe, or you are the one putting a lot of pressure on the team, but it’s actually your fear that is making you speak and act that way. It’s not your authority driven leadership. It’s actually the stress that you’re trying to deal with. And you’re projecting that stress onto the people, because it gives you a bit of a relief for a certain amount of time, cause when we feel stressed yelling or being loud or putting others down is a form of release for us.
So [00:26:00] we feel good for a little time because we let it out. But we destroyed lots of relationships along the way. So I think that’s an important, very important distinguishment to make that even if you choose in a certain moment to be authority driven or be in command, which is needed, and there’s leaders that move that are the problem solving leaders, right?
They’re like the, the crisis leaders, they move from companies to companies and they’re employed to take command in crisis. Right. But emotional intelligence is key. And if you want to be successful crisis leader, you got to work on yourself as well. Yeah. Well,
Amy: you’ve got a connection to the people you’ve got to get in and actually getting that person to person to motivate them to say, look, yes, it’s going to be tough, but this is what is needed.
And if you don’t have that, and like you said, if you’ve not got the emotional awareness and self-awareness. You will, your ego will get in the way and it will become a motive. And that’s when, like you said, relationships will really break down.
Anne: Exactly. And then it’s really hard to repair that going forward.
So I think that’s really key. But on the [00:27:00] other hand, each of the other styles, they have their drawbacks too. Right. So, you know, if we’re democratic and we want everyone to be involved and everyone to share their opinion and you know, sometimes it can lead us to try and find consensus where there is none and we are actually not taking action or we’re not taking the right action. Or laissez-faire , that that can be beautiful to step away. But again, there could be critical decisions that could be time critical ones that could be things where people make mistakes and you have to step in and you have to have the tough conversation. So again, you can’t just say I’m a laissez-faire leader. That’s all good. You still gotta step in. You still gotta have the courageous, tough conversations and be authority driven sometimes.
So there’s a little bit of everything and that’s where I think the key lies as a leader, we figure out where we lie, but then we got to practice. practice on our own self-awareness, really build emotional intelligence, and then have a toolbox available. How can I best lead with command and be authority driven in this moment?
How can I delegate and [00:28:00] step back a bit or to be a bit more laissez-faire. So I think it’s important to know like each of those styles, if we just do them and blindly do them without self-development and self-awareness, they’re not going to be successful, right?
Amy: Nope. Yeah, absolutely agree
and it comes back to the self-awareness as a leader. I think it’s probably the most critical skill because you’ve got to be aware in the time, what is the task and what is the leadership style that I need to bring to this task? And it might not be a comfort zone. It might be uncomfortable and energy draining, but it’s just what you’ve got to do to get it across the line.
And then you can go back to your fallback, but it’s being aware in that moment. What does this need? Is it a very critical, um, pressured situation and I need to be a very authoritative leader? Or is it something that’s creative and I just need to let people think and, you know, use their brains and just explore different ideas, more laissez Faire.
Otherwise, am I in the middle of that democratic response? If you’ve got time for them to do the democratic often, you know, trying to [00:29:00] get everyone’s opinions and feel those ideas and have the discussion, it takes time and it needs a bit of patience. So yeah, in certain situations you just got to be straightened direct and go for the autocratic.
Anne: and we got to work on ourselves to give ourselves the resilience to step into these different styles, , because as you said, they will take some more energy. And in either direction it can feel quite exhausting. So it’s quite important that we acknowledge that as well. And practice that though.
So would you say like over your journey as a leader, were there any moments where you questioned yourself where you thought maybe I’m not made to be a leader? Were there situations where you thought, I thought this was working? I thought this was my way to lead and it actually didn’t quite work or it felt very challenging?
Amy: Yes, many I think constantly, but that is leadership for me, that is thinking because. I do focus a lot on the people. If they’re not going in a certain direction, as a leader, it’s okay. Obviously it’s not that person isn’t listening to me. It’s that I’m not getting through to that person. How can I better [00:30:00] connect with them?
How can I better lead this person? To me, no one goes to work, to do a bad job. You know, we’re all quite passionate about our careers and our roles. We spend so much time at work. People want to enjoy their time at work. If someone isn’t performing to me, it’s not because they’re purposely going out their way to do some terrible work.
It’s because there’s actually something bigger going on. It’s either some challenges at home or they’re not comfortable in their role and they actually do need a new role. I’m constantly wondering if I’m doing enough as a leader for my people to get the most out of themselves and to get the most out of the project.
I do have the book plug , by the way, it really helped me, which is nonviolent communication.
Anne: I’ve never read that.
Amy: Oh, I highly recommend .It to my list. Yes. Add it to the bookshelf in the back. Because crucial conversations are a big part of leadership either when you’re giving negative feedback or trying to diffuse and emotive conversation.
I really struggle with that because I don’t want to upset people, but at the same time, I [00:31:00] know that I need to give that feedback in order for the person to grow and progress. So I looked at non-violent communication to be able to have those conversations with less emotion, because it basically says I observed you doing X, this is the outcome, this is what I feel about that. And this is what my reaction is to that. And this is what I need from you going forward. So, you know, for example, with a team member, when you get very defensive and go on the personal attack with people that breaks down the team culture, and it also puts people off side.
I don’t like that because it breaks down my team. What I need you to do is take a deep breath and reflect before you say something. So that makes it a very easy conversation when having to approach those topics, which can be quite difficult. I recognize that as part of my leadership, because I’m uncomfortable having these crucial conversations I needed to do work on being able to give that feedback. As the leader, you can’t just hide in the corner and say, Oh no, everything’s fine. It’s all great. Keep going. [00:32:00] When you’ve got, if you’ve got 6 team members and one of them is causing trouble, the other five are looking to you to fix the situation. You’re the leader you’re responsible for that culture and that community. So you just got to step up and do it as uncomfortable as it may be.
For me, the nonviolent communication tool has really, really helped. And I use it on a regular basis, either with my team, with other leaders in the business or even at home, you know, when my husband and I are having a bit of a challenging time, I’ll just go look when you do this, this is the outcome, it makes me feel really annoyed. Please stop doing that
Anne: but I also think one important thing is also always to give the other person the ability to share their perspective as well. Because sometimes we don’t know that we have done something, right.
We might’ve done something that triggered them and that has an effect and they wish we stopped that. So I think that’s really important that even if we use these tools.
One important step is always, use that framework to say what you got to say, [00:33:00] prepare exactly for that conversation, but then give the other person the chance to respond. And even if they need some time to respond, allow them to go back because sometimes when we get feedback, it can be very emotionally overwhelming.
So sometimes we just need a day or two to process our emotions before we actually can respond and allowing for that as well. And I love that you took that step, that you took that step to, like I’m looking for a book, I’m looking for a framework, I’m looking for something that can help me because nobody is born to lead these courageous conversations, just like that.
We all need practice. Even if we have a lot of empathy, even if we are able to take somebody else’s perspective, really easily giving feedback, or having tough conversations or having to give someone the bad news that maybe they’re made redundant or their contract won’t be extended or something like that.
They won’t be made permanent, like all these tough conversations we got to practice. They are tough for everyone. And it’s okay. That they’re tough as well. Right. But you can [00:34:00] practice. There’s so many amazing resources out there. Your book sounds like an amazing resource for people to have.
And now we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes as well for people to check back,
But yeah, you can improve, you can develop yourself in that. I think that’s also leadership to recognize. Okay how can I develop myself? What are the areas that I find difficult and challenging? So that’s beautiful that you’ve invested in that
Amy: Crucial conversations for me are so important because for us as leaders, particularly as you progress through your career, it’s just, it’s another interview or it’s another conversation with someone about performance ,for them it’s a pivotal moment in their career or their life where they have a reality check on a certain aspect of their personality or the fact that they’re not going to be permanent staff member anymore. They’re going to be made redundant. And obviously that has a massive impact on their family.
And so I think that needs to be treated with the care. That it deserves when you’re impacting someone’s livelihood or psyche going [00:35:00] forward and just having it as a flippant off the cuff conversation, I don’t think it’s appropriate. And as you said, it’s best to prepare and actually think about what you’re going to say, because you are going to make an impact to people.
You’re their leader. You’re going to make an impact. And you’ve got to treat that with the respect that it deserves.
Anne: A hundred percent. That reminds me of one of the best advises I ever got was that when you are in the room with someone and you’re having a conversation, That in that moment, they deserve to be the most important person in the world for you, or they should get the feeling that they are the most important person in the world in that moment, so that we are not distracted.
We are not going into a conversation with our own thoughts, our own emotions still bothering us so that we go in a conversation with a neutral state and that person deserves our full attention. And deserves our full acknowledgement, for who they are, how they’re feeling and deserves that we truly listen.
And I think that’s one of the key things that I was taught very early on is [00:36:00] how important that is to make sure that this person feels like they were fully seen in that moment.
Amy: Yeah. Great point. there’s nothing worse than trying to have a one-to-one with your leader and they’re on their phone . You’ve got to make them feel like the, the person at that moment and give them a hundred percent of your attention.
Or if you do have an important call coming at the beginning, say, I won’t interrupt this, except for this one call. I’m really sorry if it comes in, but I can’t control that. So please it comes and just apologies in advance. I will need to take that and at least set that expectation up. So if you do have conflicting priorities, you’re both aware of it.
And there is that permission already to excuse yourself for that
Anne: 100%. I think that’s really important sometimes. Yes, we can’t avoid it in business, but where we can turn off the phone, put the phone away, turn off the computer so the email notification doesn’t pop up or the chat or the Slack or whatever it is, is so important.
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and [00:37:00] insights around finding your leadership style.
Before we close our discussion, I always ask my guests. What does it mean for you to lead like you?
Amy: Oh, for me to lead like me, it is trying to think of like, it’s, I can see it and feel it, but it’s very hard to put into words, but I think it is being the positive energy and someone that people can rely on in the team. but also being true to myself, not trying to wear the autocratic style when that’s not me like to being true to myself and what my leadership style is. And then bringing that to my team a hundred percent. So that they can rely on me and trust that I have their back and that I am there when they need me.
And I will listen to them. So not, not so eloquent, but that’s the feeling I get of I’m here. I’m here for you. I will listen to you. I will have your back, but also, you can rely on me when you need something. That’s my leadership style.
Anne: I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. And what will be [00:38:00] your key leadership advice for anyone who is on the journey maybe already leading team maybe wants to get ready to lead a team?
What would be your key leadership advice?
Amy: The advice I think is more is patience and listening because as leaders, particularly if we’ve come through as high potentials or experts in an area that stepping up to a leader and it not being about us, it being about others, is definitely important transition.
So if you’re coming through your leadership journey, just pause, put your ego on the shelf and have patience and listen to those around you. Because your team who are relying on you as a leader will need your support. And as you mentioned, it’s, it’s a two-way feedback situation because they need to be able to tell you how they’re feeling and you need to be able to tell them what you expect of them.
It’s a two-way relationship and it’s a two way journey. So yeah, patience and listening,
Anne: I love that. What a good message to finish this wonderful conversation. Thank you so much, [00:39:00] Amy, for being a guest, I will link all your details and also your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. So if people would like to connect to you, is that okay if they reach out to you?
Amy: Absolutely. Please do.
Anne: Fantastic. Thank you so much for being on here and for sharing your thoughts with us and all the best for your continuous leadership journey. And thanks everyone for listening and for tuning in, we would love to hear your feedback, your comments, what have you taken away?
What was your biggest aha moment of this episode? Let us know, leave a comment or send us a message. And we are talking to you soon. Bye.