Whatever your leadership development interests, I encourage you to explore a fresh approach or two from time to time. Whether you want to be more engaging, less reactive, more relevant to a diverse audience or otherwise—finding new ways to tackle challenges will keep your skills honed as you expand your leadership capacity.
Here is a menu of 5 different options you might like to sample on your leadership journey. Is there one that whets your appetite right now?
1. Strengthen your collaborative muscles
Whether you lead a purpose-built internal team, or a distributed network of diverse, external partners – the need for cohesive and effective collaboration has never been greater. If you’re keen to deepen your collaborative leadership skills, you can learn from these approaches.
A local organization called Every One. Every Day. Kjipuktuk / Halifax is forging new ways of building community, creating opportunity, and breaking down barriers, together. Have a look at how they’re co-creating, and the programs flowing from their collaboration.
“We need each other, and with the right opportunities, the right invitation, at the right time, in the right space, we simply can’t resist being together.”— Tessy Britton
Participatory City Foundation
Partner, Every One. Every Day. Kjipuktuk / Halifax
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the race to create an effective vaccine was a life and death challenge. No single organization had what it took to solve it, but Pfizer made it happen in record time, with innovative approaches in all the ways they collaborated. Here’s how they did it.
2. Expand your cultural awareness
When we deepen our knowledge and appreciation of the diverse history, lives, and cultures of others, we can be more open to their reality. Just as importantly, we can better appreciate our own.
Expanding our cultural awareness helps us discover the ways we might be thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting that are—unintentionally or even unconsciously—insensitive or even inappropriate to others.
This is essential for everyone living in an increasingly diverse world, but is especially true if you’re a leader – whether you’re leading a small team or a complex, diverse, and distributed organization.
Summer is a great time for reading, and there’s a growing roster of diverse voices being published in Canada to include on your list. I’d highly recommend Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, a Cree writer and lawyer. Her award-winning first novel provides a fictional look at the real-life Canadian legacy of residential schools.
Spend time exploring and understanding your own perspective and biases to help you expand your cultural awareness. That was certainly my experience when I signed up for cultural awareness training with ISANS – a program I found to be both challenging and inspiring, and one I’d highly recommend.
Strike up a conversation with a newcomer to our country. Whether it’s someone you see often in a nearby park or a person you may bump into in a local café, take the initiative to say hello and have a little conversation. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out this list of 250 terrific conversation starters.
For the past 20 years, CBC’s annual Canada Reads program has helped showcase a treasure trove of familiar and emerging literary voices. While the books considered provide a great reading list, the program ‘debates’ make for great listening too, often featuring a diverse set of proponents speaking for each of the finalists. Previous shows can be heard here.
3. Have better conversations
Conversations are at the heart of every endeavour, from problem-solving to collaboration with potential partners. As the leader, it’s up to you to set the right tone. For effective ways to do it well, check out these ideas and resources.
Invite participants to share their stories. When you do it with a sense of welcome and safety, people feel included and heard. They also want to be full participants. The award-winning More Than One Story card game is a great little resource for anyone who wants to open the lines of communication for real conversations to follow. The cards feature multiple languages to support diverse groups and can be used virtually or in person for gatherings of any size.
Kick off the conversation with a question. If your question is a good one, asked well, it opens the door to powerful conversations. But what makes a good question? Purpose, curiosity and openness are three essential ingredients you can read more about here. Do you have a favourite opening question?
You may also want to check out the work of Warren Bergen, an innovation expert and questionologist, whose books, blogs, articles and more can be found here.
4. Boost your memory
Memory is vital to the executive functioning skills you need for leadership effectiveness—problem-solving and decision making, to name just two. For proven ways to boost your memory now, check out these options:
Tune in to this podcast from CBC’s ‘Whitecoat’ to hear about simple yet powerful ways to boost your memory.
Indulge your inner child this summer. When you spend some time playing board games, you can challenge your memory muscles, and a whole lot more, in the process. Here are 25 of the best to check out.
5. Be your healthiest self
Investing in your personal wellbeing strengthens you mentally, physically, and emotionally. It also boosts your leadership impact, contributing to lower levels of stress and anxiety, clearer thinking, reduced ‘brain fog’, increased focus and attention, and better overall decision-making. You’ll also have a stronger ability to regulate your emotions and reactions when challenges arise. Consider adding one of these options to your self-care routine or doing more of what’s already working for you.
Whether it’s dedicated vacation time, or daily and weekly blocks of ‘down time’, our bodies and our brains need routine time-outs to rest and recharge. Otherwise, our capacity to perform at our best is compromised. So too is our ability to strengthen our resilience skills and ensure we can bounce back effectively from sustained periods of higher stress. Quick Tip: Schedule a five-minute refresh break every hour.
Time outdoors, in nature, provides a tremendous boost to your wellbeing. And everything adds up, whether it’s a ‘walking’ meeting in a nearby park, outdoor lunch breaks under a tree, commuting on foot or bike, or dedicated time enjoying a hike in the woods. As researchers at the University of Minnesota are discovering, gardens also offer tremendous opportunities for healing as well as renewal.
Take the opportunity to seek out and choose a favourite outdoor location and visit it regularly. For me, it’s a walk in the woods, or a shoreline wander. What’s yours?
Taking time to refresh is always well spent, personally and professionally. When leaders devote time to pausing, reflecting, and considering fresh approaches, it boosts their impact too. So whether you’re keen to strengthen your collaborative skills, deepen your cultural awareness, have better conversations, boost your memory, or be even healthier, the tips, resources and models I’ve highlighted give you great ways to make it happen.