How to Get What You Want Without Hurting Other People

As I was researching this topic of assertiveness, I realized there is a stigma that needs to be addressed. Assertiveness is not aggression. Assertiveness is also not passivity. What assertiveness is is the seeking of mutual gain through healthy confrontation. It seems that naturally more passive people think that assertive people are aggressive, and, interestingly, it seems also that naturally more aggressive people think less-than-bold assertive people are passive. It’s a strange continuum, but regardless, you want to be at the assertive stage in that line.

So why is assertiveness important? We live in a very demanding world. Other people are demanding of our time and resources, and often, the return on your investment in those situations can be very low. Sometimes it will pay off, but I believe that a majority of the time, you will lose out. Assertiveness is the ability to say “no” to something good so you can say “yes” to something better. Assertiveness is your protection from people walking over you like a door mat.

This is where the quote for the week comes into play. Assertiveness is an important skill in relationships, but it is not a manipulative one. It’s important that, in negotiations, debates, and other “joint undertakings,” both parties benefit. Assertiveness does not allow for one person or the other to end up with the short end of the stick – it is designed so that the two people in a relationship get as close to an equal share of the stick as possible without any substantial, one-sided sacrifice.

Are you an assertive person? What can you do to become more assertive about your needs and desires? Are you too passive? Too aggressive?


What Makes a Leader?

Check out my first post on this topic, What Is Leadership?

I’m going to start off with a statement that will likely be taken as controversial but is mostly a disclaimer: I believe anyone can be a leader. Leadership is like any other skill or talent; it can be developed and made better and learned over time. However, just like any other talent, there are people who have a greater inclination to leadership. But as Kevin Durant’s high school basketball coach Tim Notke said: “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”

Now with that out of the way, I must say another controversial statement: being good at what you do does not make you a leader. No amount of knowledge about your task can make you a good leader, but only practicing good leadership with yourself, your peers, your family, and your superiors. Leadership is much more than just being the best at what you do. Don’t get me wrong, that is part of the equation, but it doesn’t end there. Leadership is all about people. You can be the best salesman, speaker, presenter, manufacturer, manager on your floor and still not be a leader.

So what makes a leader then? Followers. If you don’t have anyone following you, how are you a leader? Now, of course this doesn’t mean that you have people physically following you everywhere you go like some great philosopher of old, but it does mean that you have someone looking up to you; it means having someone that you work with regularly to help them become a better them.

As leaders, we are not supposed to “fix” people, but we are supposed to direct, encourage, challenge, and lead them to where they need to go. It is our jobs to point out where someone (me, you, the organization) is, explain that there is more than what’s here, and then paint the picture of what the other side looks like.

Do you have anyone following you? If not, what can you do differently to fulfill your leadership potential?


Why Your Ideas Don’t Land

Communication is an extremely part of life, and not just in leadership. Really, anyone can talk about anything, but it takes special practice to get your ideas across in an intelligible way. What this boils down to is being concise.

I think we’ve all experienced the leader (and been the leader) who rambles on and on to try and make a point, but by the time their point is made, you’ve lost focus because you couldn’t keep up with their multiple trains of thought. We have good ideas and good intentions, but sometimes the message gets muddled up in an excessive string of words. Even if you have the best, world-changing idea, it won’t matter if you can’t accurately and concisely convey that message in a way that is understood by the other person.

This is something that I often struggle with, and it’s honestly why I try to keep my blog posts at about 300 words. It forces me to focus in on my message and only pick the most appropriate pieces of stories that will get my point across. I often feel like I have a lot to say, but what good is it if I cloud my point with unnecessary words that will only lead to confusion.

Part of being concise is choosing the right words to say in a certain context, which is another thing I really struggle with. Mark Twain said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” I think sometimes we all want to feel like we’re smart, and an easy way to do that is to use big words. While big words have their place, they’re not always necessary and can often detract from the conciseness of your message.

As I wrap up this post, I want to leave you with a question: What are some things you can do to make yourself more concise? Do you feel you are too longwinded and vague? How do you think that affects other people?



Leaders Are Proactive

The above quote speaks of success, and I want to take a second to assert a disclaimer here. Success is relative. Success is measured by what you set. I don’t think there’s a universal rule that tells us what success is, and my idea of success is likely different than your idea of success. With that to say, you may take this post in the context of what you define as success.

I believe strongly in proactivity. I, and I think most people honestly, hate being reactive. Reactivity is when you are in a constant state of only reacting to situations. You only move if something comes up. Proactivity, on the other hand, is meeting challenges and making progress before anything even comes up. Proactivity focuses mostly on strategic planning and growth; it’s all about strategy at the proactive level.

You can’t be purely proactive, but I believe you can be purely reactive. There’s nothing more frustrating (to me) than a purely reactive leader. You know the one. Everything is urgent and time sensitive (“it needs to be done now, now, now!”), but nothing is important. Because your leader is reactive, you’re stuck in reactivity as well trying to address problems and put out small nuisance fires before they spread. This is no way to operate.

Healthy leadership is being proactive. Recognizing potential problems and incorporating them into your strategic plans. You can’t foresee everything (hence why one cannot be purely proactive), but you can prepare for a wide variety of things. As a proactive person, you spend most of your time doing important things that are not necessarily urgent, which gives you plenty of margin to handle issues as they come along.

It’s not easy switching to proactivity. You still have a ton of small fires that you need to put out on a daily basis, but you can start taking baby steps. This will add a little bit of work to your schedule, but once the transition to proactivity is complete, you will find you have more productive time.

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There’s Something More Important Than Listening. Here’s what and why…

I listened to a podcast by Gary Vaynerchuk today, and he hosted one of my leadership heroes, Simon Sinek. Something they were talking about really stuck out to me, and that is that there is something more important than listening in leadership. That something is being the last to speak.

I’ve been reflecting on this statement for a good part of today and felt I needed to write about it. Here are three of my thoughts.

1. Leadership isn’t about coming up with the solutions. 

We must be secure enough to understand that we won’t have the best answer to everything.

2. Leadership isn’t about domineering a conversation.

If you’re doing a good chunk of the talking, that means you’re not listening. Foster an environment where your people can think and speak without fear of judgment.

3. Leadership isn’t about influencing another person’s idea when you face a problem. 
This is why you speak last. Since you’re in a position of authority, you’re more likely to change your peoples’ minds if you speak first or intermittently. The only thing you should be doing is asking questions to clarify a point.

Do you agree with their point about waiting to speak last? Have you ever felt implicitly influenced by a leader of yours in such a way that you changed your mind about contributing to a solution?