Strong leadership involves reflection, skill, sensitivity

March 25, 2021 By    

Margaret Morford, CEO of The HR Edge, a management consulting and training company, has learned hard lessons about leadership over the course of her career in law and human resources. She shared those lessons – and ways propane retailers can apply them to their own workplaces – during an online event hosted by the Women in Propane Council:

Headshot: Margaret Morford


1. To achieve your goals, “paint a picture” of the desired result. For example, it may be helpful to “keep score” of the number of concessions during contract negotiations. Or you might motivate co-workers to act if they can picture moving tasks off their to-do lists. Ask yourself:

  • With whom am I negotiating that I need to change my tactics?
  • What picture can I paint for them that gives me the desired result?

2. Examine work mistakes you have made and decide on specific behavior changes to ensure the mistakes don’t reoccur. Ask yourself:

  • What are the top three career mistakes I’ve made?
  • What are the behavior changes I could have made to avoid the unwelcome outcome?
  • Is there a better way to do the right thing? Don’t always assume you made the right choice in a situation. There are many possible right answers – you need to find the “correct right answer.”

3. Adjust your message to your audience – and its sensitivities – in order to be heard. For example, “tattoo” can carry negative connotations, so it may be more considerate to use the term “body art”; or an older person who is used to hearing “you’re welcome” may perceive “no worries” from a young person as dismissive. Ask yourself:

  • What words do I use with individuals that need to be adjusted so they hear my message?

4. Humor can change the behavior of others better than a lecture. Ask yourself:

  • What tense work situation could be diffused with humor?

5. Humor isn’t always appropriate and depends upon the individual, group or situation. Ask yourself:

  • Who do I tease at work? Am I sure it’s funny to them? Their laughing doesn’t mean they think it’s funny.
  • Who do I joke about behind their backs? It’s probably not appropriate.

6. Focus on what the end result needs to be – the finished product – and watch getting sidetracked into other issues. Failing to deliver on time can cost you a lot in your career. Ask yourself:

  • What projects or situations am I involved in at work that have gotten bogged down and are running significantly behind schedule?
  • Where am I getting sidetracked in each one?

7. Appreciation is an investment in your relationship with anyone at work. The more you appreciate co-workers, the more most people will do for you. Don’t appreciate a poor performer, though. It won’t turn their work around. Only point out things you truly appreciate. Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I made someone feel special at work?
  • Whose heart did I gladden today?

8. Get people on your side in order to negotiate what you need or want. Don’t say: Do you understand what I feel? Instead say: Can you understand why I’m struggling with this? Ask yourself:

  • Who have I failed to persuade?

9. Always adjust to your manager’s style. Ask yourself:

  • What are my manager’s values?
  • How can I tailor my requests or agendas to meet those values?

10. Sometimes crazy is just crazy – manage it, leave it or fire it. Ask yourself:

  • What stressful situations at work have I repeatedly been involved in that don’t change?
  • What is my new strategy to fix that situation permanently?
This article is tagged with and posted in Blue Flame Blog, Current Issue, From the Magazine

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