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Leadership tips from a training expert

September 24, 2018


Two colleagues discuss work over coffee.

Employees with sound technical skills who excel in their work are often promoted into supervisory positions. With this comes the responsibility of being not simply a manager, but a leader.

That's where SAIT's Corporate Training can help. As with any other skill, we can learn to be better leaders — through courses that foster self awareness and share the strategies the best leaders use.

Jennie Gilbert is a SAIT instructor who delivers 10 courses on the subject of leadership through the School of Business. She delights in seeing people grow and learn, ready to apply their knowledge to help build great teams. Here are five tips — among many — she shares in her courses.

Manage your stress by controlling the controllables.

"Only people can be stressed," says Gilbert. "The meeting isn't stressed. The deadline isn't stressed. Only we are."

She counsels her students to find ways to manage stress by directing their attention and focus to the things they can control. Be prepared for your meeting. Practice relaxation techniques to manage your anxiety and stay calm during presentations. Be aware of your mindset and how you are showing up to each situation or event.

Seek to provide clarity. Always.

Gilbert likes Damian Hughes' idea that "you can't have five North Stars; you can't have five most important goals and you can't catch five tennis balls. It's about discarding a lot of great insights in order to let the most important insight shine."

In her classroom, have a go at catching five tennis balls — this helps illustrate how we deliver messages. As leaders, we may find it efficient to "bundle" a number of priorities. But there can be only one priority in a given moment, so throw only one message.

"Choose one idea to communicate profoundly and with impact," says Gilbert. "The team will know very clearly what's expected and can get on board to achieve the desired outcome."

Know why you're having a meeting and who needs to be there.

"This may seem obvious," says Gilbert, "But still we hold too many meetings and invite too many people, mostly so that we don't hurt their feelings."

As the meeting host, lead the group with purpose, set an agenda and be scrupulous about ending on time.

Build your social capital.

While we may not be friends with all of our colleagues, Gilbert urges teams to get to know one another on a casual, personal level. "You don't have to go for beers after work, but you should know a bit about all the members of the team."

This capital makes the good times better and the bad times — such as a difficult conversation — easier to recover from. "When you have some capital in the bank, there is more trust to draw upon to get past a tough moment. Going for coffee with the team is never a waste of time."

Treat everyone like adults.

Start by believing that everyone wants to do a good job. That's the basis of the adult relationship, rather than a parent/child relationship — often found in workplaces where leaders employ control and command to manage the team.

Your job as a leader is not to provide motivation. Your job is to establish the culture where employees find their own motivation to perform. Gilberts says the research bears this out. "Productivity goes up when employees control elements of their work, such as how to achieve goals, and even which goals will be part of the mix."

Develop strong leaders by enrolling your employees in leadership courses through SAIT Corporate Training.

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