In October, I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for a professional development course. The course was called “Managing Yourself and Leading Others” and was offered by the Harvard Division of Continuing Education.

The program is “designed to help managers become more effective leaders,” delving into “the fundamentals of managing yourself, leading teams, and motivating others to accomplish your company’s goals.” Participants were exposed to insights to help them “gain a broader and deeper understanding of organizational culture and dynamics, management best practices, the role of the manager, and the nature of influence.”

Below, I’ve compiled a list of key lessons I learned during the course.

  1. Lao Tsu said, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” When we can effectively understand and manage ourselves, we become better leaders and make better decisions.
  2. There are four foundational components to emotional intelligence: (1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness and (4) social skill.
  3. The Institute for Health and Human Potential argues that the single most important variable in employee productivity and loyalty is not pay, perks, benefits, or workplace environment. Rather, it is the quality of the relationship between employees and their direct supervisors.
  4. There are six common leadership styles. The best leaders shift seamlessly between Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic and Coaching.
    1. Coercive: “Do what I tell you.”
    2. Authoritative: “Come with me.”
    3. Affiliative: “People come first.”
    4. Democratic: “What do you think?”
    5. Pacesetting: “Do as I do, now.”
    6. Coaching: “Try this” or “what did you learn?”
  5. We judge ourselves by our intentions. Others judge us by our impact. There are several factors that can impact our intended actions. A prime factor is our emotions. It’s safe to say that the average person begins their day with good intentions; they want to be productive at work, meet deadlines, make dinner at home, exercise, spend time with loved ones, etc. But situations may arise during the day that present roadblocks to achieving those intended actions such as traffic on the way to work, an unexpected meeting, mental or physical health issues, etc. It’s vital to differentiate between intention and impact, especially when an impact is negative.
  6. Strong company cultures are a function of:
    1. Stability of the group
    2. Length of time the group has existed
    3. Intensity of group experiences of learning
    4. Coping mechanisms of learning (e.g., positive reinforcement vs. avoidance)
    5. Strength and clarity of assumptions held by founders and leaders
  7. It’s possible to influence others without (formal) authority. Successful influence starts with your objectives and resources, and rests largely on understanding that not everyone cares about what you care about. Successful influencers can determine what team members value, how they want to be related to, what pressures they’re under, how they’re measured and their style. Effective influencers leverage currencies. Currencies might be new resources, assistance, rapid response, information, acceptance, recognition, contacts, gratitude, comfort, etc. Influence in an organization is typically awarded to individuals who are genuinely interested in the welfare of others. They make connections and engage in mutually beneficial currency exchanges.
  8. Conversational turn-taking and social sensitivity are paramount to psychological safety in teams.
  9. In teams, remember that efficiency is not the same as effectiveness.
  10. Supervising individuals is not the same as leading a team.
  11. Leaders can establish credibility with subordinates, peers and superiors by showcasing their character and intentions to do the right thing, as well as their competence and ability to make the right things happen. Character and competence are central to trust.
  12. Leaders often derail because they:
    1. Have difficulty building an effective team
    2. Have difficulty in making transitions
    3. Lack follow-through
    4. Treat people badly
    5. Have strategic differences with top management
    6. Are overdependent on a single strength or resource
  13. Managing others’ performance is a process, not an event.
  14. Frame performance reviews to help the individual go further at the company.
  15. When giving feedback, remember to:
    1. Illustrate specific examples
    2. Provide suggestions
    3. Be honest, fair and kind
    4. Provide feedback often
    5. Focus on business outcomes
    6. Don’t assume you’re right
    7. Ask questions
    8. Follow up
  16. Poor company and team climates negatively impact an organization’s bottom line.
  17. People are a competitive advantage.

I’m extremely appreciative of the opportunity to attend “Managing Yourself and Leading Others.” I gained exposure to unique perspectives from professionals across industries and across the globe.

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