Guiding Your Work with Others

No matter which position you hold in an organization, you need to lead. Each person plays a significant role and is a valued resource. Having a tool kit of skills is necessary to succeed in your work. Consider the ideas and tips presented here as you build your own leadership strategy tool kit.


Knowing What to Say and How to Say It:  Communication is complicated and the competition for attention is fierce. With so many sources sending us messages by mail, media, print, and handheld devices it is critical to consider how communication in your course is delivered and received. Reflect on the following as you prepare to deliver oral and written communication.

  • Keep your purpose in mind. Stick to your message and deliver it as simply as possible. Some people may write like they talk with a lot of extemporaneous information, which becomes noise. Sometimes bulleted lists keep your communication clean and can act as a checklist. Remember that employees may not be as skilled at separating the wheat from the chaff in written form.
  • Listen first, act second. Oftentimes, employees or customers just need to talk. They may not even want your advice. In a world of telling, there is a limited amount of listening. When they do want to get your ideas, it may take them some time to formulate what they really want as they may be struggling with concepts and vocabulary. Be patient and guide them to form the correct question. By listening to others, you have time to think about the response you want to give them. This helps you to be your best. Less-experienced faculty may think they need to answer students to show them how much they know. There is plenty of time to do so, once the person has spoken. Ask the person additional questions to help them discover possible solutions to their own challenges. One phrase to get students to expound on their ideas is, “Say more about that.”
  • It is OK to say you don’t know. It is better to give a good answer than an uninformed answer. If you aren’t sure how to answer, let them know you will contact them in a day or two with an answer. In that time you can get the correct information, speak with others who may have similar experiences, or provide them with resources. Employees and customers will appreciate your intention to find out the best answer, and be sure to follow up with them as quickly as you can so they know you are serious. You may want to put a reminder in your phone calendar to get back to the person.
  • Sarcasm can be very dangerous. Many of us can remember a time when we got a sarcastic answer from someone we respected. It can change a positive relationship into a negative one very quickly, and it takes a long time to regain the trust lost.
  • On a similar note, watch your use of humor. What is funny to some, is not funny to others. Humor is more about the ways people receive it than the way it is intended. Be enthusiastic and energizing. Employees and customers respect that. As with sarcasm, a misplaced joke can ruin respect and relationships. Additionally, in culturally diverse situations, humor does not necessarily translate and may only exacerbate confusion and feelings of intimidation.

You may only get one chance at delivering great communication, especially with customers. Often, the communication may not come at what is the best timing for you where you have time to prepare, so keeping these strategies in mind can help you as a leader with strong communication skills.


Shelve It:  Good ideas need time to incubate before they are ready for prime time. As a former marching band director, I needed to design drill designs for the band to perform during football game half times and competition shows. The mechanics of designing a 10-minute show were complex. The visual formations needed to reflect the music. The musicians needed to be strategically placed so you feature the instruments who are key to the music. Today this can all be done with computer software, but back in the dark ages, I had to do this with chart paper and pencils. Each section needed hand-written directions of where to move to they wouldn’t run into one another. I started this process months before I needed to start teaching it. All of this design was mentally tiring so I learned to do as much as I could to get a draft of the show and then shelve it. I went about my other duties and in a few weeks, I pulled the show off the shelf and looked at again with fresh eyes. I kept what worked well and I improved the parts that needed some help. When you have the time, creating and renovating the original ideas is a great strategy to design the best ideas and processes possible. The next time you are designing the implementation of your ideas and get stuck… shelve it!