There is more to assertiveness than getting people to jump! (Thoughts on a plane series)

As Roz takes to the air yet again, this time to address a group of professionals in Brazil, we asked her what her thoughts were on the subject of assertiveness, especially in our leaders.  The following are thoughts that she jotted down – virtually speaking, while she sat on the plane on the tarmac waiting to head to a country that has one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Assertiveness alone can backfire depending on the position of the person. It doesn’t make it as the most important quality of a leader but as a component of a great leader.  Combined with respect for others, demonstrating empathy, integrity, being a good listener, and confidence with humility and courage (to take risk and to tell the truth) it is nonetheless a key personal attribute.

However, assertiveness can become threatening or intimidating to others and stop others from sharing critical information that is essential to the growth of the business.  I have seen where people have become complacent because their colleague or boss just takes over with their directive style of communication.  Passion sometimes can be mistaken for over-assertiveness and may border on emotional outbursts. So the combination of assertiveness with EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is truly the most successful style of leadership.

Things to consider:

Where do you fit in on org chart?  Sure it’s easy for SVP’s to push their ideas forward with focused assertiveness. The ability to be engaging needs to be linked with assertiveness if you are in a position of indirect authority.  In other words, when someone has a significant title, they have more opportunity to use an assertive style of communication.  If someone at a lower rank uses direct assertiveness with senior level, they probably will be overstepping their position and could potentially be shooting themselves in the foot . . . especially if they are showing up their brilliance at the expense of putting a senior person down.

How not to win friends and influence people . . .

I have heard of several stories where passion and information led a junior person to take the liberty of disagreeing with a senior person’s idea and although it should have been accepted, he forgot the political savvy component.

1.            Sell context before content:  this means to sell why it will benefit the organization as well as what’s in it for the other person(s)

2.            Assertiveness can be valued if it is seen as a win-win

3.            Eliminate the negative emotion which might be construed as “I’m right and you don’t know anything!”

I personally think that assertiveness is critical, but it must be combined with other qualities and can’t stand alone.  You can have expertise but if you don’t have the confidence to sell the information to others, your value will go unnoticed. So yes, you have to take a stand for what you believe.

Smart leaders know how to be assertive by combining a flexible style of communication. This includes the recognition that you can’t speak to different generations in the same way. Motivating baby boomers for example, will be different than motivating gen Xers.  The same applies to how you use your power to assert yourself.

1.            Know your audience and what motivates them

2.            Speak their language with passion

3.            Use assertiveness but with the intent to create a win-win (which differs from aggressiveness which is “I win, you lose”)

4.            Combine assertiveness with a collaborative style (winning combination)

a.            Re-frame what the other person says so they feel heard

b.            Piggy back off of something they said so they feel respected and more likely to champion your directive

c.             Build sponsors for your vision so you don’t have to ever be questioned for being overly assertive or aggressive

5.            Become a sincere listener so people feel respected and therefore become more comfortable in their acceptance of your assertive style. Stephen Covey says “Most people listen, not with intent to understand but with intent to reply.”

6.            Last, have the courage to stand for what you believe, and to admit when you are wrong.

So a powerful leader earns the right to attract followers.  And if you don’t have the title, you gain the authority to attract followers only when you earn this privilege.

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About piblogger

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

One response to “There is more to assertiveness than getting people to jump! (Thoughts on a plane series)”

  1. Erica says :

    They say when you are ready to learn, the teacher will appear. Thank you for sharing this invaluable advice. Now that I am in a corporate managerial position these tips will help me to approach co-workers so that we can both have a win-win situation/outcome. Looking forward to reading more! Thank you again 🙂

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