For a podcast of this post on common leadership topics, scroll down or click here to jump ahead.
Recently, someone asked me which leadership topics come up most often among my clients. And truth be told, I had to think about it. Carefully.
Because there are really 2 different categories here:
- The type of leadership topics my clients want to focus on
- The type of leadership topics my clients need to focus on right now
More on that want to versus need to battle in a minute. First, let’s skip ahead. Because no matter the category, examining the leadership topics that are top-of-mind for others can help you learn
- That you’re not alone in needing to focus on X, Y, or Z
- That topic A or B might be valuable to tackle in the future
- That specific tools could be helpful when you do so
- That folks on your team might be (wanting or needing) to deal with certain issues that aren’t even on your radar
So I collected a list of 6 subjects that come up especially often with my clients. And it turns out, they aren’t just leadership topics at all, but topics that apply to top leaders as much as entry-level employees, up-and-coming professionals, new managers, and everyone in between.
In fact, many of these issues also transcend the divide between work life and home life.
So they’re worth a look, no matter where you are in your journey.
But before I get into the 6 common leadership topics, I want to circle back with a word of encouragement on the want to’s and need to’s of work and life:
Need To’s, Want To’s, and the Good News in Between
See if this sounds familiar:
You’ve mapped out a plan to accomplish goal X. You’re excited about it. And you’re 100% ready to get started.
But Monday morning, you have to deal with people issue A before launching anything. And it’s not going to be easy or quick to resolve.
As your goal moves to the backburner, you’re probably at least a little frustrated. Maybe even deflated.
On top of that, you might also be at a loss as to how to handle this pressing issue. What you’ve tried isn’t cutting it, and you need to explore new options.
Sounds like a time suck in the making.
I coach people through these situations a lot, in part because I specialize in people issues (management, communication, motivation, team performance, engagement, etc.). And people issues never take a break.
But here’s the (really) good news:
In need-to moments, we’re not just absorbing knowledge, but also turning around and applying it right away.
So down the road, when we get to use that knowledge to help accomplish long-term leadership goals, we’re not just drawing from head knowledge. We’re drawing from experiential knowledge—knowledge we’ve gathered in the trenches.
So we get it in our bones. And we can use it like experts.
Won’t that be a great thing for those big goals of yours?
Review these Leadership Topics, then Take Action
Whether you’re mired in the pressure cooker of need to situations or free and clear to focus on your want to’s, the learning you gather around the following leadership topics will serve you well in many contexts going forward.
It would be overkill to really dive into each of these 6 topics in exhaustive detail. (Perhaps I’ll tackle each individually in future posts.)
But in recording this, I did try to either
- Touch on how I often respond when these topics come up
- Mention some tools that relate to these subjects
- Include a quick tip, actionable suggestion, or useful link to more info
So as you read this list over, please think about how you can take action.
- Explore the links, which lead to more detailed info on each topic.
- Bring these issues up with your coach or mentor, and discuss how you can dig in.
- Or get in touch to find out more about the tools I might recommend for your unique situation.
In short, read or listen to the list below, and then GO.
And please share your own thoughts & hot topics in the comments below.
Listen Here: 6 Leadership Topics My Clients Bring Up Most Often
Transcript: 6 Common Leadership Topics
During my 30 years of coaching, I have found a consistency in the topics that come up.
First of all, there’s are a huge number of topics – as you can well imagine – that people bring up about how to deal with others, whether those others are their employees, their bosses, their customers, you name it.
When I look back over time, it seems to me that 6 issues stand out in terms of the frequency with which people bring them up as issues on which they’d like coaching.
There are then a dozen or a dozen and a half issues in another category, I’ll call it category 2, that come up on a somewhat regular basis. And then there’s the all other category, the last third, that come up now and then.
But these 6 stand out by themselves in terms of the priority in people’s minds.
Why is this important to you? 2 reasons.
Number 1: If you are a leader, its important to you because the chances are, your people are dealing with these on a regular basis. Whether they are addressing them or not, they’d like to be.
Number 2: You yourself. If you find these issues familiar, it will help you to at least know that you are not alone. And there are answers.
Here are the 6 issues:
Micromanagement: The Leader of Leadership Topics
The 1st one I would call to your attention is micromanagement.
People hate being micromanaged. The positive way to state this is, people love autonomy. It’s very engaging. Micromanagement is very disengaging. It actually invites people to abdicate to you.
“All right. You go ahead. You want to micromanage me? Then you handle all the issues that I’m handling.”
They see micromanagement as a trust issue:
“You don’t trust me, so you have to manage every turn – every single decision I make.”
“You think I’m stupid or incompetent, so you have to manage every single step that I take.”
Communication: An Always-Hot, Important-for-Everyone Topic
The second major category that comes up is, “How do I communicate with Joe?”
(And by the way, I made up the name Joe. So if you’re Joe, you are not the problem.)
“How do I communicate with certain folks?”
Either that person is really important that I communicate to well, or it’s a person I’m having difficulty communicating to, and it’s getting in the way of things and progress.
But it’s, “How do I communicate with this person?” Sometimes 3 or 4 key people.
But it’s not, “How do I communicate with 100 people around me in the company?”
It’s people focusing in on needing help and needing tools with communicating with certain individuals.
So here, they don’t need a bunch of theories. Just like with all 6 of these, they don’t need a bunch of theories. They need some practical tools to get at fixing the communication with various individuals.
Difficult People: The Topic on No One’s Want To List
The 3rd area that people bring up in coaching is dealing with difficult people.
How do I deal with a difficult – could be a boss, a customer, an employee, a colleague…could be a family member.
People that are difficult – that they perceive as difficult – these people cause conflict and tension in the individual’s life.
And so the people are asking me questions about, “How do I deal with blank-blank individual?”
And I get, here, into discussions with people about stimulus response.
“Hey, I got a nasty email from Sharon and she beat up on me, so I sent her a nasty email back again and I beat up on her. How come we’re having such a bad time?”
People have trouble. I tell people and coach people on how to handle these situations:
I coach them that you can’t control the stimuli in your life, but you can control your response to those stimuli, and it will make all the difference.
And help them work through how they respond to difficult people and difficult people’s actions and behaviors.
Time Management: The Topic that Needs a New Name
The 4th on the list of 6 is what people call time management – I would call priority management.
Because when people describe time management – “I need help, Bill. I need help managing my time. I need help with improving my follow-up and keeping track of things and being better organized.” – very inextricably woven into that is priority management and truly setting priories in your life and in your job.
Performance Reviews: The Topic Everyone Hates
And 5th is performance reviews.
Everyone hates them.
Mangers hate performance reviews. The employees being reviewed hate performance reviews. And the boss who hates reviewing employees hates being reviewed by his boss. And his boss hates it.
It’s one of the most consistent factors I see in organizational life.
In fact, the tool that I use to help people with this is attributes based behavior modification. (How’s that for a longer term?)
But it changes the whole term from “performance review” to what it really should be, in my judgment, which is:
How do you look at who you are and how you are made up (that is, your attributes) and then judge what kinds of behaviors you want to target? Positive behaviors based on those attributes.
And it tends to change people’s whole approach to what they used to think of as “performance reviews.”
Vision: The Topic that Transcends Work-Life Boundaries
And finally, number 6. And number 6 seems to be a thread that finds its way in to all of the other 5. And it comes down to the kinds of questions that I get around:
“Hey Bill, could we talk some time about…What am I doing? What I am doing here, meaning, in this life? What is my life’s purpose? Talk about work-life balance? Where am I going? What do I love? What do I want to do? Do I love what I’m doing, or could I love something else more?”
A lot of times, it comes up in the context of career, but it quickly gets to be a larger issue around what I summarize as vision. Personal vision. Personal vision being made up of career vision, family vision, etc.
So those are the 6. I hope it gives you some insight into what people around you are thinking about. And also some confidence that “Hey, if those things are on my mind, I’m not so messed up after all.”
Because lots of people are thinking about those issues. Very intensively.
And I’d love it if you’d comment and share some of YOUR most pressing topics with me as well.
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