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Last week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence picked out highlights on leadership skills from Fast Company magazine. They found these items particularly relevant for the year ahead. There are a number of team development and leadership skills mentioned that fit themes we talk about here. We added supporting links on many of the points and wanted to share the ideas with you:

Leadership Skills – 15 Ideas for Innovative Leadership in 2017

The February issue of Fast Company arrived, featuring a special report called, “Find Your Purpose – 175 Inspiring Business Lessons to Navigate the Year Ahead.” The article shares the thinking of ninety-six global business leaders on a variety of leadership skills. We wanted to highlight specific questions, recommendations, and challenges that seem particularly pertinent for leading strategically and innovatively in the year ahead.

Intriguing Interview Questions

Asking great questions is an important aspect of discovering and selecting the right talent for your team. We are fans of asking open-ended, unusual (but still real-world) questions that potential hires are not automatically prepared to answer. These questions all fit that profile.

What are you trying to prove?

Emily Weiss (Founder and CEO, Glossier) is looking for people that have the drive and the hustle to show someone – whether now or from somewhere in their past – that they can accomplish something no one expected them to be able to accomplish.

What would you do if there were no money involved?

Abby Falik (Founder and DEO, Global Citizen Year) is hiring people who are passionate about a cause. Having people share what they would tackle out of desire for change when no money is involved helps provide a better sense of what drives them.

What does your worst day look like?

Tom Ogletree (Director of Social Impact, General Assembly) uses this type of question to get people to open up about what bugs them. He finds that peoples’ negative perceptions can disqualify them for the job they are seeking.

What do you want from this experience?

Kimberly Bryant (Founder, Black Girls Code) is trying to find people that connect with her organization’s bigger mission. Through this question, she is looking for self-motivated individuals who want to develop and create progressively greater impacts.

Can you give me another example?

Will Dean (CEO, Tough Mudder) does not like to settle for stock, well-rehearsed answers. He will ask a candidate a question. He will then ask for two or three more examples so candidates are forced to think on their feet during interviews.

Leadership Practices

Some leaders dismiss the idea of collaborating with their teams because it takes too much time, keeps team members away from daily tasks, and can lead to ideas that the organization is not ready to embrace. One counter to this outlook is that a diverse team is in a position to see opportunities from many more vantage points than that of a single leader. These tips for leadership skills help clarify ways to make collaboration work effectively as a leadership practice.

Push yourself out of your routine – continually.

Blythe Harris (Chief Creative Officer, Stella & Dot) challenges herself and other leaders to push beyond the everyday activities of normal life. She seeks out new ideas and experiences to “actively disrupt” her routines and sharpen her creativity.

Never forget the customer and how they fit into what you are doing.

Regina Asborno (Deputy Director, New York Transit Museum) stresses the importance of connecting to the ultimate customer to orient and motivate teams to excel, even at the mundane aspects of what they do.

A leader should create strategy with a team.

Ashley McCollum (General Manager, Tasty at BuzzFeed) advocates for leaders collaborating with their teams to create business strategy. The reason? Leaders are often looking for teams to push beyond what seems possible or even well advised. Involving a team in planning increases the likelihood that it will step up to that challenge.

Keep meetings to the essential people.

Susan Reilly Salgado (Founder, Hospitality Quotient) makes a concerted effort to keep meetings as small as possible by reaching out only to essential people. She identifies participants based on those who “need to be there,” making sure those core people are the only ones invited.

Keep meetings short.

Trevor O’Brien (Chief Technology Officer and Partner, Deutsch) recommends trying to shorten meetings (say, to 20 minutes) to get the best out of bringing people together while not bogging them down with extended, unproductive meetings that slow progress.

Shaping Teams

A leader’s role involves pushing the team, but not necessarily for more productivity. Innovative leaders push a team to imagine bigger, better possibilities, paving the way for individuals to step out and realize new scenarios.

Push team members out of their comfort zones.

David Lee (Chief Creative Officer, Squarespace) sees a leader’s job as pushing team members beyond typical comfort zones, stretching them through goals that require them to do things they might have not originally thought possible. He takes time for celebration, but ensures the next goal falls into place right away.

Surround yourself with experts and have them explain.

Jonny Bauer (Global Chief Strategy Officer, Droga5) looks for experts in unfamiliar areas that his team needs to understand. He then has experts go over what they see, know, and understand, repeatedly, until everyone else gets the picture.

Extend the voices of your team members.

Jason Cornwell (Communications UX Lead, Google) challenges leaders to use the power they have based on position to put their teams forward. His view is that a smart leader amplifies the team by giving it his power.

Emphasize results over being busy.

Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation) keeps a goal front and center, assessing performance based on generating impact. This contrasts sharply with placing the emphasis on generating a lot of activity that keeps an organization busy, but falls short of accomplishing an overall objective.

Exploit easily measured goals to help maximize progress.

Noah Weiss (Head of the Search, Learning, and Intelligence group, Slack) recommends dealing with fast growth by giving smart, emerging leaders freedom to act and clear goals that are easy to measure.

What new leadership skills are you using this year?

We found these leadership skills suggestions from Fast Company particularly intriguing. What are you changing in your leadership style to be more strategic and innovative in 2017?

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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