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The Best Leadership Advice I've Received

In 2018, I was working for a leadership consulting firm and was booked to deliver a two day leadership training event to the electric car company, NIO. They are a competitor for Tesla. I was probably the most nervous I'd ever been. The imposter syndrome was real - I remember literally shaking the entire morning before my presentation because I knew I'd be working with some of the smartest people in the auto industry… I mean, who was I? On that visit, I met one of the most incredible leaders, Padmasree (Padma) Warrior, the CEO of NIO. Padma was formerly the CTO of Cisco and of Motorola. She is one of the small handfuls of women in tech leadership. (Follow her on LinkedIn, her leadership newsletter is incredible!) And, I learned one of the most valuable leadership lessons from her. In one of our group leadership discussions, the team was airing their frustrations about working with their colleagues and company leaders in China. They felt like their colleagues had unreasonable standards, they didn't value their business processes, and were generally frustrated in their business communication attempts. (Sounds typical when we work with people, right? ;) ) Padma stepped in and calmly reminded the group, “It's tempting to think that since they are in China, that they want different things. But they don't. They are just people like us - and every person values being seen, heard and communicated with.” When we're in conflict, it's tempting to think it's us vs. them. Or, that people have vastly different goals. But Padma reminded me of a valuable leadership lesson, we build bridges and relationships when we focus on what we have in common - and the biggest of those is our shared human values. 🔥 Data continually points to a woman leader's ability to step into her power by using her emotional intelligence - built from the experiences of taking the lead in tough people issues at work (read: Pandemic response), leading employee resource groups.. and even being the office party planner (sigh.). How can you use this skill for good as a leader?


Where we should focus in conflict

PUT THIS IDEA INTO ACTION

I know how hard it feels to find shared ground when you're feeling frustrated, angry or annoyed that someone isn't seeing things the way you see them. Try this approaching the situation with compassion, curiosity and clarity: Compassion: The best, and hardest place, to begin is with emotional generosity. How can you give this person generous benefit of the doubt?

  • What are my real feelings toward this person? Name them.

  • What are my real feelings toward this project? Name them.

    • Remember, naming your emotions doesn't give them power, it helps you clarify them as data points to inform you of what's important to you.


Naming your emotions helps you slow down to ensure you are coming from a creative and confident energy, not a fearful and resisting energy. Curiosity: Next, focus on what deeply matters here. Consider your role in co-contributing to the conflict.

  • What does this person care about?

  • What are they trying to achieve?

  • How am I owning my actions, behaviors and beliefs I have about this person that's keeping us in conflict? What is mine to change?

Clarity: Finally, focus on the the common problem/solution, not the person.

  • What are our shared goals or outcomes we desire? (i.e. results, customer success, etc)

  • What shared values do we have? (i.e. integrity, high quality, transparency, etc)

  • How can we be clear with one another on the outcomes we both want to achieve? What does success look like for both of us?

💜 What helps you keep a healthy focus in conflict? I'd love to know!


Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 private coaching and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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