Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results

Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results

by Fred Halstead


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What do leaders and executives do to keep improving their performances and maintain momentum? They go back to the basics. Fundamentals are the glue—communicating, listening, questioning, inspiring followers, being accountable, and delegating. These essentials are the change agents for leaders with a desire to succeed.

In Leadership Skills That Inspire Incredible Results Halstead gives readers the same advice, guidance, and techniques he offers his clients. He outlines the skills needed to be an effective leader and provides techniques augmented by real-world examples from companies that include Spotify, Clif Bar & Company, Honeywell, and Eileen Fisher. Learn how to:

  • Hone others' critical thinking through insightful powerful questions
  • Inspire followers
  • Fearlessly delegate with mindful purpose
  • Create a culture of accountability

Readers will see how the development of these skills demonstrates respect for others that will inspire them to tackle goals and produce results previously thought impossible. It shows professionals at all levels how to improve these skills to create greater success for them, their team, and their entire organization.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632651501
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 11/01/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 507,085
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Fred Halstead's executive coaching emphasizes understanding and taking full advantage of one's strengths, discovering powerful new ideas, being accountable, and measuring results. As a result of his 30-year career as an executive search consultant, he has developed an understanding of the traits of high performing leaders and how those traits can be adapted to unique cultural environments. Halstead is an academically trained coach and has decades of experience in assessing the leadership skills of hundreds of senior executives and the cultures of over 200 organizations. He specializes in coaching highly successful CEOs and senior-level executives who are open to positive change and wish to increase their abilities as great leaders. He lives in Texas.

Read an Excerpt


The Art and Joy of Listening

To be heard, first we must listen.

Years ago, I complied with my wife's request to have my hearing checked. She told me time and again that she felt I did not consistently hear her. I was surprised and somewhat reluctant, but decided to go to an ENT. Everything checked out and the doctor told me my hearing was fine. As you may have guessed, I realized it wasn't my hearing that was defective — it was my listening. That event accelerated my interest in making listening a hallmark for me, not only as a coach, but in all aspects of my life.

The Proactive Listener

That experience may explain, in part, why I named this chapter "The Art and Joy of Listening." Yes, you can gain joy and satisfaction from demonstrating respect for others by really listening to them. In this chapter, we will explore the benefits of truly listening, then explore listening inhibitors, and finally, what you can do to become a better, proactive, and an effective listener. We inherently know that we benefit from listening to others, but most of us have never thought about what will motivate us to become great listeners. What benefits do we truly receive and how do they help us both professionally and in our personal lives?

There are five main advantages to becoming a great listener. Some of them are direct, while others are by-products:

1. Learn.

2. Show respect and express appreciation for others.

3. Stay out of trouble.

4. Achieve the best thinking and the best results.

5. Be a fully connected listener.

Let's take a moment to walk through each one so you better understand their importance. Keep in mind that you may not experience all of these benefits at once, rather they will develop over time as you hone your ear — and your behavior — to truly listen to others. You will, however, quickly find some positive, immediate results when you stop talking, pay attention, and listen closely.


Most leaders have an inquisitive mind, and being inquisitive is one of the foundations for effective listening. When you listen to others, you gain a deeper appreciation of their ability to think critically, develop ideas, and provide solutions to problems. You both support others' best thinking and quench your thirst for knowledge and understanding. As you hear someone walk through their thought process and fully explain their positions or actions, you gain an appreciation of what people around you have to offer. In the process, other questions or thoughts may arise, which contributes to your becoming more inquisitive.

The opportunity to learn is most obvious when we listen to someone we respect and consider wise and knowledgeable. But when I open my mind, I also find that I learn from my children, grandchildren, people I casually meet, and even people who initially do not appear to be particularly smart or wise. When listening, we become more aware of what we can learn from just about anyone. Many people surprise me with what they know if I truly listen to them. If you stay inquisitive, keep an open mind, and shut out personal barriers, you will be amazed by how much you can learn by actively listening.

Show Respect and Express Appreciation for Others

We all want to be respected and appreciated, and we naturally appreciate those people who respect us. When someone expresses appreciation for the person you are as well as the position you hold, a bond and mutual admiration is created. To create such a positive environment, it is imperative that you listen to your team, and that they listen to you. This sets the stage to inspire and motivate each other. Although being appreciated and respected is more important to some people than others, all of those to whom you show your appreciation and respect by listening will be far more inclined to follow you as the leader and reciprocate with their respect for you.

How many times have you sensed a person whom you greatly respected was listening to you — focused on you alone? When this happens, your confidence typically grows as you feel respected and your work valued. Conversation opens up and your motivation to continue to express yourself as thoughtfully and clearly as you can increase. What are your thoughts about the people who listen to you and engage in meaningful discussions? I find that mutual respect is created, and I am more willing to candidly speak about any type of issue or problem I'm facing. I respect and admire everyone who I coach. As I ask clients questions and listen to them, they sense my respect and become comfortable in expressing thoughts that they may be reluctant to share with others. They know that I listen without judgment. As you truly listen to another person with full engagement, your personal confidence grows and you become more confident in the other person's abilities as well. When you show respect by listening carefully to others, they are likely to do so with their fellow leaders, employees, clients, and others with whom they come in contact.

How do we respond to a person who actively listens to us and is interested in what we know and what we think? We appreciate and value that person. How often have you said or thought something such as: "He (or she) is a person that listens to me"? We feel valued and respected and therefore value that person who truly listens. Why is it easier to follow and respect a person who listens to us? One of the most important reasons is that we in turn feel respected and valued. What are the implications if you become known as a person who listens to everyone with respect and genuine interest?

Many leaders whom I have coached cannot think of one person who has genuinely and consistently listened to them. This creates a breakdown in communication, ill will, and negative attitudes and outcomes. If you are willing, however, to be the person who listens, who shows respect through giving someone your undivided attention, you will be revered. People will respect you more and trust your opinions, motivations, and actions.

An article by Elizabeth Bernstein published in the Wall Street Journal titled "How 'Active Listening' Makes Both Participants in a Conversation Feel Better" supports this notion. In the article, Ms. Bernstein refers to research done by Dr. Graham D. Bodie, associate professor of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University, who found that "…when the listener displayed more of the (immediacy) behaviors [such as] making eye contact, paraphrasing, asking open-ended questions — the talker perceived the listener as more emotionally aware, and felt better. The verbal behaviors, on average, were three times as likely as nonverbal behaviors to produce this outcome."

Stay Out of Trouble

In all aspects of your life, how many times have you been in trouble or not met expectations because you did not listen? Examples with your spouse can easily come to mind. Most people don't want to even think about tallying that number!

How many times have you thought, "If I'd just listened, I wouldn't have this problem"? This happens in professional settings every single day. Misunderstood project requirements, failed contract negotiations, or lack of clarity around performance goals spring to mind.

Problems created by not listening are avoidable. Yet, it's so easy to tune people out — some in particular! Our personal filters thwart our listening. A significant aspect of hearing sounds, in contrast to really listening, comes from clearing away our personal filters so that we hear what another person actually said, rather than what we think they said.

Achieve the Best Thinking and the Best Results

Achieving the best thinking and results is a key aspect of this book. The most effective and powerful questions lead to actionable achievements and positive outcomes. They provide insight into a project or dilemma, and help people collaborate more productively. To ask powerful questions, and gain the desired results, listening must come first. It's natural to think you need to prepare your questions in advance of an important interaction or meeting. This method is especially valuable as you come up with questions in the context of what you want to accomplish and also helps inspire others to achieve what they need to accomplish.

However, a significant problem in focusing solely on your questions is the increased likelihood of not really listening because you are thinking about what you want to say or ask next. For most people, it seems strange and improbable not to think about the questions you plan to ask as you listen to another person. But as you listen to others and absorb what they are saying and thinking, questions will come to mind. As you become a more attuned listener, you will notice that you do not have to spend as much time thinking in advance about what questions you will ask; they will just come naturally as a result of your focused, unfiltered listening. The desire to have an immediate response or fix the person's problems quickly, as well as the need for "efficient communication," leads you away from focused listening. There is no need to interrupt the speaker with your thoughts on what is being said — until the time is right. Verbal cues even as simple as "I see," "Mmmhmm," or "Go on," will foster an environment that encourages the speaker to keep talking. That is what unfiltered listening looks like. And, yet people will go down rabbit holes and use far too many words to express a thought, we will later discuss ways to keep others on track and discussions productive.

While you are listening, questions based on what you heard, your sense of curiosity, or what is missing from what the other person is saying will come to mind. As you consider what someone is telling you and how you can guide and help that person to expand their thinking and their knowledge, the powerful questions will flow naturally. (I'll cover this topic in the chapter on asking powerful questions.) When you listen first, then ask questions, you create a dialogue that leads to results.

Action Step

As you go into a meeting with your team, your goal may be to simply give them the cut-and-dry information they need to perform a task or duty. Yet when you ask some key questions and listen to them first, you'll find that they too have a great deal of information and knowledge that will affect your judgment and plans.

Think about what else you can accomplish. One important thing may be to engage them immediately to gain their thinking and buy in. Although this may seem like it would take too much time, once you start doing it, you will find it to be highly efficient.

More than Hearing

If you just think of hearing what the other person has to say without considering how you can help them achieve the best results through careful listening and questioning, and how they can help you and the overall team with this goal, you miss the chance to lead them in a highly significant and effective way. If you just hear the words without hearing what the person actually intends to say, you will miss the opportunity to gain the essential clarity and results you seek. And when you start listening objectively, instead of listening to hear what might be wrong with what they are saying, you'll see a big difference in your and their success.

Listening to others establishes your role as an effective and empathetic leader, one who keeps an open mind and is willing to learn from others, no matter their level in the organization or their perceived worth or value. This environment results in mutual respect and appreciation, while steering you clear of misunderstandings or negative feelings and helping your team and overall business reach new heights. So, if the benefits are so clear, why doesn't every leader take this proactive listening approach?

Be a Fully Connected Listener

Listening is a contact sport. It is not for the weak. Great listening requires a real connection between you and the other person or people. Great listeners hear what is in the other person's mind and heart. Through listening and questioning, they make a real, almost tangible connection. You might be surprised when your goal is to make a lasting connection with another person just by really listening to them.

Listening Inhibitors

There are many inhibitors to listening and understanding what another person is actually saying. Several of these barriers reflect our attitude toward others, but they also shine a light onto our own personal feelings, biases, and shortcomings. In any professional setting, our ego tends to play an outsized role, especially if we are in a leadership position. As a leader, you may find that your pre-conceived notions or unwillingness to learn from others ends up inhibiting your performance overall. When you fail to listen, you fail to understand. This lack of perception will create barriers in your personal life, career, team effectiveness, and business goals. To avoid these issues, first understand the specific listening inhibitors you're up against, and then learn how you can overcome them. I have found the primary inhibitors to be:

> The natural desire to talk.

> Judging others.

> Preconceptions and biases.

> Ego.

> Multitasking.

> Shutting people off.

The Natural Desire to Talk

We want to create a favorable image. We want to appear knowledgeable, smart, and aware. Those things feed our ego and self-esteem. When we think about what our response will be to what we hear, our ability to focus on what is really being said is diminished, as is our ability to pick up on any nuance or meaning the talker wants to convey. It might seem impossible to carefully listen and at the same time appear to the other person as smart and knowledgeable. It might also be difficult to imagine that you can focus on and listen to the person and, just through listening, develop insightful questions.

Put your curiosity into overdrive! Those insightful questions will demonstrate your engagement and intelligence. If you find yourself thinking about what questions to ask when you are "listening" to another person, start thinking about what will motivate you to focus only on what you are hearing. Your motivation may be that you will miss learning something useful or you will project a lack of respect for the other person, or a list of other possibilities. Armed with a better understanding of your personal reasons for becoming a proactive listener, you will have the ability to more easily listen and, as a result, ask great questions.

One of the ideas that is often discussed in my individual coaching exchanges is the process of thinking about all the ramifications of what one wants to gain from any interaction or meeting. When you open up your mind to doing more than giving directions, so much more is possible. Your goals in a meeting can include inspiring, encouraging, and motivating your team and helping them understand the level of importance or priority of the topics discussed. You can also work to gain trust in each other. None of these goals are possible to attain, however, unless you listen first and then ask questions.

Judging Others

Everyone judges the actions and words of others, and doing so is an essential part of leadership. I refer to that sort of judgment as "assessing" — assessing one's thoughts and actions. Assessing is a critical part of leading people and helping them achieve the desired results. "Judgment" as in judging another person's value, beliefs, intelligence, personality, or background, however, inhibits listening. We are all guilty of this type of judgment at one time or another. I have yet to meet a person who, if honest, will not admit to judging other people's nature rather than assessing only what they say or do. The fact is, most everyone tends to judge people on surface assumptions and there is no easy cure for such snap conclusions. As with anything we wish to change, self-awareness and honesty is a good place to start.

When a person says something we think is incorrect, naïve, or flat-out wrong, we tend to hastily conclude that the person's input or contribution is worthless. We react negatively and are even dismissive of the speaker. In doing so, that individual feels personally judged, a feeling that can act as a curtain being drawn between the speaker and the listener. The listener then loses the benefit of the knowledge the speaker had to offer and mutual respect and appreciation between the two break down. There are millions of not-so-bright ideas or thoughts, but very few people who have absolutely nothing to offer. Regardless, everyone deserves the same amount of respect that we, too, would hope to receive.

When you feel as if you are not being judged, it's likely you can express your thoughts clearly and achieve your best thinking. You can also concentrate on your best thinking rather than on whether the listener values you personally or not. The same idea applies to any other speaker — they will be more open and more productive if they feel that you are listening to what they have to say. As a leader, the dividends are great when you discipline yourself to think and express more positive responses in your words and facial expressions. If you disagree with someone, you want to give the impression that you believe his thought or plan is an "ill-advised idea," not that you consider him a "dumb person." And for many people, it is easy to conclude that when another person attempts to communicate that it was a wrong-headed idea, that the person indeed thinks you're communicating he or she is stupid. So be clear with your words if you wish to try to gain the person's best thinking. For example, you might ask: "What would make that an even better idea?" or "What do you see as the possible pitfalls with that idea or plan?"


Excerpted from "Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Fred Halstead.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Art and Joy of Listening 15

Chapter 2 Become a Great Listener 49

Chapter 3 Ask Powerful Questions 73

Chapter 4 Develop Others' Best Thinking 109

Chapter 5 The Art of Acknowledging and Inspiring 133

Chapter 6 Wise and Thoughtful Delegation 147

Chapter 7 Consistent Accountability 161

Conclusion 181

Appendix 193

Notes 201

Index 205

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