S5E36: Off and Running Vulnerability & Generosity as the Fuel for Selfless Leaders (part 1)

“Improv is not about being a solo performer. It’s about relationships.” Peter Margaritis

Leaders who lead with an Improv Leadership Style have a foundation of respect, trust, and support for their organization and people. These leaders know how to prepare in advance and, at the same time, empower the people who are under them to shine. These leaders understand that it is not only about themselves and what they bring to the table; it’s also about their leadership in delegation and listening to their teams’ suggestions and opinions.

Peter gives us amazing insight into how a leader can make himself valuable to his team and those he leads. He also puts into perspective through his demonstrations of the effects a leader can have if not taking the chance to listen to their subordinate staff.

Individuals require a leader who will act as a unifier and believe in individual contributions. Trust is the virtue required to achieve this kind of respect and unity. And when it comes right down to it, it’s up to the leader to create that environment of mutual trust and respect.

S5E35: Break Through to Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration with David Savage

“If I can attract people because they feel I’m serving their needs, confirming their dreams, and helping them get there, that actually makes more money for my shareholders.” David Savage

What does collaboration mean to you? David Savage believes that most people use the term without really fully understanding it and therefore aren’t able to access the full potential of true collaboration. Our guest today, David Savage, is the author of several books, including Breakthrough to Yes.

Over a ten-year period, David and his partners collaborated to develop five companies and four not-for-profits. Since 2007, his company, Savage Management, has focused on building capacity, innovation, and accountability in people and in and between organizations and communities. David works with leaders and organizations to advance their success through collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, and business development. In this interview, David shares his 10 Essential Steps of Collaboration. Collaboration is possible if one identifies the collaboration’s intention and goal. It also means being accountable to your team.

Listen to his advice on how to embrace conflict, the importance of not being a sideliner, how ego is the enemy of progress, and much more in today’s episode.   

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S5E30: Peter Margaritis: Flipping The Script: Making It All About Them and Not About You (Part 2)

“Great leaders inspire and motivate through empathy, not ego, agenda, and emotion.” Peter Margaritis

It can be hard to teach leaders to flip the script when it comes to being more empathetic and even vulnerable if those leaders are wearing thick protective armor over their humanity in the workplace. Two-face, empathy-devoid leaders take pride in their distance. But unfortunately, their aloof and impersonal workplace behavior starts degrading relationships, and then projects begin to fail.

Self-absorption creates a toxic work environment. Empathetic leadership creates an empowered workplace, and one person’s behaviors and attitudes can impact many. A very effective way to increase empathy is by replacing assumptions with a sense of curiosity that opens us up to empathy. You achieve this through conversation and questioning to reveal what lies beneath the surface of the other person’s issue or perspective. Curiosity is a good thing. It helps us ask questions and gather more facts and information, which eliminates unfounded assumptions. The more questions we ask, the closer we get to the root of any issue, and once discovered, we can help devise a plan to help solve the problem at hand.

The word improv looks a lot like the word improve. It’s a powerful reminder that when we master improv, we improve relationships, teams, organizations, products, and careers. Improvisation is all about empathy for business leaders and provides an excellent foundation to empathize with others. First, as a leader, you must be a great listener and fully present during every conversation. When ego, agenda, and emotion are infused too strongly in a conversation, the conversation halts and negativity is nearly always an immediate result.

Great leaders inspire and motivate through empathy, not ego, agenda, and emotion. Developing the kind of empathy to improve your leadership in this way can start with an improviser mindset. People still find it difficult to understand that a leader’s emotional intelligence, of which empathy is a crucial component, is more critical to the organization than the leader’s technical knowledge. The truth is that technical skills are more accessible to learn than soft skills. To get promoted in today’s business world, you must master your interpersonal skills, which are hard to master. Mastering the soft skills is easier, thankfully, with an improviser mindset. The better you treat and understand the people you serve, the more empowered and loyal the stakeholders become.

S5E28: Learning to Listen to Avoid Tone-Deaf Leadership (2nd expert)

“Every single day in our role as leaders, we encounter situations where empathy would serve us and others well.” Peter Margaritis

There are dozens of remarkable leaders and scholars singing the praises of empathy in the workplace. For example, in his book, Geoff Colvin, the Fortune Magazine Senior Editor, argues that as workplaces evolve and leadership models change, the most important skill that leaders must possess is empathy. Similarly, an article published in the Harvard Business Review after a survey of 6000 leaders, Jack Singer and Joseph Folkman, revealed that women leaders were more decisive as compared to their male counterparts when it came to empathy.

People use the terms sympathy and empathy in overlapping and interchangeable ways, but there’s a distinct difference. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel, not what you think they feel. It involves grief and pain when and because someone else is feeling it. Every single day in our role as leaders, we encounter situations where empathy would serve us and others well. Sympathy, on the other hand, means understanding someone else’s suffering. It is more cognitive and keeps a certain distance.

Even if it is hard to show empathy, you must be vulnerable and authentic and put your ego aside. It’s about making a human connection and not just pushing the conversation to a conclusion so you can get on with your day and get back to work. Being vulnerable is putting yourself out there for others to see. It takes courage, and it takes time. Being vulnerable is a sign of being human, authentic, genuine, and honest, and by being vulnerable, you create a stronger human connection. 

S5E26: Off-Key: Learning To Listen To Avoid Tone-Deaf Leadership

“Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful.” Peter Margaritis

This is an excerpt from the book, Off Script: Mastering the Art of Business Improvisation.

Leadership is not about self-promotion, being the center of attention, talking as much as you can, speaking in the third person, always being right, even when you’re wrong, disrespecting others, or being a narcissist. However, in some organizations, these traits are viewed as effective leadership skills, which is the slippery slope to the leaders and potentially the organization’s demise.”

The one skill that helps to save people’s careers and organizations is the art of listening. Leadership is all about becoming a better listener. Leadership is all about listening to understand versus listening to respond. Listening to understand means you genuinely want to understand what is being said to you directly, in the room as you participate in a meeting, or while attending a presentation as an audience member. When you listen to understand, you park your ideas and biases somewhere else, and you go out of your way to eliminate all distractions while listening.

When you’re exhibiting the kind of listening skills worthy of a true leader, you suspend your judgment, set your ego aside to focus on listening to what the other person is trying to communicate, and you do so all the while managing your emotions. When you are “listening to respond” rather than “listening to understand,” you aren’t fully listening to what is being said. We can all strengthen our listening skills if we work on them daily.

Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful. Improv exercises teach us practical skills that can be applied in moments when the gameplay is the furthest thing from our minds. They can teach you and your team how to be better communicators and leaders. When practiced often, these improv games give you muscle memory of how to behave in real-world situations.