Leadership banana skins – seven tips to avoid a trip

There’s a story behind this image. I almost rejected it from a photo shoot for the new website as it wasn’t perfect.

Do you see the banana skin hanging out of the rucksack side-pocket? I was worried it made me look unprofessional.

But isn’t that banana skin a slippy little reminder of all of our imperfections as leaders?

Don’t we all carry around something that could trip us up?

Whether it’s a belief, a pattern of behaviour, or some unhelpful blind spot, we’re all capable of falling flat on our faces when we let our weaknesses rather than our strengths take the reins.

What’s your banana skin?

Perhaps it’s dealing with confrontation, managing meetings or public speaking.

It could be a worry that you’re not cut out for leadership, or a concern that key people in your team are not fully committed and failing to pull their weight.

Maybe you have a whole bunch of them!

So what?

Effective leaders know how to manage their banana skins so they can lead with their strengths.

This level of self-awareness and management is the basis of emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realise how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, you can manage relationships more effectively.

High levels of emotional intelligence make leaders more effective. Decision making, coping with stress, staying calm under pressure, getting the best out of other people, and motivating others are all more manageable when you recognise your own patterns of behaviour, and can understand how others are feeling and reacting too.

Heightening your levels of emotional intelligence starts with yourself. How do you react when things aren’t going your way? How does it feel when you’re faced with someone who doesn’t listen? And on the positive side, how are you behaving when everything’s going swimmingly? How do you act when you’re on top of your game?

Recognising your slippy banana skins is the first step to minimising them. Here’s how to find yours and keep them in check.

Now what?

So how do you keep your banana skins from causing leadership trips and slips?

Here is my list. Let me know any others you use.

#1  Be reflective. What are you noticing in yourself, and in the reactions of others? What is it that makes you interpret these reactions in the way that you do? Could there be other interpretations?

#2  Be open to feedback.Actively seek it. (Without becoming an overly self-indulgent pain in the butt, of course.)

#3  Find your critical friends.Have some trusted buddies who will tell you as it is.

#4  Keep a journal.Jot down your reflections and any feedback you have had from others. Write on the left-hand page. Review over time for any patterns. Jot these down on the right-hand page.

#5  Say it out loud to your face. Make a video diary of your reflections. Use the same principle as a written journal.

#6  Group learning. Experiment with collective feedback sessions. After routine meetings, for example, close with a round of, “What I found really great/valuable/etc about this meeting was ABC. What I noticed got in the way/closed me down a bit was XYZ.”

#7  Remember why you’re a leader! You are in a leadership role because you are exceptional in one or more ways. Don’t lose sight of this. For sure, pay attention to those banana skins that will seriously derail you, but do keep honing the skills that make you great. Pack the other banana skins away in your rucksack.

Start now

Self-reflection is important, so get on and do it! And make it one of your leadership habits.

I have offered 7 tips above. No excuses. Commit now to one or more.

Let me know how you get on and please share any other tips.

Dave Stewart