How to improve your communication skills with Aleta Maxwell

Aleta Maxwell she is the Founder and Professional Coach of Uplifting Leadership, author of Uplifting Leaders: How to Have Difficult Conversations that Motivate and Inspire. She has 25 years of experience in highly competitive work environments in both the hospitality industry and non-profits.

In this podcast you will learn: 

  • What makes an effective leader
  • How to improve your communication skills
  • How to deal with leaders who have a “my way or the highway” mindset
  • The best ways to navigate conflict?

Connect with Aleta here: 

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Welcome to thrive. Radio expert, visionary and innovative business life and relationship advice to live a life of doing the impossible with your host Amy Montgomery radio, I’m your host in the Montgomery entrepreneur and digital marketing agency owner Today. My guest is elite of Maxwell, she is the founder and professional coach, uplifting leadership author of uplifting leaders, how to have difficult conversations that motivate and inspire. She’s 25 years of experience in highly competitive work environments in both the hospitality industry and non profits. A little welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me today. Can you describe your background and journey that made you to be the coach that you are today? So I started out in the hospitality industry at 15 I had a job as a line server in a deli, moved through the barista, worked my way up to assistant manager, assistant general manager and then general manager. Um My goal at the time was to own a restaurant like so many that start out in the restaurant industry have as their goal. In 2000 and seven I had my son and so I decided I need to pivot um working the crazy hours I was working, did not jive with infant child at the time, so I really pivoted into the nonprofit world and at the time this was a huge letdown for me but looking back it was such an amazing um time in my life to experience building up my skill sets in a different avenue, the finance and HR world was new to me and so I really dove in and soaked up as much as I could. Um I then came back into the restaurant industry and partnered with the restaurant group here in new york that had three locations, I helped them build that up to 22 locations in eight years and we were able to sell the company at the beginning of 2020 um that then allowed me to pivot yet again into the coaching space and really focus on the things that allowed me to live my joy and my passion, which was coaching individually or in small groups to develop out leadership and communication skills. So I’ve had kind of a winding road throughout my career, but now I’m super thankful for all of the different experiences I’ve had that have allowed me to kind of bring that breath of experience to my clients now, so through that journey, what’s one thing that you’re most grateful for all those pivots, I can’t tell you how many times um I had a career change and sat there really a little depressed because my goal that I had had, that I’ve been working towards wasn’t gonna be realized in the way that I thought it was going to and especially I think when we’re younger um we think that we have to know exactly how our lives going to unfold and we have a goal set and we think of course I’m going to accomplish that um and so all those different pivots were really surprising to me in the moment, but now looking back on my career, I’m so thankful for the different opportunities that I had, the, each taught me so much that I think built me into who I am today. Why did you choose to focus on leadership and communication coaching? Well, I realized about 15 years ago, you know, when I was younger, I thought that if you were in a leadership position, you were there because you had the skills that of course you wouldn’t be promoted to lead people unless you have great communication skills and you are a great leader. And about 15, 16 years ago I realized that is not the case, people are promoted into leadership positions for a whole host of reasons and oftentimes it’s the needs of the company we have a position to fill, You were the best person for it, We can see that you have potential, so we’re going to go ahead and give you a shot in this position. And so I really started saying that there is a need for newer leaders and even some more senior leaders to build out some of their competencies. I was really lucky um that I had a lot of mentors throughout my career that developed these skills out. They invested time and resources to help me figure out what kind of a leader do I want to be, how do I want to show up for my team, what does that mean in my communication and how I interact with my team, but so many leaders I find today did not or don’t have those mentors within their support team and so that’s what I ended up focusing on because I saw the need and I also saw that that was one of my superpowers, working with my own coach, I discovered the things that maybe me that were unique to me and how can I then use those um those skills are those um super powers to help others expand and become the leaders that they want to be. So let’s talk about leadership, what in your opinion, makes an effective leader for me it truly does come down to communication and awareness. I found that the leaders that I’ve loved working for throughout the years did not come with ego, but truly came with trying to understand what were the needs of the team and how can I speak to those needs, how can I help support my team and awareness is really needed to do that effectively and efficiently. So it always comes down to how we communicate in my world, so how can leaders improve their communication? I think it starts with kind of building up the foundation and truly taking some time to reflect what type of a leader do I want to be, What intention do I have throughout my communication, my intentions through every communication is to make sure the person kept talking with, feel seen, heard and appreciated. I know that when I rest in that intention I show up with a different energy, I’m able to kind of negate or quiet down my ego when it when it gets prodded or poked and I can truly focus on being curious and hearing what the other person is saying to me, even if it’s a difficult conversation or even if we don’t agree when I focus on making sure that person feels seen, heard and appreciated, we can come to a mutual understanding because they’re not necessarily fighting to be heard or fighting to be appreciated. I’m acknowledging that and all of my words then choosing the energy that I’m bringing is really leaning into that. What would you say, leaders who have a my way or highway mindset, communicating with leaders on their team? I find that this comes from a different, a couple different places. This could be a lack of confidence from the leader, it could be a leader that is really focused on efficiency at the end of the day. I find that this leader creates a lot more obstacles to meet their end goal, Especially the efficiency part. I’ve talked a lot of different people that have this thought process because I just got to get done a little, I don’t have 45 minutes to talk to each person and get their buy in at the front end and I always ask, you know, do you have then hours upon hours to deal with this person to pull them along to your plan. Um Throughout the process, I would much Rather spend half an hour, 45 minutes talking with my team member, acknowledging the needs that I am seeing, stating what I think a solution might be asking for feedback or concerns about my solution, asking them to poke holes in my plan so that I can better it and then getting their commitment to helping the champion or cheer lead my plan and then really at my plan because now they’re bought in, it’s not just my plan is our plan rather than putting my plan up my way or the highway. I don’t really need your input and then having to drag you along. I find that typically when leaders do this, they tend to have the same conversations with the same teammates that aren’t bought in. So there’s a lot of time invested their, their team typically then becomes a bit disengaged. So now we’re having discipline issues on top of trying to drag them along with our plan. I find it to be much more efficient if we get the buy in from the beginning and make sure that our plan is really thoughtful in um dealing with all the concerns of the needs of our team prior to rolling it out. So what’s one of the number one ways to navigate conflict. I find that being super curious is a great way to start out so many people I see avoid conflict because there’s a lot of assumptions they’re dealing with theirs as possibly assumption that the other person doesn’t like them doesn’t want to help is lazy. I mean the list of assumptions can be quite long and they’re typically not built on giving the benefit of the doubt. Um I also see that some people avoid conflict because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. So when we enter into conflict, getting, trying to be as curious as possible, trying to ask what’s at play and really seek to understand what the issue the root causes. That’s a much easier way to navigate conflict because again, it’s not all on our shoulders, we don’t have to have all the answers if we come in with curiosity were truly asking the other person to partner with us to seek the best solutions. And I find that when I do that again, my ego has to be pushed to the side and I’m a lot more I’m a lot better at finding the creative solutions when I enter into conflict with that curiosity, I think that’s really good, especially because how many times is there something going on that people are upset about and maybe it’s you’re working on a project and there are people that are upset, but you it’s not about the project is because something that happened a month ago that people are still mad about and so if you don’t dive into what that is and why that’s bothering them and resolve that it just flows into every single other project? Well, it’s pretty funny that you’re doing that because I have a couple of clients right now, that’s the case, that, you know, conflict arose throughout the past several months or years. We’ve chosen not to deal with it because we don’t know what to say and whatever, it’s just too much to get into and it builds. And so a breakdown of trust happens and we don’t give each other the benefit of doubt until there’s an explosion of some kind, until the staff are upset and they’re threatening to leave or an ownership issue arises. And we’re thinking about splitting up ownership. And I just find that if we dealt with things as they arose and made sure that we came to that issue with curiosity and truly the goal of seeking a solution that works for everybody, then it doesn’t build an explosion point thinking that you can sweep things underneath the rug never works out. It always will come back to bite you. And it typically is a much harder lift because you’re lifting a lot more than just that one issue. It’s typically compounded by that point. Um, so it’s much harder to unravel than if you dealt with things as they arose. So, can you give us an example of a story where you’ve actually helped somebody improve their communication skills. Yeah, I had a client last year who came to me because he had just been recently promoted into senior leadership for a company and truly there was a lack of confidence. He felt that he had to have all the answers in order to prove his value. And so he was coming to the table with a lot of ideas, but a lack of curiosity and he didn’t feel comfortable asking questions because in his mind, he was in this position, he should know all the answers. And so we really dealt with what does it mean to be curious? How do we ask these questions in a really supportive way too, be able to provide the most creative and best solutions? And he started getting more comfortable asking questions. He started to see it as a support rather than acknowledging that he didn’t know everything and it allowed him to build trust with his team and then sure enough create and show that value because he was integral to senior leadership in the stakeholders and understanding what was really at play rather than leading with assumptions and rolling out solutions that really didn’t deal with the root causes of problems, but rather the symptoms. Um and so it was really fun watching him build up that skill and that muscle of asking questions with curiosity rather than leading with this, you know, I know all the answers and that’s why I’m here. It was, it was really fun seeing him build out that competency. I think that’s so important to understand in leadership. There’s so many people that go out there and say because I’m the leader, I’m the one that needs to get all the credit and then you’ll see leaders that will compete with those that are under them with work and try to take the work and micromanage. And one of the biggest things that I learned even in my own world was to have those experts that around you, let them shine and them tell you what needs to be done in their world to accomplish the vision and you’re you know, you’re responsible for the vision, you’re irresponsible for this is where we need to go, okay guys, how is that going to play out? And I found so many people that were more supportive, I had, you know, a stronger connections with people and they trusted me more. They didn’t necessarily trust the people that are around me, that we’re operating the same way, but I was able to build that. And it’s funny because I’ve talked to a lot of people when I say that, you know, as a leader, your job is to be the visionary and and that’s that’s what you’re paid to do, they think and you know, doing the work that’s not my job, some of them get surprised, you know, like what I think that’s a big step up and that, that’s a mind shift that has to be intentional when you go from The worker bee two more the leader, you are just as needed, but in a different way, you’re needed to problem solve your need to support your needed to come up with creative solutions, you’re there to help kind of lift up your team rather than the do er and so I think that is a shift in thought process when we get into leadership, but also like you said, if I’m here to support my team and make sure that they have as smooth sailing as possible and help navigate conflicts, I’m going to be more valued, My team is gonna want me to shine rather than if I come in and I’m the leader and it’s my way and I get all the shine, of course you’re building an environment where people are gonna want to see you fail, I’d rather be an environment where people want to see me succeed because I’m there to see them succeed and that kind of loop that you can build and it really inspirational way. Those are the teams that I love to be a part of and those are the leaders that I’ve always loved to work for it to. What do you think your truth or value that has gotten you this far in your journey is I think when I discovered the leadership style of servant leadership that allowed me to get much more comfortable with my authority servant leadership takes the spotlight off of me as a leader I am truly here to support and uplift my team and it really kind of reverses that organizational chart. So the leaders aren’t at the top were at the bottom, we’re here to support and uplift our team, it allows me also to center all of my communication on that, it’s not about me, it’s about you, so I’m going to speak to your needs first when I want to influence you and get me you on my side, I’m not going to speak about what I need to speak about what your needs are and how this is going to help you get to your end goal, so it’s a much easier conversation, I get much more support that way and I truly feel a lot more comfortable in my authority because it’s not about me, it’s about my team. So servant leadership is really that that that point that allowed me to get really comfortable with leadership. So what’s your intention in creating your coaching business and uh you know, what’s your end goal, what do you see happening in the future? Yeah, I really looked around about, it was about five years ago, I wasn’t, I was in my dream job right on paper, it was what I had wanted to do and I should have been really happy in my role, but I wasn’t and so I actually got a coach to help me figure out how do I navigate the waters I’m currently in and what do I want for my future and figuring that out. And I realized that the moments that I was meeting either one on one or in small groups, coaching on leadership and communication skills or the moments that I felt my joy. And so that’s why I went into coaching now that I’m in coaching, I truly feel that the more that we can better communication and thoughtful leadership, the better our communities and society will be so much of. I think some of the problems that we’re seeing is because ego is leading first and the more that we can kind of be intentional with putting ego to the side and truly leading with curiosity and digging into how can I be as helpful to my team as possible, then you will see the ripple effects in our society at large. So I just feel like the more, the more better leaders we have out there, the better society will be at the end of the day. So if you were able to get yourself one piece of advice when you first started your journey, what would it be, the more compassionate on yourself? I think that I was really, really hard on myself when I was younger and what that ended up doing was making it so that I was a lot harder on my team that I needed to be being more compassionate on myself, acknowledging that perfection is not reality and it isn’t a realistic expectation on myself or on others and then giving more space for failure. Honestly, the best ways that I have learned is through failure. If something didn’t work and I had to pivot and I had to be creative with how I’m going to get myself out of this mess. That’s what I’ve learned the best. And so giving a bit more space to my team to fail with some safety nets and being more compassionate to myself and others is probably the best piece of advice I would give to my younger self. So I did want to, I’ve already mentioned your book but uplifting leaders, your, it’s number one on amazon and for anyone that wants to grab a copy, I’ll put the links in the notes. Is there anything that you want to share about your book that those listening might find interesting? Yeah, I think, you know, I share a lot of experiences that I’ve had both conversations that have gone really well and events that have not gone gone well, but because the right conversations weren’t had, I think that so many people don’t understand that we should prepare for these conversations just like we prepare for anything else. And so the more that we can spend time investing in our own development, which oftentimes aside from work. So whether that’s reading or podcasts or, or youtube videos, the more that we can develop out this skill set, the better of a leader we will be and this is not a skill set that everybody is born with. So we do need to take some time to really think about how do we want to communicate and how do I better my trust and communication skills with my team. I think the better we will be as leaders at large. I love that. Thank you so much for coming on my podcast today. Thank you so much for having me. This has been a lot of fun. Well I want to mention a few of your links, if anyone wants to get a hold of you, your website is uplifting leadership dot com. Your linkedin under Elita Maxwell and uh I believe it’s twitter, uplifting leadership underscore. And again, I will link your book down below as well. So thank you so much for having me today. And if your would like more information about a call to thrive, you could go to a call to thrive dot com. Thank you everyone for listening and have a wonderful week.



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