3 Tips to Be More Assertive

When it comes to leadership, assertive managers drive consistent results compared to non-assertive ones. This makes sense when you think about the need to manage differences, personalities, and conflicts. Assertiveness is more than a “nice trait to have,” without it, your managers cost you more than you have calculated.

The lack of assertiveness is not the same as being accepting and easy going – we are going to talk about what is means to be assertive, or not.

What Does Assertiveness Mean in a Manager?

Assertive managers are those who carefully express themselves, using timelines, deadlines, and clear expression of expectations. You can understand that, as a manager, it is essential to be clear and direct when you need other people to help you achieve your goals and get the job done.

Being assertive is challenging when you work in an environment that does not have a standard of clear and direct communication. In this type of setting, being assertive can be experienced as aggressive, even though, you are simply being direct. You definitely want to brush up on your skills in managing conflict, because communicating assertively in a passive environment can increase workplace stress and lead to conflict.

Assertiveness is part of the skill set of emotional intelligence which includes knowing how you come across to others. This is important for assertiveness because it is like a “Goldilocks” moment, where you do not have too much, or too little, but just the right amount of direct, clear communication.

Unfortunately, not being assertive enough can cost you influence and impact as a leader. 

Assertiveness is a balance between independence and collaboration requiring you, as the manager, to stand up, even when it is unpopular.

When one chooses not to be assertive in situations that require decisive action, you can lose opportunity, timing, and you open the door for an informal leader who may hi-jack your outcome. As the manager the loss of this momentum is costly because you may never get it back and find yourself in a never-ending uphill battle to get the work done in the time required.

The other risk for low assertive managers happens when “friends” undermine the managers authority and takes advantage of the friendship. This can show up with unfair work requests for time off, favorable assignments and using guilt over the association to cloud the manager’s judgment.

Lacking assertiveness as a manager sets up the risk for a passive-aggressive dynamic. This is when people do not express anger and frustration directly, instead they resist change, delay requests, and quietly become uncooperative. When it goes unchecked, it creates a toxic work environment, lead to gossip, and make people feel they have to walk on eggshells around certain individuals.

What Does It Take to Develop Assertiveness?

Managers with a moderate level of assertiveness (vs low assertive managers) are more likely to get work done and get further ahead in their career. Being assertive does not mean you have to “become someone else.” Learning to use assertive communication takes a commitment to grow, as a leader, and practice. It means you have to step outside your comfort zone.

3 Tips to Being More Assertive

1.Decide you want to be more assertive.

This may sound obvious; however, it is often missing. Many feel like “they have to be” more assertive because their boss says so or a coach told them this is what will help them get that next promotion. You have to decide, being more assertive is a priority for you. Once you decide, then stepping out of your comfort zone becomes more like an adventure rather than a chore.

2.Decide on the time and place when you will be more assertive.

Are you going to speak up more directly, at work with your boss, at home with your spouse, at your Association meetings, or somewhere else? Each of these situations have a unique strategy. Choose one time and place and practice being assertive. Continue to choose a time and place and keep practicing.

3.Reflect on your experience.

Adults learn by reflecting. Take a few moments (3-5 minutes) after you have stepped out in assertiveness and evaluate how you did? Did you achieve the outcome you wanted? What worked well? What do you want to improve? And then ask yourself, what is next. Set up the new time and place to step out in assertiveness, with the revised approach and go for it!

Assertive managers are not superstars, they simply stepped out, believing they have what it takes, and they practiced.  Assertive managers use skills and coaching to help employees understand their job, emphasize the importance of what employees are doing, and at the end of the day, enjoy a much better position in the eyes of employees.

Would you like to develop the skills in assertiveness? Check out the Work Smart Club, our online resource for work and well-being. We have courses in assertiveness along with other topics in leadership. Click the image below for details.

Are you a training manager and want to talk about group training and coaching for your managers? Schedule a complimentary consultation and let’s talk about your unique challenges.

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Dr. Cynthia Howard

Dr. Cynthia Howard has worked with thousands of leaders, professionals and business owners and recognized the unique challenges leaders have in managing, inspiring, and engaging their teams while maintaining their boundaries, passion and reason they chose to lead.

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