Great leadership is the display of a combination of tools, skills and behaviors. It isn’t the result of position power or personality. Consequently, it can be learned and demonstrated.
Think of the great leaders you’ve known. I’ll bet they demonstrated most if not all of these skills.
Here’s my list of the top tools, skills and behaviors.
Great leaders set high standards for themselves and the people around them. They expect people to ‘step up’ in ways they may not even believe they can. They require exemplary behavior and thinking. They inspire others to perform at the highest levels possible.
Honest, authentic communication is the hallmark of a great leader. They are able to express difficult sentiments, communicate expectations and let people know how they are performing vis-a-vis the expectations while leaving those people empowered and ready to forge ahead.
Rewards are great for creating external motivation for achieving goals. Effective leaders understand the unique values and priorities of the people around them and custom tailor rewards to activate the intrinsic desires that make people perform and excel.
When great leaders encounter inappropriate behavior, they don’ t stick their head in the sand and ignore it. They stamp it out – quickly and decisively. They are swift in their response to restate expectations and request those expectations be met. This creates and a sense of fairness on the team and credibility for the leader.
John C. Maxwell is often quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When leaders go out of their way to demonstrate their humanity, empathy and concern for others, they create an ultra-strong bond with the people around them.
Great leaders have an unwavering belief in the potential of people. They assume people want to excel and just need pathways, resources and the confidence to express their excellence.
Regardless of where you are in an organization’s hierarchy, you can practice using these tools and behaviors thereby enhancing your effectiveness as a leader.
Most work in companies gets done through interaction between people. Some managers mistakenly think they can just hire people, give them a job or task to do and then expect that they’ll ‘make it happen’.
Recently, I’ve heard leaders say “Do your job!” like that person could just wave a magic wand and have everything turn out ‘peachy keen’.
In reality, most tasks require planning and collaboration and a whole lot more in order for them to be completed successfully. It’s the bosses job to facilitate activities, not just dictate them.
I’ve identified 5 things teams need to have in order for them to be successful and productive.
Each person needs goals, but the team itself needs goals as well. Without knowing there they’re headed as a group, teams will flounder. Individual self-interests will prevail and competition will ensue.
Where are we going?
Why is that important?
Who are we serving and why?
Team members need to be clear about their individual roles and how they are contributing to the accomplishment of the goals.
What does everyone on the team do?
How do ‘hand-offs’ occur?
How does my work impact them?
Rules provide structure, systems and processes that make teams more effective.
How do we communicate with each other? How rapidly can we expect a response?
What processes do we follow?
How do we make decisions around here?
What happens when things go awry?
How do we share in the wins?
It’s critical to understand the human side of each team member. People are more than just cogs in a wheel. When team members take time to know each other beyond their roles on the team, getting the work done will take much less effort.
If I communicate with you on your terms, appealing to your thought process and priorities, fewer ‘breakdowns in communication’ will happen. Expectations will be more explicit, not implied. Implications lead to assumptions and assumptions create mistakes and unfulfilled expectations and opportunities.
Scores are often measures of the goals that have been set. They allow a team to track their progress and ultimately, their success. Scores also allow analysis of what could be improved.
How does your team stack up? If you are the leader, how well are you facilitating the creation and management of these 5 critical items? What improvements can be made?
When you attend to the people side of your business, your business can deliver on the profit side.
The economy is showing signs of recovering. It may be a slow rebound but there are things you MUST be doing now to make sure you participate in the recovery when it comes.
I talk to many business owners who are either hunkered down themselves waiting for the economic ‘storm’ to blow over or they’re trying to sell their products or services to those who are hunkered down. Either way, not much is happening in the small business world. Even the executives I speak to in corporations are still being a bit cautious about the investments they’re making in people, products and services.
1. Improve systems
Now is the time to make sure your internal engine is running properly. Evaluate your sales, production, service delivery and administrative processes. Determine how well they are functioning. Do this even if you are the only person in your ‘company’. Ask yourself and your team if you have one where breakdowns happen. Who’s not getting the info they need? What’s taking too long to happen? What can be automated or streamlined? What needs to be documented so others can carry out the task when a transition occurs?
I helped one of my clients and his team eliminate the breakdowns between the office and field functions. Right after that, his business exploded. While we didn’t work directly on sales, he confided to me that if we hadn’t fixed his process breakdowns, they would have not been able to handle the onslaught of work and would have looked like “complete idiots”. Save yourself from that potential business-killing embarrassment.
Improving systems improves your profitability.
2. Improve you
When you’re trimming expenses, it’s tempting to cut training. Large and small companies often make the mistake of eliminating training when budgets are tight because the ROI on training seems slower and in some cases, hard to measure. Yet, It’s during times of trouble that you MUST make sure everyone is functioning at their optimal level…including you!
You and your staff are your company’s most valuable possession. You might have some trademarked or patented processes. But even still, you and your people are carrying them out. No people or ineffective people, no profits.
Times are changing. Even when the economy recovers, nothing will be quite the same again. Make sure you and your team are mentally ready with the skills and attitudes that will carry you through the next iteration of the global economy. Invest now and position yourself to trounce the competition.
3. Improve sales
When you do the first two things, it’s likely that your sales will increase on their own. However, here are a few tips for increasing sales even more. Get feedback from clients about what you’re offering them and they need now. Make sure you’ve adjusted to the current environment. Consider flexible payment terms. Cater to a different (hungrier or higher-income) crowd. Offer new products, programs and services. Talk to more people. If you’re not having a number of sales conversations every day, you’re leaving money on the table.
Focusing on these three simple steps will help position you well for the recovery. Don’t sit around moping. I’m sure you heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” when you were growing up. Implementing these steps is one way you can help yourself. Get to work!
I spent over two decades of my corporate career in various roles in Human Resources and as a result, had TONS of conversations with managers about how to deal with their employees or teams when their performance wasn’t ‘up to snuff’. Quite often, their initial ‘remedy’ was to suggest training, but training isn’t always the answer for performance issues.
Training (when done well) imparts specific skills and/or knowledge. It’s most useful when targeted and narrowly focused on a particular topic and is attended by people who are willing to learn but not able to do the specific task.
Training’s effectiveness is enhanced greatly when employees can immediately implement the new skills or knowledge back on the job. So it’s best when a group of people need to improve on the same areas. Training an entire department when only one or two people need it is a waste of company resources.
One reason training often ‘fails’ is because managers think one or two days of concentrated training will turn their errant person into a super star and unfortunately, that rarely happens. The value or ROI (return on investment) of training therefore, is improved when it is supplemented by some sort of follow up activities that reinforce the new abilities and behaviors over time.
[I have experienced some powerful 2- to 3-day personal development programs that generate dramatic mental beliefs and emotional perspective shifts in people that result in new behaviors but those are unfortunately not the types of programs generally offered in the workplace.]
One of the major values that coaching brings is its ability to produce sustained growth and change over time. People are creatures of habit and habits don’t alter significantly after 1 day of training. The effectiveness of coaching requires that a person be willing and able to move forward productively.
Sometimes people are thrust into coaching because they are good as most aspects of their job but demonstrate some counterproductive behavior that is impeding their performance. If those people aren’t willing – deep in their hearts – to change, coaching won’t produce lasting change. (A good coach will recognize when someone is going through the motions and either challenge the person to ‘step up’ or will terminate the coaching relationship if they don’t.]
In a collaborative, productive coaching relationship, the coachee develops critical thinking skills by being guided to tap into his/her own internal resources to reach decisions. Rather than becoming reliant on the coach, the coach becomes a springboard for the ‘clients’ own self-development.
Coaching can really accelerate the career momentum of an already effective person and make them even better. With coaching, people can improve their leadership presence, strategic thinking and credibility in the workplace.
Close management is useful when a person is able but perhaps not so willing to perform. Management involves keeping someone on a ‘short leash’ by instituting short-term goals, objectives and consequences or outcomes. ‘Hit this quota’ or ‘produce this result by this date’ are examples of management tactics.
Tight management may include frequent ‘check ins’ to make sure the right behaviors that should produce the result are being enacted on a consistent basis.
Managing a person who is not able to perform a particular task won’t be enough to get the job done. In fact, piling on the additional pressure of short term goals will likely raise their anxiety and reduce performance. This person needs training, coaching or some other sort of ability development process.
When a person is not willing or not able (after the above development efforts have been tried), it might be time to ‘fire’ them.
As an HR executive, I would occasionally have managers drop in my office saying “I need to fire “So-And-So”. I would always ask ‘why’ and inevitably they would say, “They aren’t getting the job done.”
When I would then ask, “What did they say when you spoke to them about this?” and often heard, “I haven’t talked to them. They should just know better!”
Well, employees can’t read your mind. You must tell them clearly what your expectations are. You should then give them time to correct the situation.
Even in an employment-at-will state, it’s dangerous to fire someone ‘just because’ because juries generally tend to side with employees and the company (and maybe even the manager) could be left with an expensive lawsuit or complaint filed against them.
If you do get to the point when termination is the answer, always do it with dignity. The employee may have just been in the wrong job for his or her skill set.Perhaps YOU made the wrong hiring decision.Perhaps business has caused a change in the job requirements.
I remember working with one astute manager who said she never had to ‘fire’ a person but had several under-performing employees who had been ‘counseled out’.
She was so caring and sincere and skilled in counseling conversations, the employees always left of their own volition, happily looking for a job where they could shine and be happy. They rarely knew she was ‘trying to get rid of them’ and always felt empowered by the separation.
So, next time you’re confronted with an under-performing person or team, use the above distinctions to pinpoint the most effective remedy and you’ll get a higher return on your investment.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “People do business with people they know, like and trust”. It makes sense. When we’re comfortable with people, we’re more willing to hang around them and more willing to fork over money to them believing they ‘get’ us and can help us.
The challenge arises when we get and stay too comfortable, surrounding ourselves with people who are just like us. It makes life easier perhaps, but also limits our learning. We get caught up in “Group Think” and we believe the entire world feels what we feel and believes what we believe.
From a professional standpoint, it’s important to hang out with your industry kindred. You’ll learn more about your craft, be able to tap into the wisdom and experiences of people who’ve walked the trail ahead of you.
But again, if your professional kindred are ALL you hang out with, your perspective will likely narrow. Your problem-solving abilities could become limited by what’s already been tried before.
What might you learn if you spent time with people from different industries, professions or persuasions? What new skills might you add to enhance your career? What new marketing tactics might you uncover for your business? What new and valuable clients or connections might you make?
It’s important that we step outside of our comfort circles and meet and learn from people in new arenas who bring fresh perspectives to our world views.
I don’t know the political affiliations of many of my friends and very few of my clients. I tend to avoid having political conversations in social or professional settings.
While I don’t mean to draw lines in the sand, I do want to use the experiences of the week to make a point. I’ve been a registered Green Party member for about 20 years now. I do tend to vote along Democratic lines although not blindly.
I have to recognize though that I live in a predominantly Republican state. My Governor is Republican; my U.S. Senator is Republican. I need to hear from them. They need to hear from me.
Today, I represented the Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) as the Chapter’s President, at a Meet & Greet for Senators John McCain and Scott Brown, recently elected to fill Senator Kennedy’s vacated seat for Massachusetts. After Senators McCain and Brown spoke, I (along with most everyone else in the room), gathered around them to shake hands, express sentiments and take pictures. I had a message I wanted to deliver to Senator McCain on behalf of NAWBO, so moved with the crowd until I got close to him.
There were a few people still between us, yet he reached past them and grabbed my hand to thank me for being there. OK, I did stand out in the crowd, but I was still impressed that he so intentionally acted to connect with me.
I made my pitch for affordable health care and gave him my hand-written note which mentioned a few other things of import to our association and me personally, snagged the photo above, thanked him and headed for pizza.
Do you insulate yourself from people who have opinions that differ from yours or do you reach out to them and try to connect and influence? Do you allow yourself to be touched by people who are different from you? Do learn from your encounters or do you stay with your ‘tribe’ and lay blame on the state of the word?
Reach out. Take action. Step across the ‘aisle’ and discover new shores.