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.
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.
While the economy is showing signs of recovery, many business owners are still being cautious about their investing and spending. Last year was a real challenge for many.
As a business yourself, you may be experiencing the results of this with reduced revenues for your own business.
Last week, while I was gardening, I noticed how persistently the weeds were continuing to grow in spite of my efforts to spray the life out of them. (On a spiritual level, it bothers me to kill anything but in the case of crickets in my house and weeds in my yard, I make an exception).
Anyway, I noticed that even after the poison had taken effect and the bulk of the plants were brown and decaying, the seeding process seemed to get stronger than ever. Have you observed that?
It made me wonder if my business owner friends were being as tenacious about their marketing and sales efforts as these weeds were about their own survival and propagation.
Sales, after all are the most critical aspect of having a thriving enterprise. And even in a slow economy, we can’t afford to just sit a back and wait for the storm to blow over. Companies that choose that option likely won’t be around to enjoy the recovery when it’s in full swing.
So, last week as a reminder for the topic of this edition’s article, I snipped off some unopened buds from one of my victims.
Imagine my surprise when I walked in my office a few days later and found that these unopened …and detached…buds had continued their maturation process and produced seed ready to fall to the earth and begin life anew!
How persistent are you?
Are you acting like your life depends upon your ability to press forward even when you’ve been poisoned by the economy…crippled by being cut off from that which sustains you…denied the things you believe are most important to your success?
If this is true for you, even just a tad, WAKE UP!
You are in more control than you think. The key is, you have to TAKE that control. Get on the phone. Connect with people. Add value to your community. Invest in your business. Invest in yourself. Do what you know works. Try something new. Stay focused on your purpose. Take decisive action.
Not out of desperation, but out of a keen sense of survival and will. Allow yourself to be guided to new opportunities and act on them when they arrive.
Here’s a quote I found helpful.
“Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence.” Denis Waitley
Take it to heart and plant your seed everywhere it belongs.
There are a number of things you can do to support the unfoldment of your goals and desires, even those aspirations you’re not sure you can really pull off. One of the things you can do is find someone who has successfully walked the path ahead of you. Mentors can be invaluable in shining a light on your path, supporting you in navigating obstacles and talking through with you, issues encountered.
If the word “MENTOR” were an acronym, here’s what I say it would mean.
Magnanimous: Mentors are giving and kind. They have walked their talk and generously share the wealth of their wisdom & experience.
Expansive thinkers. Great mentors think outside the box & constantly challenge you to expand your vision. I attended a National Speakers Association meeting last week and heard a wonderful concept. That is, as leader, I can only take you as far as I’m willing to go myself. Great mentors continually step outside their own comfort zones.
Networked. Effective mentors have connections in the right places that can help you advance your career of business. They make introductions that lead to needed resources and ideally, new revenue sources.
Truth-teller. While it’s always nice to work with people we like, the last thing you need is a mentor who is only concerned about making you feel good. Mentors talk straight. They get to heart of the matter on issues of importance. They are more committed to your long term effectiveness than to your short term peacefulness.
Optimistic. Mentors are able to see your bright future and reflect it back to you on those days when you you’ve forgotten what that future looks like or why you cared about it in the first place.
Respectful They mentor you as a full partner, capable of gutsy, courageous acts of faith, not someone who is ‘less-than’ or somehow diminished.
I will leave you with final quote from Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations with Godseries, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Great mentors live at the edge of theirs and keep you at the edge of yours.