In last week’s article we covered the first three of what I believe are the twelve key behaviours to work on to become a better leader. My view is that poor leadership is amongst the top five factors limiting business growth, because it’s difficult to retain quality employees in an environment with inadequate leadership. Good workers want to work for good leaders. Conversely poor workers often tolerate poor leaders because it provides them with an environment where they can ‘hide’, and exert their often difficult and undermining behavioural traits throughout the organisation.
I said last week that good leadership is largely about confidence and believing that you can be a good leader. As with everything in life, to be good at it takes practice and dedication to the cause.
4. Setting the Tone
Tone is best described as the ‘feel’ of the place. It’s the first impressions that a customer, supplier or new employee would have when coming in contact with your business. As an example, if you want a team that is excited, passionate, motivated and energised then that’s exactly how you have to be. If you’re sullen, cranky, negative, unresponsive or easily stressed, then you can bet there will be some of that happening elsewhere in the business. Team members will derive their behavioural cues from the leader. In the absence of a strong tone-setting leader, other voices become stronger. The whiners, pot-stirrers, and the under-miners get to spread their message.
Culture is largely caught not taught so your business culture will generally reflect your communication style and behaviour. Leaders create the buzz, or not. When you next go through the exercise of reviewing your business core values, make sure that you clearly identify the expected tone. I did this exercise last week with a client and they agreed on the following tonal elements; positive, professional, energetic, constructive, cheerful and respectful. We want these tonal elements to flow through the business. To achieve that it has to start at the top.
Tone also has a major impact on customer service levels. It is no coincidence that the best service providers are those businesses where tone setting is consistently used by the leaders, which in turn is reflected in how clients are treated by the employees. You can’t expect your employees to provide an upbeat, positive client experience, if they are experiencing the opposite in the workplace. Tone will also impact on employee stress levels. If your mood is tense, stressed or cranky then your employees will feel that stress, which in turn will likely reduce their productivity and will certainly reduce their longevity. Don’t suck the life out of them.
So the question is ‘how do you implement tone’? Firstly, clearly identify the expected tone that will be shared and embraced by all team members. Secondly, you need to keep these tonal elements absolutely top of mind to the point that you check yourself before you respond or react to every communication or situation. This will be challenging at first, but will become a natural behaviour over time. Thirdly, set the tone every day. Set it at the start of the day by doing a walk-around and spending a minute saying good morning to your team and being optimistic and upbeat about the coming day. Good people want to be led by someone who exudes positivity, optimism and upbeat energy and demonstrates that solutions can be found to all challenges. Consistency is critical. You can’t have a negative day, even if you feel like it.
5. Walking the Talk
Good leaders inspire people because they have engaged their emotions. One of these emotions is trust. Trust can take a long time to build and about one second to destroy, and once it’s gone it is very difficult to get it back. Trust is easily destroyed when leaders don’t ‘practice what they preach’.
Consider the supervisor or line manager who asks the team to be hard working and productive, but takes a long lunch twice a week. Or the manager who preaches that every idea and opinion is important, but dismisses them out of hand. Then there’s the General Manager who speaks of watching spending, then purchases expensive office equipment for his office. These may seem trivial to the aspiring leader, but leading by example is as important as leading by words, if not more important.
This is the essence of the footy captain. They inspire their team through their actions on the field. They lead the way by doing it themselves; the hard things, the things that win the game. It’s the same principle parents use every day when practicing good parenting; they lead by example because they know they are being watched by little eyes and listened to by little ears.
Good leaders push their people forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. If you lead a team that doesn’t trust you, enthusiasm will disappear and productivity will drop. The vision you’re trying so hard to make happen may lose its appeal, all because your team doesn’t trust what you say anymore. You absolutely must lead by example and walk the talk.
Let’s face up to it, we like to be around some people more than others because we feel better in their presence. We are usually naturally attracted in friendships to people with the same or similar personality type as us.
As a leader in business or elsewhere you need to be really careful with this one because people want to be treated fairly, that is, no favouritism towards employees you ‘like’. Being treated fairly is a fundamental human need. Be friendly and respectful to all employees but be careful of forming friendships with those who report through to you. The National Sales Manager where I worked in 1999 declined a dinner invitation from me (and other employees when asked) purely because he didn’t want anyone to perceive he was ‘unfair’ in any future employee promotion.
Fairness is different from, and shouldn’t be confused with treating everyone equally. It’s alright to treat people unequally or differently based on for example their performance. Consider the gun employee who works longer and harder everyday than everyone else and consistently pulls exceptional results for the business. That person will potentially get demotivated if the ‘slacker’ is treated as an equal.
The key again is to consistently communicate what success looks like, and communicate the full context of decisions relating to such things as task allocation, employee promotion, and reward structures. Employees need to understand the basis for decisions so they can ascertain if they have been treated fairly. Be fully transparent and you can’t go too far wrong.
Fairness is a massive respect building block, to the point where good employees will leave you if they believe they are being treated unfairly. Regular performance feedback is the key here again. Communicate regularly with those you lead to ensure they have a voice, and an opportunity to discuss any concerns around fairness within your business. At an absolute minimum you must implement your business policies fairly across all employees.
Next week I will be covering ‘Competence’, ‘Maturity’ and ‘Change Agent’.
Until then, rate yourself on the above three leadership behaviours and identify an improvement action for each one that you can implement immediately to become a better leader.
Get at it.
All the best.
Raffino Business Solutions
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