There are hundreds of books and thousands of web site articles written on leadership, but at the end of the day to become a better leader, and to get the best out of your people, you need to distil the information down into bite size behaviour that you can implement on a daily basis.
My view is that leadership is the Achilles heel of many business owners. They don’t understand it, they don’t like doing it, and they are not good at it, which in turn makes it very difficult to achieve a productive, collaborative team environment, or in fact grow their business. If you fall in to this category then get some leadership coaching and work hard to become a better leader.
I have identified 12 key leadership criteria to have top of mind and continuously work on. These are required daily behaviours to implement, not personality traits. Everyone will have a slightly different leadership style based on their personality type, that’s fine. The behaviours listed below are independent of personality type. 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.
Leadership – a definition
First let’s get a definition of leadership. Leadership is the art of influencing someone to do something that you want, because they want to do it out of respect for you. It’s about setting a direction, and shaping the behaviour of individuals or teams to meet desired objectives or outcomes. Leaders achieve results because people respect, trust, and are motivated by them.
One of the key outcomes of good leadership is that you release the potential in your people, so they take responsibility and ownership. This differs from ‘management’ as management is about managing things, not people. Managers largely achieve results because of their authority (power) position, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good leaders.
As you read through the following key behaviours of good leadership, give yourself a rating of poor, fair, good or excellent for each one. Just one tip though – rate yourself hard as it then creates space for improvement.
1. Be Approachable
Employees want to feel connected, respected and valued by their leader. Those are the team members that will work harder and stay with you longer.
Depending on their capability level, ideally we want our employees to be empowered so that they can perform at their best. If you have employed people with the appropriate skill sets to perform their role then micro-managing doesn’t work for most people. They don’t like it as it doesn’t allow them to fully use their skills and initiative, and it smothers responsibility and ownership. The key here is to be approachable, supportive and give people adequate space but with very clear guidelines. Give them your undivided attention when approached, don’t dismiss them. Listen carefully and use powerful motivational words or short phrases of encouragement such as ‘great job with that’, ‘have a crack at it’, ‘love your work’, ‘I reckon you can fix that – get at it’.
You need to carefully manage your responses so you are not fixing things or finding solutions for your team members. If you do that the chances are they will keep coming to you instead of trying to find a solution themselves, and you will have an endless queue of interruptions. Your listening ability is super important. Listen with the intent to understand, not respond. You need to ensure that you do not sound hurried or aggravated, or dismiss their idea or concern as that is a definite killer of being approachable.
Learn how to manage your environment so you are visible and approachable on a regular and consistent basis. This could include such tactics as setting aside a particular time of the day to do a ‘walk around’ to different areas of the business, or having an ‘open door’ for say two hours of every day. Whatever works for you and your team.
I think we have all at some stage reported through to, or worked for someone that we’ve had to walk around on egg shells. It doesn’t work.
2. Communicate Crystal Clear Expectations
One of the professional development courses I did many years ago presented the three key reasons people ‘get upset’. They are; undelivered communication – you want to say something that is important to you but are not given the chance, or you’re howled down; thwarted intention – you have confirmed in your mind something you wish to do or a particular way of doing something important to you, but are not allowed to; unfulfilled expectation – you have an expectation that someone is going to do something to achieve the result you want, but they don’t do it or do it poorly. The last one is a biggy, and gets right to the heart of performance management.
Good leaders consistently communicate firm but calm crystal clear performance expectations and boundaries for their people to operate within. These expectations are primarily focused on responsibilities or tasks to be performed, quality of product or service, and culture.
Some people tend to ‘wander off’ unless you have daily or weekly communication with them. You can’t expect them to do what you want if you haven’t clearly and consistently communicated your expectations. The more you communicate expectations, the less upset (cranky) you will be.
One of the tools that can really help you here is the good ol’ position description. However, I suggest you change the structure to a table format so that for each task on the position description it has a corresponding section titled ’what success looks like’. This will be either quantifiable such as ’20 new business appointments per month’ or qualitative such as ‘all stock lines and patterns easily located within their place’.
3. Hold People Accountable
This is one behaviour where personality type can make it a bit difficult for some. Quite a few business owners’ I work with are a ‘South’ personality, that is, they are people centred, patient, sympathetic, non –assertive and shy away from potential conflict. This is their natural, hard-wired state. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just how they are. ‘Southies’ can find it difficult to lead employees who are a ‘North’ personality, that is; assertive, fast-paced, decisive, confident, controlling, impatient.
If you fall into the ‘South’ personality group then you will probably need to work hard on this behaviour, because it is unlikely to come naturally to you. It’s so important though. Never lose sight of the fact that people are employed to perform their role and to add value to the business, not just take home a pay packet. It’s your job as the leader to hold all employees accountable for the tasks they are meant to perform, and what they have been asked to do. If you don’t, you are basically telling them they can do what they like, which I know causes long term stress and frustration to owners’.
You must firmly, calmly and privately hold people accountable by giving them regular feedback on their performance. Use your new position description format outlined above to refer to the desired behaviour or outcomes (what success looks like). Don’t criticise them, but do firmly communicate your expectations again and if need be, the consequences of continuing under-performance.
In the next blog of this 4 part series I will be covering ‘setting the tone’, ‘walking the talk’ and ‘fairness’.
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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