New to a leadership position? Been a leader for some time but you and your team seem to be plateauing? It's probably time to "Level UP" your leadership.
I'm a firm believer in always looking to do better, regardless of what your job title is - whether you manage 1 person or you're the CEO, there is always room for improvement when it comes to leadership. Fortunately, there is something you can do without calling in a professional (though I do recommend that).
Here are 3 simple steps to "leveling up" your leadership abilities:
Spend time in your employees' area, their offices, cubicles, in the lobby, in the lunch room, pretty much anywhere employees spend their time. Soak in the nonverbal communication that resides within your organization. It's funny, within five or so minutes of being in a workplace, I can get a pretty good feel for what the overall culture is just by observing: the way people interact, the volume of their voices, the tone of their voices, how they greet one another, smiles, how managers interact with staff, etc.. Your organization's culture is made up of these elements, and if you spend a little time looking, you might be surprised by what you find.
"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." - Bryant H. McGill
Probably the most talked about and yet least used skills to becoming an effective leader - listening. I'm not sure if it's our arrogance or lack of trust in the skills and opinions of our employees, but pay attention the next time you're in a meeting - you'll be astounded by observing how much the "leader" usually talks as compared to the rest of the team.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." - Stephen R. Covey
The funny thing is, if you've done your job as a manager & hired the right people, do everyone a favor and be a good leader and shut up! A leader who does not listen will never learn what they don't know. Failing to cede control of a conversation or not actively listening shows your team that their thoughts, ideas & opinions are of lessor value then your own.
Result = Less Collaboration, Engagement & Trust
Every individual who works for you is just that, an individual. Effective leadership includes being aware of what talents/strengths that individual possesses and taking the time to learn what motivates them. What are their hopes, dreams, aspirations, BHAGs, etc.?
Some people are simply motivated by $$$ - they see their hours at work as a means to enjoying their time away from work (I don't necessarily agree with this approach to life, but there's nothing wrong with it). Others, are motivated by their title or inclusion in large company-wide initiatives. While others, those with high self-awareness, look for meaningful work that leaves them fulfilled & happy.
Whatever the motivation, as a leader it is your job to know the motivation and tailor your management style to maximize the strengths of your employees (and NOT the other way around!).
Ever used fear to get your employees to do what you want? An insinuation of something negative happening in the absence of performance? Maybe just a little jab to light a fire under their ass? Has your "dinner platter" full of previous fear-based comments/actions paralyzed your team?
Fear-based "leadership" comes in different forms, from the explicit "do this or you're fired," to the not-so-explicit comment that rolls too easily off the tongue (shooting your employees' anxiety and fear through the roof). Without any context, or to an outsider, the comment seems innocent enough...but your employee knows better. Each of these "fear events" is a jab in the gut of the employee, a reminder that the boss is the boss, and the employee is sadly just another number, just another cog in the wheel. Bill Lundberg (Office Space) comes to mind with his:
"Now are you going to go ahead and have
Fear is a diminishing "motivator"
Every time you, as a manager, use fear to "motivate" your team, you can expect lower productivity/performance the next time around. Almost like a basketball bouncing down the court - each time the ball bounces, it doesn't quite go as high on the next bounce.
Every time you use fear to push your employee, you create a lower 'high-end' of productivity the next time around. In the back of that employee's mind will be the previous experience, or six. The employee's quality and quantity of work will diminish, eventually they'll become paralyzed with fear, and simply refuse to bring their best every day.
Using Fear? You're NOT a Leader, You're Just a Manager*
(*and probably not a very good one)
Leaders don't "push people to become their best." Rather, they PULL people UP. They reach down, dive deep into what motivates their employee and reach out to pull them up to the next level. If you're doing anything short of this, you're not a leader. Focus on your employees, treat them as individuals, and pull them up to excellence.
Fear-Based "Leadership" = LAZY!
Fear is easy - want your dog to stop eating off the table, flick his nose. Want your kid to stop climbing on the dining room table, flick his nose (just kidding). What's not easy is diving deep into employees' minds - to understand what motivates them, their dreams, hopes & desires. If you want to be an exceptional leader who leads an exceptional team, you've gotta put in the work.
Becoming a true leader takes a ton of time & energy...but trust me, it's worth it!
Stop reading! Ok, you don't have to stop reading.
If you feel like you're spending your precious time on reading versus making a better product, connecting with clients or biz dev'ing, then you're reading too much*.
*I fit into that category :( and over the last several months, I've made a conscious effort to focus more on the actions that produce tangible results (getting me closer to my goals) and less on reading (recognize I didn't say "learning"). It's been a tough realization because I'm a 'Learner' and 'Input' (one and two) who is sometimes most at ease when I'm in a book, but like you and everyone else, you can never grow and reach your potential if you're unwilling to push outside of your comfort zone.
The strengths "nugget" in all of this is to recognize when your talent/strength has become too loud, when you've gone beyond 100% and when you need to turn the volume down on that strength in order to achieve all that you want...and hopefully deserve.
Sorry I haven't been at the blog in a while, been taking some time off for fam and enjoying Spring here in SoDak (there's only so many days a year it's above freezing haha).
A Phone Call - What's Going on With Leadership Development These Days?
I had a convo with an old friend last week who works as an OD consultant for a large organization, and she asked why I thought it appeared there was a drying up of the proverbial 'leadership pipeline' in today's workforce? My answer went something like this...
#1 - Companies Still Refuse to Throw Away the 'Weakness-Focused' Development Mindset & Accept a Strengths-Based Approach!
Traditional Development focuses on an individual's weaknesses and how to go about fixing them. You start from a deficiency-mindset and try to fix what's wrong. The problem? You have limited upside in your potential when you focus on your weaknesses.
Only when you flip the script and focus on what you're innately talented in, feed that talent, and learn in the context of that talent/Strength can you exponentially increase your upside potential - this is true for Leadership and life.
I'm not sure how many more research papers, case studies & books have to come out before this becomes mainstream, but I hope for the sake of today's worker, it's not too many more.
#2 - "Don't Just take one Diet Pill This Year"
Somewhere in the evolution of leadership training and development over the last two or three decades we shifted the responsibility of training our current and next set of leaders...and we've failed.
Back in the day, a worker would look to one's manager as their source of knowledge, their roadmap for success, learning what a manager does, learning what a leader does, learning how to communicate, deal with difficult situations, etc..
Somewhere along the line, we decided leadership was important enough to create "Learning & Development," "Education," and "Organizational Development" positions and departments within organizations - awesome! But not quite awesome; over time, managers slowly started to ease out of their daily mentoring (*when was the last time you had a convo with your boss or one of your employees re: leadership?)
So to the "Diet Pill Analogy" - too many of these departments replaced the day-to-day interaction an employee had with his/her manager with a once-a-year half, or full-day "Leadership Training" event. Manager's thought it was great because the burden was lifted off of them (see above paragraph), Senior Management thought it was great because they were being "progressive" and were focused on employee development...the only people who didn't care for the change, the employees these events were supposed to serve.
Why? Rather than get individualized, day-to-day feedback, advice & guidance on their leadership abilities, employees are relegated to getting a prepackaged 8-hour training once a year (if they're lucky). This is the equivalent of being 100 lbs overweight and your trainer giving you one, just one, diet pill to take over next year to drop that unhealthy weight.
"Nope, we're not going to exercise, eat right, or even take the diet pill every day...just once."
That's where we're at with today's Leadership Development, we're giving our employees one pill, once a year, and expecting great leaders. REAL Leadership Development takes time, it takes energy, it takes day-in and day-out attention, and a recognition that each individual is just that...an individual.
It's time to start focusing on the individuals again, accessing their strengths and weaknesses & developing a plan for attacking their future!
husband + father + pilot + Leadership Coach | Consultant + startup fan + reader of personal #development, company #culture & leadership books