One of the first questions I ask in a Contagious Leadership class is “what does one have to have to be a leader?” After answers that include confidence, vision, listening skills and so on ensue, we get to the one key critical thing you have to have: Followers. But how do you know if they are actually following you and thus, if you’re actually leading anyone anywhere? These 5 fast ways to tell will tell you more about your leadership skills than you may already know and give you clues on important actions you may need to do.
Ha! Okay, so, we had to start here. One of the ways to know if you have followers is to turn around, literally and figuratively. If a leader is always facing forward looking only at their own career trajectory or the next rung on their career ladder, he will miss valuable intel, such as: 1) Is there anyone behind you to support your efforts? 2) Did you leave someone behind? 3) Is there a straggler that needs your help or has gotten lost? 4) Are they with you? That team you lead may follow blindly, but often they will test to see if you’re watching, first. Pay attention. Stop. Turn around and assess where the team is so you don’t let them down or leave them behind. As this Forbes article states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
In another directional analogy, many leaders fail to notice the footprints they leave behind. If you want someone to follow in your footsteps, you have to leave discernable, identifiable, tracks of where you’ve been or are going. Leaving such traces of your direction means you have to look down occasionally to see the mark you’ve made. Can they decipher your leadership direction? Is there enough detail in them for others to follow or are you asking them to find you in a corporate game of hide and seek? Have you left bread crumbs, clues, or information they can use? And have you stopped, like the leader of an Amazing Race team, to regroup after getting the first clue, and determine together how you’ll approach the next one?
In leadership, the phrase of “no news is good news” can be a dangerous one to believe. If no employee is asking you questions, no team member requesting your input, it’s likely they are not following you nearly as closely as you might think. No leader’s communication is as clear as they think without additional explanation or alterations if the landscape or project or circumstances change. Check in and prompt questions. Ensure you’re approachable enough for them to even ask and answer the questions at hand without fussing at them because they inquired. You want them to ask or later your questions will start with why and require far more time.
Leadership and the practice of powerful leadership skills benefits from the same analytics you might review for your social media interaction. Are the motivation practices you’re using actually working? Is your effort to engage employees more so and more often having the desired effect? Are they responding to your direction by doing what you ask or doing something different or nothing at all? If they are not responding, you’re leadership message is not getting through and what you do to correct that is entirely, completely and responsibly up to you.
They Get It
This magical “It” is an elusive concept. What is boils down to, as I shared in a new webinar this week, called “Help Me Understand: How to Get Others to Get it and Get You”, is a combination of knowing how employees like to be recognized, how they interpret and understand that you care, who they are from a personality stand point, and how you communicate about whatever “it” is. If the leader operates under the assumption that everyone understands things in the same way, they will not be leading, but continuously managing performance problems. If the leader makes no modifications for the sake of differences in people on the team, they will not be leading, but looking for their next opportunity to continue being an individual contributor… somewhere else.
If you’re leading, wouldn’t it be nice to know if others are actually following? These five fast ways will help you see that more clearly and also see those areas in which others may have been left behind or need a hand. Take the time to assess these key areas and you’ll have less stressful times, more motivated team members and a team that produces your desired results.