We all want to believe we’re great at leading others. Not all leaders are great, but all leaders have that potential. What you make of it is determined by your decisions. Do you learn? Do you make improvements? Do you make many of the choices on today’s Monday Moment listing? Whether you’re transitioning from bad to good, or good to great, new to tenured, or recently promoted to trusted, your leadership is a powerful combination of many choices and actions, not one of which is stagnation. What are you doing different? Where are you interested and willing to make improvements? And what needs to be done or altered in order for you to rise to the level of leadership of which you’re proud and those you lead are inclined to follow? Perhaps it’s simply time to focus on making some of these choices?
An ironic first choice, but great leaders make decisions. They choose to do something or do nothing. They decide the direction and decide to deviate from a current rule or regulation for special circumstances. They choose to choose what areas of their own skills need improvement and they avoid the art of practicing avoidance.
While some leaders come by this trait naturally and will challenge themselves even to make coffee faster today than they did Friday, others cultivate the challenge. A leader who challenges themselves to improve a skill, or adjust a way of thinking, or modify an approach or message delivery, will remain open to the value of others who may do things vastly differently and will avoid the feeling of constant frustration over how their boss or employees could possibly have that belief or perception.
It’s no secret that time is limited. It’s no surprise that there’s only so much one leader can do in any given day or moment and that delegation is required to increase the results from everyone’s efforts. And yet, many leaders consistently fail to truly delegate for development. Don’t just sluff off the grunt work, challenge others to grow in new skills and new areas, while being patient with their development and speed of learning.
For new leaders this choice can be tricky. Do I make sure I deliver, as I am used to doing as an individual performer or, do I make sure we deliver as a team or department? There is a balance. A great leader does not delegate the responsibility of delivering on quotas, results, or numbers. Nor does he or she blame the team for low performance while standing back and failing to jump in and help those one has the privilege of leading. Choose to ensure you deliver; on your word, your goals, and your leadership. How you do this will be different for each leader.
Avoidance and standing back are the opposite of driving to achieve a specific outcome. Driving is also different than brow beating and blame. The great leaders who drive toward results, make the remaining nine choices and end up practicing equal amounts of influence as they do leadership.
Allowing yourself to fall back on the no news is good news philosophy of leadership communication, will create more problems than save you time. Check in with those you lead. Do it casually, in a friendly manner, scheduled, and off the cuff and often. Failing to check in teaching them to avoid you and will make any minor issues bigger quickly.
Different than checking in, coaching is about being specific on the topic you wish to address and tracking improvement. Make the choice to not only check in, but to coach and keep those conversations separate.
Emotional Intelligence is the art of using what you know (or will learn) about personality preferences. Don’t just label them with colors and names but find out what motivates those you have the privilege of leading. Guide those you lead if they need guidance. Be direct if that is the employee’s personality preference. Be filled with enthusiasm and recognition while you request they make punctuality a permanent feature of their work behavior, if that’s how they need to hear it. Your influence is determined by how well employees understand you and the best way to increase understanding is to speak the language with which they are truly most comfortable.
Realizing you might be the only one on the team you lead who thinks the way you do, can be frustrating. Frustration creates stress and can quickly create a leader seen to have an attitude. Watch out for that frustration and instead challenge yourself to quickly figure out another communication or expectation option.
Manage Facial Expressions
For extroverts or those externally expressive, this frustration or attitude, will show up on their face. Manage that and realize that the skills needed to play poker might come in handy a time or two in leadership. What you’re thinking should sometimes stay hidden instead of showing up in your expression even when you’re saying nothing.
Develop Future Leaders
At some point, with all of these powerful choices, your leadership skills and results will get noticed and you’ll be recruited or promoted or given more responsibility because you’ve proven you can handle it. Be prepared and make that option easier for those in the position of making that decision. Find your successor. Develop the skills to lead in those you have the privilege of leading. The more prepared they are, the more available you become for that next, even better opportunity, or promotion.
Lead Their Boss
But what if your boss doesn’t notice? He doesn’t see what you do or how often. She doesn’t notice you’re working magic with fifty cents and two twigs to keep the team under budget. Share with your boss your outcomes. Tell your boss about your ideas and solutions. Lead their impression of how you do things, how open you are to learning and how much you get what they’re asking you to accomplish. The same choices you would make to lead the team, apply to leading your leader.
These choices, your boss, your company and even those you lead are often changing. The software the company uses. The policy on this issue or that one. Choose to master your ability to manage transition and accept that in leadership change and changes are a constant. And beware. Throw a tantrum because something changed and your boss may put you in charge so that you get the much needed development in this area.
Stay on Their List
A burnt-out leader is ineffective. A crispy critter may wear the name tag that says General Manager but be doing a poor job of managing their own downtime, rejuvenation, self-care, and energy. Stay on your own list of priorities.
Leadership of others is not always easy. Every day may mire you in something new and different, drama filled or even fun and exciting. The pace can be grueling, but the pride in watching an employee grow and develop can also be remarkably rewarding. If right now isn’t the ideal leadership state you’d prefer to be practicing, by all means keep going, get through this season, and begin to look forward to the next one.
Great leaders pursue improvement. They value growth and seek it in themselves and those they have the privilege of leading. These same great leaders may not always make the right decisions when it comes to outcomes, but they learn from those missteps and continue to strive to make great choices in how they will approach the effort of leading others. In these choices and how you lead others, you’re a partner, not just a position. You’re a leader, their leader, leading yourself, and them, to consistently become even better.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.