So many manuals and programs try to be the definitive guide to leadership in the world today. While many of these programs will give you success when implemented, more frequently than not, leaders only end up taking the bits and pieces of what catches their attention during the learning process.
Never, though, have I found the definitive answer in any book or program that will cover every aspect of leadership when dealing with internal teams of people. Some truths that I have found during my own experiences are:
Be the example: If your general isn’t willing to lead the charge, how fired up will the solders be to win the war? Your entire goal is to create and inspire like-minded individuals in your organization to work independently, but within the team toward a common goal. Concentrate on your own success in your projects and build them up to your team, but don’t be afraid to look to your team for the answers you yourself may be seeking. Remember, every member of your team brings a new perspective on each issue presented, based on their own experiences.
Allow your people to make mistakes: In my experience if I believe an individual may be perfect for a task or position, I give them smaller projects to work on to cement that belief. During this process, you will detect additional strengths, or possibly weaknesses, that may steer you to change direction in how you use these talents.
Be an active (not hovering) supervisor: No one wants to be hovered over, but any employee should expect to be held accountable. When first setting goals for the employee, I will check in with them daily to make sure they have all the support they need to accomplish their goals. After a short amount of time, I will instruct them to contact me on their progress, encouraging them to share not only the progress of the project, but any hurdles they may be coming up against.
Don’t ignore the problems: Most effective leaders address problem issues at some point, but depending on the severity, may not address them in a timely manner. We have all learned that small issues can develop into large ones rapidly, and if you do not get on top of a problem when you learn of it promptly, it may inadvertently be forgotten when a new issue arises.
Team meetings: I prefer a weekly team meeting. This allows for all team members to know what the others are doing and see progress. Not only does this give some accountability to the team, but with additional input from others, roadblocks presented by a team member may be solved by another. This also will develop a process for how to address every client, partner company, and vendor in a manner that will be followed by all.
Encourage, don’t condemn: It is so easy to critique and pick away at someone’s faults. Much easier than it is to give that pat on the back when needed. All of us being in customer service know that when you get feedback, it is much easier to get a criticism rather than praise. Your team will feed off of the encouragement they receive. While critiquing an individual’s performance is necessary, too many leaders can devolve it into a humiliating experience, which does absolutely no good for anyone. Your frustration will be unchanged, since you haven’t solved the issue, and while your team member may be motivated for the time being, the feeling that they are supported and part of a team will vanish. Now you have someone who is afraid to be noticed, does just enough to stay out of your crosshairs, and sadly, is afraid to speak up when they may have fresh ideas that could benefit the whole team.
Cross training: No, this is not a workout. When you want team members to learn a new skill it’s a good idea to shirt tail them with an experienced staff member. Have them ask questions, learn processes, and most of all, achieve results. This helps both parties. As an example, I have a salesperson who had been with the team for a few months and was exceptionally savvy on all the technical aspects of our system. We paired him with a new hire who had very little detailed understanding of the system, but had been in sales for over 30 years. The knowledge passed between the two of them when working on the same project took months off gaining these skills on their own. Also, in doing so, our process was streamlined in a fashion to assist the entire company with all the team’s organization.
As this post is being read by many leaders already, I feel like I am preaching to the choir. There are many more examples of what makes an effective leader, these ideas are but a few. But sometimes I find it helpful to reflect on what an effective leader does to lead his entire team to greatness. I’d love to hear some other leader examples in the comment section!