Dear Terry – I Field Your Questions November 2015

headerimage01Tim from West Branch: Terry, what will make me the most effective leader? Tim

Terry: First off, I want to point out that even asking a question like this identifies you as a person with leadership potential. It also means you may already be predisposed toward certain opinions on leadership, such as, “I need to be strong. I need to be charismatic. I need to have the answers.” But the fact is, many of our preconceived notions are simply wrong or unimportant.

Through our research and experience, we have determined that to be an effective leader, you must be able to:

  1. Link organizational goals to individual contributions. People need to know that what they do is meaningful and contributes to a greater good.
  2. Support people as they contribute to the goals. Sometimes your support comes in the form of a pat on the back, or at other times a kick in the pants. Sometimes it’s recognizing when to train your employees and at other times it requires feedback, coaching, or stretch assignments. There are thousands of ways to provide support and guidance, and you should know them all. And this is what makes leading challenging — and rewarding!
  3. Connect with people so that they view you as authentic — genuine and trustworthy — and secure in your leadership role. Connecting with people is not only good from a human perspective, it also is the lubrication that enables work to get done. Connecting builds trust.
  4. Delegate effectively to not only get work done, but also as a way to develop the skills and confidence of members of your team. New managers especially (but not only) struggle over delegation. Delegate even if it is easier and faster to do the work yourself, knowing that you can do a better job. Like support, there are various levels of delegation, so you can delegate the appropriate level of responsibility — ensuring that the person has a good chance of succeeding and so you have a good chance of sleeping at night!
  5. Have the tough conversations when needed, and do so in a way that improves performance and increases loyalty and commitment. When even poor performers know that you care about them and their performance, your effectiveness throughout the team skyrockets; anyone can lead when it’s easy, but true leadership emerges when the situation presents challenges.

For the most part, everything else you do — or will learn as a leader — is in support of these five competencies. So, as a leader learning to lead, focus on these areas first and foremost.

As a leader learning to lead, here’s a proven path to success:

  1. Learn what is expected of a leader at your organization. What outcomes are expected of you as a leader? What behaviors?
  2. Learn how to analyze employee performance so that you can provide what employees need to succeed. Your team members need clear expectations and ongoing feedback. They need tools, resources, and time. They need skills, knowledge, and training. They need meaningful consequences (positive and negative). They need help in setting and resetting priorities.
  3. Learn how to communicate and connect with employees. Everything is easier — more efficient and more effective — when employees trust their leaders and feel connected with them and the organization. Without that connection, some important things — like coaching and engagement — often just aren’t possible.
  4. Learn how to provide positive and constructive feedback. Then do it — a lot. Feedback is to employee performance as a GPS is to reaching a desired location — constantly reassuring when the employee is on the right path — and immediate but gentle “recalculating” when the employee has veered off course. Feedback is the employee’s performance GPS.
  5. Learn when to coach to take good performance to great (and build employee engagement) and when to have those difficult conversations to take unacceptable performance to acceptable. They are very different conversations. Learn the difference.
  6. Learn how to coach effectively. In a business environment, telling isn’t coaching. Use questions to encourage employee self-assessment. This builds a critical skill in the employee, but also helps to develop a culture of continuous improvement.
  7. Learn how to delegate. Don’t delegate everything; delegate pieces of the work and use the experience to develop those areas that the employee finds challenging.

AC01-784Those responsible for developing leaders have an additional challenge: not only must your leadership development program include these skills (and others as necessary for your organization), but it must present these skills in a way that is relevant, simple, easy to adapt, and immediately applicable to the job. Moreover, because leadership development doesn’t happen only in a classroom, opportunities for practice and feedback on the job must be built in.

Terry

(Terry’s response is an excerpt from a chapter he contributed to “More Lies About Learning” by respected colleague Larry Israelite. The book is available on Amazon’s website.)

Read more valuable leadership and management-related articles in this month’s Unleash Your Leadership Potential newsletter…

November 2015

Author: STEP Consulting