I’ve often thought that great leaders are “just born that way”, like great parents or talented singers. But that’s not necessarily true. Your leadership style can grow and improve over time. I’ve seen it with my own eyes!
Here are ten tips that show how leaders can create impact and get the most out of their teams.
1. Be a role model
Sounds cliché, but it’s true and so simple. Great leaders inspire trust and admiration through what they do, not what they say. Many leaders say they stand behind their team, but great leaders walk the talk by demonstrating pride in and giving praise to, their staff every day. Harping on people all day long about what they “should” do doesn’t come close to producing the results that come simply when leading by example.
2. Be a coach
Coaching is something every leader must do. Set up individual 1:1 meetings with your team members to review their progress, and offer direction and guidance when needed. When someone on your team has blundered, you need to address it sooner than later. People don’t change overnight, so don’t get frustrated if progress takes a while; just be prepared to repeat the message multiple times. It might take several coaching and feedback sessions to reverse the negative trend. Positive feedback is also critical: When an employee takes a turn for the better, offer sincere and positive feedback.
People don’t change overnight, so don’t get frustrated if progress takes a while; just be prepared to repeat the message multiple times. It might take several coaching sessions and a great deal of feedback to reverse the negative trend. Positive feedback is also critical: When an employee takes a turn for the better, offer sincere and positive feedback.
3. Approach problems with enthusiasm, not defeat
Sometimes I get so frustrated when facing a roadblock, I quickly melt down and throw up my hands in surrender. But great leaders don’t. They handle crises with aplomb, and in ways that inspire others to replicate. A good leader will stay positive and calm during a crisis, and look at each predicament as an opportunity to have fun, be creative, and find a juicy solution.
4. Marinate on it
Have you ever heard that expression: “There’s never time to do things right, but there’s always time to do things over?” I’ve been employed by managers who are so anxious to complete a task, they act in haste rather than think things through. And we all know this can come back to bite you. Sometimes, you just can’t click a switch and come up with the right solution. You need to walk away and dedicate yourself to another activity. You may even want to take the night to sleep on it. The brain produces marvels when you give it time and space.
5. Invite conversation
Your team members are smart and talented. Chances are, many have skills that you don’t. So take advantage of the resources you’ve got, and tap into the bounty before you! In meetings, welcome what your people have to say. It might take a little while for them to gather the courage, so reiterate the request and don’t be uncomfortable with the silence that may follow. Eventually, someone is bound to speak up. Don’t dismiss or belittle your team’s ideas; they’ll shut down if you do. Instead, listen and encourage them to say more.
If you’re listening, you’re not talking – which means you’re learning a ton. Being an active listener also helps you build strong relationships and best of all guarantees you’ll create a culture of respect and transparency.
7. Be clear with your expectations
One of my very first managers said to me, “You should never be surprised in your annual performance review. If you are, the manager is to blame for not communicating adequately with you throughout the year.” And she was right. Confrontation isn’t for everyone, but for a leader, it’s essential. Whether it’s positive or critical feedback— you need to dole it out, on the spot and often. Your frequent acknowledgment of your team’s work assists in their grooming and development.
8. Keep notes
As a leader, keeping notes is critical. Not just for you and your employees, but especially for those times when situations require escalation. Document your meetings, particularly with those who are in need of remediation. It will help you both keep track of action items and identify areas of progress. If problems become severe enough to lead to disciplinary action or termination, documentation will become even more crucial.
9. Hire right
I’ve always said, “Being a good leader is all about making the right hire.” As a manager, one thing I had a knack for was making great hires. I don’t know if it was just dumb luck, or if I had the right kind of intuition. But boy, the difference between working with a great team vs. a “so-so” team is enormous. So do your due diligence when making a hire. If you have a gut feeling or a bad vibe, explore it. Don’t just hire someone you like, or someone who has the right skills. Make sure the candidate you choose has the right chemistry with all the players on your team.
10. Take a bullet for your people
The best leaders will do anything for their teams and consistently demonstrate that they have their people’s backs, no matter what. There is absolutely no upside to throwing your people under the bus. You are the shepherd of your team, and whatever happens, on your watch is your responsibility. Send the message to your colleagues and upper management that you have complete faith in your people: The rewards will come back to you in spades.