Category Archives: Leadership Strategies
No matter how long you have been a leader, there is always room to grow.
There is an old but true saying:
If you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you rot.
Leaders who fail to become better by thinking they have arrived or they don’t need any further teaching or training are in eminent danger of losing their credibility, effectiveness and even imploding in their professional and personal lives.
The most stable, successful and credible leaders have a plan in place for their growth. In spite of their busy schedules, they make time and take time to develop themselves. And quite frankly, so can the rest of us.
So here are five easy ways we can all be better leaders starting today.
Be Truly Self-Aware. Absolutely no one can improve unless they know what thy need to work on. This involves admission of who you are, a desire to improve and the willingness to accept any criticism about yourself. Knowing your shortcomings, flaws, and tendencies is the first rung on the ladder to continued improvement and the most important. Then resolve to fix them one step at a time.
Truly Listen. There are leaders who tell their employees to work harder when they bring up that processes are broken, and there are leaders who will delve into finding the process failures to help their employees work more efficiently and not harder. Listening is truly listening, accepting that everyone has value and their input is meaningful. Helping and seeking to understand others is a characteristic we can always continue to work on.
Read in Context. One of the most challenging areas in communication is doing a quick read of an email, document, or even a text and not understanding the context of what’s read. In those cases, misdirection, wrong counsel, or wasted time in emails and call to clarify could have been prevented if we stopped to process the information. In this current climate of email barrage and limited attention spans, it’s more crucial than ever to master the art of understanding context in order to be a more effective leader.
Be Curious. A dynamic leader is one who learns the world around themselves. Whether it’s industry information, knowledge outside their industry, or learning about other people and their experiences will deepen your relatability, help you be more conversational, and will increase your storytelling in speaking and personal situations. Always find an opportunity to grow your knowledge beyond what you’re focuses are. Ask questions to grow yourself and others.
Speak to Edify. An easy way to boost your impactfulness and get people to trust you is to never talk ill of others. Leaders that defer a critique of someone, and speak their highlights rather than take an opportunity to make a dig are rare. Those that edify allies and enemies in their speech will never have their people wonder what is being said about them – they know their leader speaks highly of them. A quick pause to reflect on what you’re about to say will greatly aid in your leadership development.
No matter where you are in your career, these steps can enhance your growth and create a better dynamic among your teams and organization.
Work on these areas this week and leave a comment below as to how you’ve seen improvements in your leadership!
A CEO of a small organization once told me why she couldn’t be more effective.
She told me that she spent about 80% of her time involved in employee behavior issues which left little time for her to focus on the basic needs of the company. What added insult to her injury was that it was only a small portion (less than 10%) of her staff members who were chewing up the majority of her time and energy.
Unfortunately this type of workforce dynamic happens far more often that it should. As leaders, we should be allowing the best of employee behaviors to drive the culture and operations, and not allowing negative behaviors to drag things down.
What this CEO needed to do what transition her focus to the core part of the staff who will produce the biggest change in culture and productivity. She needed to not focus on the detractors, but not necessarily on the top performing employees either.
Jeffrey J. Fox in his book, How To Become A Great Boss, suggests that one should spend 90% of their time on their best people. While his theory on maximizing the stronger points of your top performers makes a good deal of sense, it falls short of those in the middle.
The most effective leaders will spend more time on the so-called “passive” employees to build a stronger team and workforce. Passive employees make up the bulk of your talent, and therefore should require the bulk of your focus.
Anyone familiar with the Net Promoter Score system for customer feedback will know that there are 3 types of customers: Promoters, Detractors, and Passives. While this system measures the variety of customers exposed to your brand, it’s also a solid classification of your employee base as well.
To define these better, here are how these classifications relate to your employees in general:
- Promoters – These are your most committed and engaged staff members. They get the vision, are “all in” and give stellar performance consistently. They will view, and speak of, the company in a more positive light and are your best ambassadors.
- Detractors – These folks are truly disengaged. Many times they are just going through the motions and give lip service up front. But behind your back, they give negative vibes to your customers and a few may even resort to various methods of sabotage. Some may be actively looking to leave, but many stay on and take away from the company more than they give.
- Passives – Your “on the fence” staff, these are people who most likely want to do a good job, but are easily swayed by whichever voice is the strongest – Promoters or Detractors. These are people truly want to do a good job, but get lost between the Promoters and the Detractors.
The NPS system for customers shows 60% Detractors, 20% Passives, and 20% Promoters. In my experience, the typical workforce is about 20% Detractors, 20% Promoters, and 60% Passives.
If you want to build a truly great team and change the workplace culture with your people, you need to focus on the passives more than any other group. This is where 60% of your workforce lies, and it makes sense to focus on the largest population of your people. The following is an example that proves this.
I worked for a large entertainment company and went through an internal restructuring designed to foster more front line customer service. We broke out most of my team from the other areas and hired a few from outside the company to round out the staff.
What we got from most of the other areas were people they did not want, and we had what one supervisor said were the “cast offs.” We quickly discovered that many of these people never received the proper attention or training that they deserved.
We had a short period to get the team together before peak business volume. We had to rely on my top Promoters to dive in and help get operations settled, and I rallied my supervisor staff to focus on getting the Passives to learn everything they could so they had solid footing under them, as there was no time to lose.
During this process, a number of Detractors started to pull away our focus for a variety of different reasons. We didn’t know these folks were Detractors at the time – I had viewed that everyone needed our full attention to training and didn’t see anyone in a negative light. But as the days went on it became evident they were pulling on the other end of the rope.
The solution? While we dealt with the Detractors firmly and fairly – some of them we groomed and some of them we “broomed” – we kept the focus on training our Passives. And then two things started to occur that amazed me.
First, many of our Passive staff started to become Promoters. Because of the vested time and value we placed on them, they started to engage and were thrilled that we believed that they could contribute. No one ever took the time to build them up before. Their performance dramatically improved and our sales started to take off.
But the most amazing change to the team is we started to see some of the Detractors slide into Passive, then Promoter types. They realized that our mission was so critical, and our customers the priority, that they changed their attitudes, their behaviors, and their focus. They also, incidentally, started to feel they were missing out on some exciting things by not going “all in.” We were creating a dynamic and fun team, and they wanted to be a part of something big.
We set some sales and profitability records as a result of this, but the biggest achievement was in building a strong team culture by taking the lion’s share of the staff and putting the lion’s share of our focus into them.
Leaders, set the tone for your people. Show that everyone is valued. Don’t overlook the Passives in your organization. Or the Detractors either. Yes, you will always have some Detractors (as I did still back then), but in setting a bigger vision for the company and their role within it you will create an amazing dynamic within your team.
(One note: always use wisdom and discernment from calling or labeling your people. Performance-based behaviors should never take away from the intrinsic value that anyone and everyone can bring to the organization.)
Change is hard.
No one likes change. Especially leaders who know change is needed in order to be more successful.
Change is not just a new set of goals, processes, workflow or behaviors. It’s a turn in culture that starts with reassessing what’s needed to make progress.
Redefining vision, mission, goals, KPIs and behaviors are necessary, but if the mindset and thinking of the organization aren’t addressed, even the best planned strategies will fall short of lasting change.
It can be an overwhelming feeling when you realize change needs to happen. As with everything else, leadership must not only change it’s processes but thinking as well to lead change.
It’s essential to to start the path to real change with a renewed clarity on vision, goals and processes,
but change only starts when the organization as a whole starts to think and see differently.
So here are 9 steps to start the process of real culture change, starting with you as a leader.
First and foremost:
Admit you as a leader need to change the culture. If your organization is not where it needs to be, take responsibility. Your leadership has allowed certain behaviors to manifest and take root that has led you to where you are currently. Don’t blame, but admit your faults and determine to be accountable for the change going forward.
The Road to Culture Change Starts with You.
Reveal and/or remind the vision. Sometime your people need to be reminded of the vision. You may also find out some where never quite aware of the mission at all (again take ownership for this shortcoming). The key is to talk up the vision so everyone can start calibrating their thinking on what the objective is.
Set the expectation. Let everyone know that they as individuals need to be on board with the vision. There should be essential (non-negotiable) behaviors that align with the culture, and flexible (negotiable) behaviors that allow people to be themselves while still operating with the cultural framework. Set the non-negotiables firmly but encouragingly.
Individually coach. Let your people know that you’ll be their biggest cheerleader and give them what they need to succeed or further grasp the renewed vision. Let them know immediately when they fall short, and show them how to get there. Ignoring behavioral shortcomings will only dilute the progress you’re trying to make, which is most likely why you ended up needing to change culture in the first place.
Hold accountable the cultural behaviors and performance. When an individual won’t engage or align themselves with change, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to correct. If they are still unwilling, then separate; you cannot risk drag factors that hold culture change hostage.
Yourself as a leader:
Be open and admit that you are changing as well. It’s easy to tell others what to do. It’s an entirely different leadership that shows it to your people. Let others know that you’ll be changing the culture within yourself, and that it starts with you. It sets them off of the defensive and sets you up to be the standard bearer for change.
Have others keep you just as accountable. The next necessary step after admitting you are changing as well is to allow others – everyone – from all around the organization to keep you accountable to stay the course and manifest the change within and without. When people know that there is mutual standard and they are allowed to hold everyone on the team to it, there will be more openness to allow change to occur. This prevents leaders from making the change all about others and only partially committing to it themselves.
Daily preach culture behaviors and the larger vision. Unless you are willing to start over with an entirely new team, you need to dilute and over time replace the old culture. This can only occur by focusing on the new mindset not just everyday, but at every interaction throughout the day. Conversations, emails, texts and even external communications are essential means in which to let the new culture grow roots. The more you focus on talking about change, the deeper it grows into everyone’s mind and the DNA of the organization.
Look for willing mindsets to be culture champions. No leader can effect culture change by themselves, so you need to identify those who adopt the new mindset – the renewed vision – and allow them to positively infect the organization. Leverage their enthusiasm and the shared vision to stimulate faster, more committed change and engagement.
Once these underlying steps are in place, then the culture, goals and strategies you’ve identified can start to take hold.
When a group of people have a common vision and commitment to make change happen, the results speak for themselves. Many books on business and history will attest to the incredible changes made when a group of people had the same vision and mindset to effect progress and make their company, their country, or their communities better.
Leadership is about shaping mindsets that change behaviors that eventually transform a culture.