1. Don’t be afraid to ask the team for their input
Why wouldn’t you? Are you afraid they might realize you don’t know everything? Sorry to break the news to you, but most likely, they already know that. And that’s okay. In a day and an age of specialization, you can’t possibly know everything. And that’s not your job, anyway. You must ask yourself, then, “What is my job?” To be the expert in everything, or to manage, lead, and direct the experts?
Quite often the answer will be somewhere between the two. So get over yourself already, admit the limits of your knowledge, and don’t be afraid to ask them for their help and input. Are you trying to come up with a plan? Ask them for their input. You’ll come away with a better plan than you might have created on your own. In addition to that, guess what else you get? Tremendous buy-in and ownership! They will be way more likely to buy-in and own the plan, simply because they were given an opportunity to participate in the creation of it.
2. Don’t be afraid of criticism
Here’s my attitude – “Just tell me what I need to do better”. If you do, today’s area of weakness will be tomorrow’s area of strength! If you don’t tell me, I’ll never know, and miss the opportunity for improvement! Think “Kaizen”. It’s a word that comes from Japan. It loosely translates to mean “continuous improvement”. Most likely you do many things very well. But the probability that your skills in every area could not be improved upon is most like fairly low. And that’s ok. On a scale of one to ten, if you are a “ten” in many areas, and an eight in several, but a six in one or two, that pretty much makes you human. My goal as a leader to never stop striving to improve each of those areas, even the ones that I and others feel I already do well. Kaizen embraces this concept of continuous improvement. If I don’t have a mechanism in place which allows and even encourages others to help me to identify and improve on my areas of weakness, then I am setting myself up to fail to improve in those areas.
3. Earn Your Reputation
What does/will it cost you to earn your reputation? Money, energy, effort, time, etc. – it WILL cost you. A good reputation doesn’t happen overnight and without the expenditure of one, if not all, of the above-mentioned factors. But what will it cost you to earn it back should you ever lose it? A whole lot more, assuming you ever can.
4. Admit Your Mistakes, and Be Careful In Dealing With Theirs
All leaders have an emotional bank account with the people they are working with. Hopefully they are given the opportunity to start out at 100% in that bank account. As leaders, we all experience failures from time to time. We’re human after all. Some of the failures are not of our own direct doing, but that of other team members. Some of the failures can be directly attributed to us. Of course we would prefer not to have failures, no matter what the source is. But since we are human, and not robots, failures will occur. It’s not the actual failure that is important for us to discuss here. In the instance I am talking about, it’s what you do/don’t do, how you act/don’t act, and how you react/don’t react after a failure has occurred.
If a team member has had a failure, it probably didn’t happen in a vacuum, which means others will know that the failure has occurred. It’s not necessary for you to call attention to it in a public setting. That is the worst thing you can do. I am not saying you should gloss over it, or hide the fact that it has occurred. Far from it. During lessons learned time, it, along with all failures, should be discussed, and if possible, learned from. But what you must avoid is calling undo attention in a public way to the person or group who had the failure. Discuss the failure, and give them opportunities to participate in the public discussion. Just be careful not to place blame on them unduly. There will be plenty of time to have correction-oriented and even discipline-oriented discussions in private. The public forum is not the place to have those discussions.
When you do something; anything that is, in their eyes, a good thing, you get to actually add money into the emotional bank account. On the other hand, any time you do something they view is negative, you lose money from the emotional bank account. The easiest way to go from a 100% to a negative balance is to publicly ridicule a team member for a failure. Remember, the failure did not happen in a vacuum. They will know it happened, and most likely so will the rest of the team. Talk about the failure; just don’t ridicule the person or group of people involved. One additional thought – ultimately, since you are in charge, you also “own” the work in question. If there is a failure, no matter what the source is, that means you ultimately own the failure. The best thing to do? Discuss the failure, and along with the team, come up with a forward-looking plan of action that is positive and forward- focused if at all possible. But only so this after first stepping up and taking ownership for the work in question, including the failures. You were in charge, after all. It comes with the territory.
On the other hand, be just as quick to share successes with the team. Don’t publicly give yourself a pat on the back. The team should be given the credit. You are a member of the team after all, so if you give credit for the success to the team, they will see it as a good thing, and you get to add even more money into that emotional bank account.
5. Presenting Information
The most important tip is this – you must, without fail, consider your audience. Always start with where your audience is, not where you want them to be! If you start where they are, quite often they will let you take them to a different place (educationally, product-wise, etc). But if you start where they aren’t, you will lose them. And it’s ALWAYS harder to get them back once you lose them.
There are obviously more tips to leadership that can be shared. The list is endless. In future installments, we will do just that. Until then, allow me to leave you with a thought. Leadership is an attitude, not a position. It is an attitude that begins in the 12 inches between your heart and your head, and extends out from there.
What tips would you add?
From guest blogger Tim McClintock, PMP, Global Knowledge Instructor