You know that you’re a good leader, but is there room for improvement? Could you be better at what you do? Grab a coffee, take a pit stop for some fine tuning and peruse our 5 steps to develop effective leadership.
We all think that we’re good at listening, dammit, we’re great listeners (‘uhuh, uhuh’ you say as you check the email that just came in) but are we really listening? Sometimes, we make every effort as a leader to listen but we just don’t hear what is being said. We may have a fine assortment of grunts and growls to show that we’re being attentive, our pseudo listening skills honed to a fine art (‘Hmmmm’ you say as you play with your Blackberry). But are we just hearing what we expect to hear rather than what is really being said?
Take your active listening skills up a notch by putting the mobile/Blackberry/ipad/tomorrow’s report down, making eye contact, avoiding distractions, allowing silence, minimising barriers, not interrupting, focusing on the speaker, paraphrasing to check understanding and considering what they and you might be saying none verbally. Improving your listening skills will build trust and rapport whilst at the same time improving your relationships at work and at home. Now you’re listening.
2. Show appreciation.
Everyone likes to be appreciated for a job well done but the peculiar thing is that a simple “Thank you” may not cut the ice with everyone in your team. As a leader you need to play detective.
The trick is to find the motivational orientation of each person you work with. Are they achievement orientated? These people are competitive, like to set tasks and achieve goals, they like to be recognised for their contribution & they like their recognition to be public. Affiliation orientated? You’ll see people with this orientation in your team building relationships, driving social events and creating harmony, a team celebration will say thank you to them in a big way, creating an opportunity to let them do what they do best, build relationships (whilst enjoying a free drink). Security orientated? For these people in your team it’s important to feel that their job and the security of the organisation are safe (they’re having a bumpy ride in the current climate). They like to play safe by completing tasks they know they can do and can be relied upon for consistency. “Thank you” to these members of your team is recognition of performance. A “Thank you” with a “Job well done” included, specifying exactly what it was about their performance that made the task a success. Aim to build confidence in these members by setting incremental goals, helping them to feel more in control. Influence orientated? You’ll see people with this orientation taking control & leading groups, volunteering for the job no one else wants and grabbing opportunities to impress others by using their persuasion skills. The biggest “Thank you” on the planet for them is more status so let them know how well executed their project was, rewarding them with another high profile task. Find out what motivates your team and then say thank you in the way that they want to be appreciated.
3. Coach your staff.
Develop your staff and coach them to become the best that they can be. Ken Blanchard (author of the ‘One minute manager’) asked ‘If your staff aren’t achieving an A+ what are you doing as a leader to help them?’. True leadership isn’t about blaming, shaming or waiting for people to perform by osmosis. A blame culture creates mistrust, lack of accountability and cooperation, affecting morale, motivation and ultimately performance. If someone is underperforming, find out why and help them to get where they need to go. Set time aside on a regular basis to coach and mentor your staff. Find out the areas they want to develop, use the GROW model (Goal, Reality now, explore the Options, Will to move forward) and set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time framed) goals with them. Earn yourself a gold star by encouraging them to learn and moving them up to an A+.
4. Seek enlightenment.
In his Memorandum on Enlightened Management Abraham Maslow wrote “The most tough-minded person in the world would have to draw the same conclusion as the most tender-minded person in the world from these data: that a certain kind of democratic manager makes more profit for the firm as well as making everybody happier and healthier”. If you’re the kind of leader who baulks at Maslow’s statement it might be time to grab a joss stick, sit down cross legged and contemplate for a second or two (I know, I know, you’re busy, you can skip the joss stick). It’s no coincidence that Maslow compared his management data with the behaviour of chickens. Yes, chickens. Maslow compared data on ‘Superior chickens’ high in the pecking order, able to choose a better diet freely & spontaneously with his data on supervisors, staff and performance. When ‘inferior’ chickens were given the same diet as the ‘superior chickens’ they “Got heavier and they laid better eggs; they rose in the pecking hierarchy and they had more sexual conquests”. If you’re a chicken and you’re reading this, I rest my case.
Maslow drew parallels between the chickens and supervisors in an organisation, examining the characteristics and skills that made the supervisors successful. The data suggested that just like the chickens, for teams, lack of choice, spontaneity and democracy was bad for business with free range humans beating a hostile battery farmed environment every time. Even though the ‘inferior’ chickens never quite reached the same status as the ‘superior’ chickens Maslow concluded that the environment or culture of an organisation and the skills and characteristics of its leader has a profound impact on people at work. He summarised the qualities of a superior leader as “more democratic, more compassionate, more friendly, more helpful, more loyal”. Not a bad list, even for chickens to aspire to.
5. Model behaviours you want to see in others.
You don’t have to be Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss to be a model. Think about how you present yourself to your team. What behaviours, skills, values, attitudes and characteristics do you want them to see? How do you want them to perceive you? We often learn by observing others or by watching someone who is successful. By modelling positive behaviours you will encourage your team to follow – they’ll take their cue from you so model the characteristics that you want to see in their repertoire and the values that you want them to uphold. As Ghandi said ‘We must become the change we want to see’ . Think about Maslow’s list, where could you add to this and take your team to the next level?
Modelling will also help you to better understand your own psychology, how you react to events, which areas you prefer to pay attention to, your motivation and self talk. Take modelling a step further by applying Kaizen (Japanese for ‘improvement’) principles to reflect and continuously improve your own performance and watch your team follow.
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