Over the past several decades, management and leadership roles have changed significantly in response to a fast-paced, ever-changing business environment. So, whether you work in the private, public or non-profit sector, you face a variety of challenges as you lead your team, department or organization.
In a Ken Blanchard Companies study of more than 1400 managers, leaders and executives, participants sited the following five things that leaders most often fail to do when working with others:
- 82 percent fail to provide appropriate feedback
- 81 percent fail to listen or involve others in the process
- 76 percent fail to use a leadership style that is appropriate to the person, task or situation
- 76 percent fail to set clear goals and objectives
- 59 percent fail to train and develop their people
Do any of these sound familiar? Which of these challenges are you or your organization facing today?
Having worked with hundreds of people in management positions over the years, only a few of them felt they had come close to attaining the leadership expertise they hoped for. Most admitted they allow day-to-day pressures to nip at their heels, capture their focus and become a priority. So, if you find yourself in a similar boat and want to become a more effective leader, focus on these five steps:
1. Set the pace and tone
A key role of leadership involves setting clear direction for people to follow. Your people need to know where the team or organization is headed and how it plans to get there. In addition, they need to know what goals and objectives have been established, and what outcomes need to be realized during the performance year. With this in mind, they can develop and implement their plans and actions, and have a line of sight which allows them to see how what they do contributes to overall success.
2. Share openly, listen actively and communicate honestly
Without question, communication tops the list of challenges for most people. They often struggle to simply “say the words,” or are reluctant to speak openly and honestly for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or creating conflict. As a result, important exchanges fail to happen.
Active listening tops the list of communication challenges. It is said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason…to spend more time listening and less time talking. So, if you find yourself talking more than you listen, or thinking about what you’re going to say instead of listening, or interrupting someone when they’re talking, 1) Stop what you are doing and concentrate on what the other person is saying, 2) Ask open-ended questions to gain clarification, 3) Test your understanding before you respond, and 4) Summarize any conclusions or agreements you have reached.
When you strive for a win-win outcome in all dealings, active listening and “saying the words” becomes much easier, and communication improves significantly.
3. Engage your people in running the day-to-day business
Economic tightening has left organizations scrambling to do more with less. And, our constantly changing environment demands increased flexibility and agility to ensure responsiveness to both customer and business demands. With the complexity of today’s business, organizations need everyone in the boat rowing the same direction. Delegation and empowerment that includes defined decision authority are essential for gaining a competitive advantage and achieving ongoing success. Imagine what your team or organization can accomplish with everyone on board, focused on building customer advocates and seeking new and innovative ways to do the work and deliver results.
4. Develop your people to be the best they can be
Organizations have a lot on their plate. They need to find ways to compete in a global economy, consistently deliver relevant products and services, stay on top of changing requirements, and hire and retain quality people, to name a few. They need their front-line employees handling the day-to-day business, and their managers helping address global implications, industry shifts, and competitive threats while leading their people. As a leader, when you teach your people everything you know, they serve as your most valuable asset in meeting the challenges that lie ahead.
5. Incorporate a sound performance management process
Whether your organization provides products or services, your leaders have responsibility for working through their people to deliver consistent, sustainable results. Your ability to deliver mediocre, good or outstanding performance will depend on having a sound performance management process that includes accountability. Set stretch goals and motivate your team or organization to achieve them. Provide regular statuses on team, department and organizational performance. Then seize the opportunity to recognize your people’s contributions and celebrate their success.
Your leadership, motivation and guidance will help ensure that your team or organization does its best, stays the course, and consistently delivers results because they make every stroke count!