The other day I was having conversation regarding how a great leader can make work life that much better, greatly affecting the business as a result. Regardless of the company, leaders are the ones that can directly impact the individual’s everyday lives. Great leaders can make people look forward to coming into the office and want to work that much harder. On the flipside, a bad leader can make work a miserable experience. Where people count the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the end of the week…
Great leaders can have significant impact on the business; happy employees = higher productivity. In the same breath; bad leaders can have detrimental impact on the business. Resulting in lower team performance and increased employee turnover, significantly driving up employee related cost.
To some, leadership comes naturally; others have to work at it… Here are a few tips to help you become a better leader:
1. Protect your team – Protect them at all cost. One of the most difficult jobs of a great leader is protecting your team from everything such as; competing teams, compensation issues, and noise from upper management. The more you protect your team, the more faith they will have in you as a leader.
2. Gripes go up not down – Never complain to your team! It’s a completely different aspect, when you relate to a common issue. But, when you start complaining, it will cause your team to think you’ve lost faith in upper management or the company itself. This more than anything can impact team morale in a very short amount of time.
3. Find a buddy – It’s lonely at the top. Find a buddy, someone at least equal to your status. It’s a great way to discuss ideas, issues, and brainstorm and they can better relate to the situations at hand. You never know, they might have angles on ideas you’ve never thought of.
4. Never stop learning – Whether you’re the leader of a F500 company or a sales team of eight, never stop learning. Every day on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other outlets; there is fantastic content being published… Take an hour a day or few hours a week to read up, you never know what might help push the needle forward.
5. Learn everyone’s job – Even CEO’s should take the time to learn about the functions of their team. The more you learn, the more strategic you can be in your decision making and daily interactions with the them. Just think how many times you’ve uttered to yourself “this guy has no idea what they are talking about”… Yes, your team could be thinking the same thing about you!
6. Adapt to the team, not them to you – This could be one of the single biggest mistakes leaders make. Everyone is different and requires different approach. When I was 16, I had the fortunate experience to run a martial arts school. Thrown right into the fire, at any time there could be 30 – 40 students. Ages ranging for 6 to 40+ and experience ranging anywhere from beginner to advance students. Quickly I learned, for my students to get the most out of my class, I needed to figure out a way to personalize different aspect of the class for each of their needs… 6 year olds and 40 year olds (after a long work day) are much the same. Too little time focusing on their needs and they get cranky.
7. Do not play favorites – Touchy subject, I know… However, many leaders may never even know they are playing favorites but its human nature. People gravitate to people they like and resist the ones they don’t. Resist favoritism at all cost. Regardless of what you think, your team notices if you are… Treat everyone equally
8. Cut the dead weight – In the same sense where you need to treat everyone equally, you also need to recognize the team members that are just not pulling their own weight. Given them an opportunity to self-correct but if they can’t, cut them. Your team notices when the dead weight is getting away with murder and it absolutely affects morale.
9. Celebrate the wins – Even when they are small. There’s no need for a ticker tape parade, but your team works hard and recognition goes a long way (public or private).
10. Be the first one in and the last one to leave – Your team notices if you always show up an hour late or if you’re sneaking out at four every day. They want someone to lead, someone that is willing to stay in the trenches and battle it out until the end. Plus, if they start seeing you leave at four, what do you think will happen shortly after you’re gone for the day?
11. Don’t disappear – Your team notices when you disappear… Like I said before, your team wants someone that is going to be in the ditches fighting with them, not disappearing with the shit hits the fan.
12. Don’t be too serious, or too relaxed – Your team may already be stressed out because of a crappy quarter, don’t make things worse by being a hard ass. However, don’t be the guy that does nothing and shoots the shit all day. You have to be the leader that brings up a team when they are down or helps them focus when it is needed.
13. Always follow up on promises – You give your word, make sure you follow up on it! Nothing loses the respect of your team faster than when they’ve asked you to look into the same issue three times in a row and nothing has happened.
14. Don’t be a good idea fairy – Idea’s of the day “almost” never work. I used work for this CEO that loved to read strategy books… Typically once a week he would come in with a new business revolutionizing idea. At the end of the day; some ideas where ok but many unfortunately where very very very bad. These “good ideas” ended up wasting a lot of the team’s time. Also he also lost the respect of his team for showing he really didn’t have a master plan (and quite honestly, for wasting their time).
15. Team Outings – Get everyone outside the office every once in a while… Team gatherings outside the office are some of the best bonding events. Bonding events = stronger team work.
16. Donuts – It’s a small gesture; donuts, coffee, lunch, and beer every now and then goes a long way.
A team will follow any great leader into any battle…. Always be striving to become a better leader for your team. You will all perform better, making it easier to hit performance metrics and they will absolutely thank you in the end.