Here’s some secrets to being someone others want to work for.
The dictionary defines a leader as ‘a person who rules, guides or inspires others’. The ‘ruling’ part of that dictionary definition is probably not what we want these days at work. However, the guiding and inspiring is spot on, and I’d add empowering to that list too.
Whilst there is so much guidance available, often conflicting, on leadership and what makes a good leader in different situations, there is definitely a trend for managers to move towards the consultation or delegation end of the scale these days. ‘Hierarchical’ and ‘dictatorial’ is rarely what’s required, although it may be relevant at times in the armed forces.
Rather than give you loads of theory here, I want to share my list of top practical tips to help you with how to be a leader at work.
Here’s one of my most important top tips to get going:
1. Whatever you do be transparent and trustworthy.
A team that mistrusts their leader will inevitably become a dysfunctional team.
Now for 9 more…
2. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
Let’s just go back to this point from the previous challenge and take it a bit further because it’s so important. Here’s a question for you:
Is your team is suffering from Railway Station Syndrome?
This isn’t that old story about waiting for a bus, none come and then three come at once. It’s not even a story about the joys of commuting; it is something different.
It is essentially a metaphor for forming habits, breaking habits and communicating.
Imagine that you had just moved to a new area and needed to catch the train to go to work. On your first morning at this ‘new’ station, you observe the other commuters there, noticing that none of them seem to know each other; they don’t speak or communicate at all.
On the second day at the same station, you see one or two people who weren’t there the day before, along with a couple of others that were. Nobody speaks. Neither do you. The same thing happens on the third, fourth and fifth days and you recognise one person who has been there every day. You wonder if he/she recognises you, though there is no indicator that this is so. Not so much as a ‘Good morning’. But then again, you haven’t indicated anything, either. Not so much as a ‘Good morning’. And it’s the weekend now.
On Monday, you go to the same station and that same person is there again – you glance in each other’s direction and here’s the interesting bit; if you don’t speak that day, then you probably never will. It will become a habit to see this person at the same time every day without communicating. Unless something unusual happens. If the train goes straight past without stopping, you might say something. If it stops 100 yards from the station you almost certainly will say something. Something that is not part of the habit has happened and momentarily broken the routine, allowing you to move out of the comfort zone to break the ice.
And much of life is like that – habit. Habits form very quickly and unless we do something to interfere with the useless ones they can blight our lives. And that can apply to our communication patterns too.
So, in the context of leadership, rather than waiting at the station for fate or somebody else to take a hand, communicate. This scenario is really important for you as a leader because it can be used to illustrate what happens to a team without a common goal. The analogy works well. All are waiting for the train here but the goal has not been communicated. Some are going to work, some may be on a social trip. What unites them and starts them communicating is when the train is late or something goes wrong. Then conversation about the goal breaks out, the goal becomes clear to all and for a while there is some unity. Often this takes the form of moaning about the service and how it is making us late!
So, as a leader of a team this syndrome is a fascinating reminder of the need to communicate the team goal(s) regularly. It’s so important. I’ve worked with teams before who tell me their manager never communicates goals, so they all just turn up for work and do what they think they should be doing. Often it’s just what they’ve always done. You know what they say: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. That’s not very helpful in our fast-moving ever-changing world of work these days.
Write down your team goals now:
When did you last communicate them?
When do you need to do so again?
3. Do not tarnish everyone with the same brush
One of the greatest bugbears of staff is when their manager addresses the whole team for something that has gone wrong, which may simply be an error by one team member. So, as a general rule, take up issues on a one to one basis and do not send blanket emails or criticism around the whole team.
4. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got
We can also avoid old adage becoming reality by encouraging an element of risk-taking among the team. Define the boundaries if you want, but it can be a great way of moving you, your team and your business out of its comfort zone. Remember, your comfort zone can easily become your danger zone.
5. Respect works both ways
Always show respect for your team members, even if they are not respecting you.
6. Make sure ideas count
Promote and reward creativity and great ideas. Engender this in the way you run your team meetings and recognise that sometimes the best ideas can come from the newest or most junior members of staff. So make it easy for people to feel confident and able to put forward suggestions. Always acknowledge these and, if they are not practicable, explain why.
7. Seek feedback on your own performance as a manager
Ask for feedback on your own performance and build an element of ‘upward’ feedback into your performance management and appraisal systems.
8. Make development count
Be committed to and show an interest in the development of your team members, not just at appraisal time.
9. Two heads are often better than one in decision-making
Whenever feasible, involve your staff in decisions. Give them the tools, get their input, explain the process and feed back the results
Top 7 Takeaways to accelerate success as a leader of your team!
- Be transparent from day 1
- Communicate team goals clearly and regularly
- Give feedback positive or negative to individuals, not just a generalised approach to the team
- Encourage creativity and ideas and give feedback and praise, explaining why something may not work if you can’t take it forwards
- Ask for feedback from your team on how you are doing as their leader and make changes if needs be
- Have a participative and collaborative approach to your problem solving and decision making processes whenever possible
- Provide lots of development opportunities for your team members – I’ve included loads of ideas for this later in the book and most of them don’t cost much.
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