Here are the 15 things that every leader can automatically do every day to elevate themselves, and their organizations.
I’m often asked to boil down complex ideas into simple messages. Sometimes, that request is easy; other times, I struggle to make it as simplistic as possible. Maybe it’s the academic in me attempting to reclaim some sense of autonomy. Anyways, I happened upon an article from Forbes a while back that I saved as a constant reminder of what any (ALL) leaders can strive to achieve each and every day. And in this article, I want to share those ideas with you.
If you are an ardent reader of my work, you know that I am a straight-shooter, tell-it-like-it-is kinda guy, which is probably why this message has stayed with me for as long as it has. I used to have these 15 ideas next to my desk at work, and another copy in my car, with yet another copy in my home office. Why? Constant reminders of what has to be on my radar for others. So, here are the 15 things that every leader can automatically do every day to elevate themselves and their organizations, according to Forbes:
15. Genuinely Enjoy Your Responsibilities
If you don’t bring a sense of joy to your work and your team, and you wonder why perhaps your team is miserable, maybe it’s you. Sorry, not sorry. If you don’t express a sense of joy around others, people are left to wonder if you actually like your work. I am hopeful that even on the most difficult of days, you can find joy in the incredible responsibility of leadership that you have before you. Nobody owns leadership – it’s a borrowed commodity. So, in the time that you have that leadership role, genuinely enjoy your responsibilities.
14. Invest in Relationships
Take time each day to connect with someone to strengthen your relationship(s). Learn something new about a member of your team. Discover what their motivations are and how they process the world around them. The most successful teams have incredibly successful and committed leaders who always go the extra mile for their people.
13. Be a Great Teacher
“Don’t be the leader who is telling and yelling – strive to be the one who teaches and reaches.” I carry this with me everywhere I go as a reminder of the responsibility of leaders to have a teaching mindset. If you are struggling as a leader in helping your team understand whatever you want them to understand, you just might have to adapt the message to teach in order to reach them.
12. Positive Energy & Attitude
How many times have you walked into a room where the leader is just spent with negative energy and attitude. We all know what that does to the group. Calling upon your positive energy, being resilient, having an uplifting and can-do spirit, particularly when your organization or team is down, is what leaders are supposed to bring to the table. Is it hard? YES! This is why leadership is reserved for the few, not the many. Be and stay tough!
11. Problem Solve & Avoid Procrastination
The message here is simple: Don’t let what is important become urgent. Putting off today what you can do tomorrow is like Fool’s Gold. The challenge or problem will always be there, but now is the moment to handle it. Don’t wait.
10. Ask Questions & Seek Counsel
The most successful leaders are naturally inquisitive and curious about EVERYTHING. They want to know as much information as possible, ask LOTS of questions, and seek guidance from others they KNOW know more than them. One example of this is how the best-of-the-best ALWAYS have a mentor or coach in their lives.
9. Advocate & Deploy Talent
One of the areas that brought incredible levels of joy for me in my various leadership roles was when I could advocate for someone who believed they didn’t have a voice. Sometimes my support was to lend a helping hand to a colleague. Other times, it was navigating a global initiative to reunite a family from a war-torn region of Africa. Whatever advocacy means to you, reach out. Allow the team you assemble to deploy with their talents and let them do the work. Most importantly, guide them, and then get the hell out of the way.
8. Provide Continuous Feedback
Adopting a mindset and attitude of continuous and never-ending improvement is part of transformation. If you can help those you lead by keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening around you, it will remind them of the expectations. Accountability and feedback go hand-in-hand.
7. Measure & Reward Performance
If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. If you cannot manage it, you cannot measure it. Whatever gets measured gets managed. And if it makes sense in your organization to offer rewards for those who go above and beyond, do it. Find subtle and creative ways to offer those folks a gesture of your appreciation. It builds trust and teaches them what you value.
6. Lead by Example
It doesn’t get any more straightforward than this. Never ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. From the most basic to the complex, always lead by example.
5. Be Accountable to Others
As you rise up the leadership ladder, it’s not uncommon to think you can somehow pass the buck. However, when you do that, the message of your leadership is that you have a different standard for yourself than you do for others. It’s the ego’s way of saying, ‘I gotcha again,’ so don’t fall for it. By making yourself accountable, it raises the expectations around the office.
4. Challenge People to Think
As technology has evolved, so too has the automation of our work. A simple example of this is when we go to the grocery store and ask the clerk to make change, or we add a coin or two to get back the EXACT change we desire. That skill set seems to be a lost art in the world of computers and scanning technologies. By asking your people to think, you send them messages of creativity and innovation, hope, ingenuity, and always wanting more. One way to build this into your repertoire is to have a team-building experience where they have to solve a complex problem. These moments not only get them to think but can illustrate the message you are trying to get – critical thinkers are valued.
3. Communicate Expectations
Not too long ago, I met with a prospective client who shared that his boss hadn’t given him any direction in over three months. 3 MONTHS!! I asked him how he went about his day and spent his time? His response: I got the basics done, but I love to fish, so I spend lots of time on the computer learning more about fishing. What a waste of talent and energy, let alone company time. Always work to remove the ambiguity and complexities so that people know the rules of engagement. Communicating your expectations helps to lay it all out there so that people know how and where to spend their time. You can always tell what people value by how they spend their time.
2. Make Decisions
This one is a bit sticky because sometimes you have to wait to make an important decision to obtain all the information you need to make an informed decision. However, once you believe you have what you need, don’t procrastinate. Make your decision and carry on with your day.
And finally, #1… Make Others Feel Safe to Speak Up
There’s no question that people who feel as though they can speak up are more productive, happier, engaged, collaborative, supportive, and joyful about their work. I am reminded of the story of the rocket scientists who sat around a table at NASA, knowing that the Challenger Shuttle would not be able to withstand the intensity of the liftoff, resulting in an explosion. They knew this before the Challenger left the launchpad, yet the pressure to conform and not challenge the status quo caused an immense tragedy for our nation and the world. Making it safe for others to speak up means that you also have to listen. It’s the same reason you have two ears and one mouth, so you can listen twice as much as you speak.
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