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Lead Simply, Lead Powerfully

November 1, 2018

Leadership is rarely easy. But it should always be simple. 

 

I love to read, and I think it's important for leaders to read and take in knowledge. That's how we grow. But the amount of material out there on the topic of leadership, human resources, management, supervision, and the like is just massive. An estimated 1,500 books are published on these topics per year, every year. Blogs and business articles are probably 50x times over that amount. 

 

The result being, there are huge amounts of information on the subject. Which isn't a bad thing by any stretch, but it does lead to a fair amount of complexity to sort through all the various philosophies, models, and approaches. And to be clear, most of these are excellent. They are written by passionate people who know what they're talking about and who want to help leaders be successful. But for those who are trying to digest all of this content and figure out what it means for them and their professional growth, it can become overwhelming. Especially folks who are new to supervision or management.

 

I whole-heartedly believe that so much of being a leader can be traced to a few simple steps. Notice that I didn't say easy, but simple. It's 4 steps. 3 steps, really, because the 4th is just returning to the start and doing it again. The simpler the model, the easier it is to deliver consistently with all of your team members. I plan on unpacking each of these steps in detail in future articles, but for now let's do a high-level view of the model.

 

Observe.

The world doesn't need managers that hole themselves up in their offices. Those people are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. And employees don't like working for managers like that. Because they're out of touch with what's actually going on. Get out of your office and be among your employees. See what you see. Hear what you hear.

 

I truly believe that you find what you look for. If you look for problems, you'll find them. If you look for drama, you'll find it. If you look for laziness, you'll find it. If you look for hard work and determination, you'll find it. If you look for acts of greatness, you'll find those too. And I think you'll find much more good than bad. You can correct the problems you see, but your emphasis should be on what you can celebrate.

 

Appreciate.

Most employees don't get enough of this. It's true for probably 90% of teams out there. Managers get into a mindset of "that's their job", and they stop appreciating and praising. It's a one-way street to over-worked, undervalued team members. Find the good things (that means effort, too) and show your appreciation for it.

 

The data tells us that employees want to be recognized and appreciated for the work that they do. They want to know they have value and that the work they do matters. That's where you come in. You're the best person to help them connect the dots between the day-to-day work and the real impact that they have. What are they accomplishing? What do they add to the team? What are the qualities that you appreciate in them as a member of the team? Make sure they are crystal clear about the value they bring, and how their job is critical to the success of the company.

 

Develop.

Your role as a leader is simple: to make each of your employees into the best version of himself or herself. Nothing more, nothing less. When you build and develop people, you are empowering them to do great things on behalf of your business. Leaders don't need to (and frankly shouldn't try to) do it all themselves.

 

The best leaders realize their job is to build people, and then let their people build their business. That doesn't mean they're not there to guide and support, but they understand that it's not about them. It's bigger than them. Leadership is a privilege, not a reward.

 

So how do you develop people? They need to know 2 things: 1) what they are doing well, and 2) what they can do better. Simple. Reinforce the things they're doing well, and coach them through the things that they can do better. This is the opportunity to share your experience, tips, tricks, and knowledge. By devoting your time to make them better, you are reinforcing their value to their organization. Your time is valuable, and your employees know that. That you're willing to invest your time in them, it gives them permission to invest in themselves.

 

Repeat.

The key to successful leadership is repitition. Things we say or do once or twice are quickly forgotten. But what we do day in and day out consistently will set the stage for how our teams work. Do we value open communication? You'd better be out there communicating with your team. Every. Single. Day. Do you value attention to detail? You'd better be ensuring that the quality of work going out the door is what you expect. Every. Single. Day. In terms of leadership, repetition isn't monotony, it's consistency. Consistency breeds discipline. Disciplined leaders create disciplined employees. And disciplined employees create successful companies.

 

Leadership is rarely easy. But it should always be simple.

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