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Friday, August 31, 2007

Seven Secrets To Being The Leader Everyone Wants To Follow

In this changing, challenging, and competitive workplace, we can't overestimate the importance of good management. Good managers will consistently motivate you to perform at higher levels of productivity. Bad managers will drive you crazy and eventually out of the organization. Managers with poor skills will frequently produce the following results:

1. Decreased productivity
2. Increased turnover
3. Increased absences
4. Increased human resources mediation situations
5. Increased customer service complaints

The following are seven secrets to being the "perfect" leader everyone wants to work for:

1. Create a Vision
The best leaders not only assign tasks or monitor performance. They plan for the future and motivate others to see the same vision so they can all thrive to accomplish that vision.

Instead of dwelling on limited problems, the perfect leaders look at the big picture. They live the organization's mission and implement, motivate, and dedicate all their efforts to accomplishing the mission.

During hundreds of team building and leadership workshops, I have asked the following simple question:

What is your organization's mission statement?

If there are forty participants in the workshop, thirty-seven will look down at their desk, one participant will make a feeble attempt at reciting what he/she "thinks" is the mission statement, one participant will make a pretty good attempt and recite the first one or two sentences of the mission statement, and finally one student will volunteer to run to the office (or car) to grab a copy of the statement to bring back to the workshop. Out of the thousands of workshop participants I have asked this question, only three knew their mission statement word for word. The amazing part of this is that many of these workshop participants have been with their organization 5-10-20+ years and, they still didn't know their mission statement. So my question is this:

How do you lead your employees to accomplish your organization's mission if you (as a manager) don't know what the mission is?

The perfect leaders live, eat, sleep, and shower with their mission statement. They know exactly what the mission is and understand its importance to the team they lead and to the organization. Most importantly, they communicate the mission statement to their employees at meetings, coachings, feedback sessions, and even corrective actions. Their actions are related to accomplishing the goals of the mission statement and can communicate the vision of the organization.

Action Step – Take the mission statement out of the dark corner in the office. Print the mission statement and its vision on the top of your meeting agenda and recite it at the beginning of the meeting. Then talk about how the employees are helping to realize the goals, values, and vision of the mission.

2. Understand employee needs
As the old saying goes, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." However, the perfect leaders realize that to be effective, they must cater to the needs of most of the team. Good leaders realize that the work environment is not a popularity contest or, as I say, "Leadership is not Pleasership." Perfect leaders treat all employees with respect and are consistent in their actions and words.

At the same time, they recognize the unique needs of their employees and use that knowledge for motivation to achieve a common goal.

3. Communicate concisely and clearly
Poor communication skills are probably the Number #1 reason managers fail. If they can't talk to and connect with their employees, they are not serving the needs of the staff.

What is good communication? The following are some examples:

* Communicate job expectations and standards

* Give ongoing feedback to employees.

* Seek and acknowledge feedback from employees on decisions that effect them (and take the time to listen to them).

* Communicate the mission (see Secret #1) on an ongoing basis.

* Communicate "bad news" in an honest and timely manner.

* Communicate using language that shows a positive expectation.

* Communicate through a combination of methods: person-to-person, e-mail, phone, and meetings.

4. Find common ground
Some managers don't understand they are in the people business and lack the patience to work and develop their team members. I even had a supervisor during a coaching and mentoring workshop make the following statement to me at break:

"If I had known that I had to communicate with my team, I would have never taken the job."

What did this person think? True leaders understand that their employees' success is their success. They comprehend during this journey that some employees will need assistance, coachings, motivation, feedback, and discipline. Good leaders will work to find common ground with each staff member so that everyone wins. Perfect leaders will understand that some employees will need consistent managing, and others will need less managing; some employees need refocusing, while others will be very focused, etc. Perfect leaders recognize the need to find common ground with each person.

5. Take others to a new level
Perfect managers are concerned with their staff's professional advancement and do everything possible to help staff members develop their capabilities. These leaders "see the employees for what they can become, not what they are now." These leaders' actions might range from improving specific aspects of job performance, to delegating special assignments, to developing an action plan for promotions. Perfect leaders must have the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of employees and use that to coach for continuous improvement.

Ideally the basis for improvement combines the best interest of the organization and the employee. Many times I am brought into organizations to assist them with this need:

"I have managers retiring, and we have no one to replace them."

These organizations have created a "talent black hole," because they didn't implement a plan to "help others improve" and be ready to step up when needed. Remember, you can always replace a chair, a desk, a computer. But you can't always replace a talented employee if you don't have a plan in place to develop others to take their place when the time comes.

6. Believe in your staff
Recently, I was presenting the concerns of an employee workshop to management of an organization at their staff meeting. One manager looked at the report and questioned me as to whether the employees really mentioned the items in the report. I assured the manager the employees did. To that the manager answered in the meeting, "This must mean we have smart employees." Little did this manager realize that he had a negative attitude toward his employees. Through his subconscious mind, he is showing his employees, through words and actions, that he doesn't believe in his staff.

Perfect leaders believe in the best qualities of their employees. They believe their employees are smart enough to handle tasks and find solutions to challenges if given the correct guidance and opportunity.

This comes with earned trust from past performances and the investment by the leaders to ongoing shared coachings and feedback to give the employees the experience and skills to succeed in the future.

7. Integrity is best
It is important that employees feel they can trust the managers' words and actions. This means honesty, fairness, and consistency when interacting with employees. If employees share in private a confidential and sensitive subject with their managers in the morning, this must not be known throughout the organization that afternoon. Or, if managers promise to give employees an answer by the end of the day and never get back to the employees, the managers' integrity is destroyed.

The best leaders realize that their word is their bond and that actions speak louder than words. Perfect leaders work at being honest, open, and reliable everyday.

Take the time starting today to apply these seven secrets; and you, too, can be a "perfect" leader.


About the Author:

Ed Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and leading expert in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at mailto:esykes@thesykesgrp.com, or call him at (757) 427-7032. Goto his web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint.

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