“Our people are our most important asset.” How often do we see this trotted out on the cover of Annual Reports – and how rarely do we see it actually being put into practice? Of course it is true, no company can survive, let alone thrive, without its people. Your people are also the best source of future management and leadership and, whilst it is important at times to bring in new ideas and innovation, it is much better to develop talent from within. As a leader one of your most important responsibilities is to help nurture talent, to develop the leaders of the future and bring out the best in all those that report to you.
Motivation is a very complex subject and it is also one of the most important tasks that you, as a leader, will have. People are motivated in many differing ways, and not only by money! In fact as Frederick Herzberg identified in his book ‘The Motivation to Work’, written based on the results of studies he conducted in 1959, financial reward does not even feature as one of the five motivational factors. Your job as a leader is to understand what it is that motivates your people and then provide it.
How much of your valuable time, and that of your people, is taken up moving between and attending meetings, many of which produce little or no value? Sometimes there’s a real need to bring people together in one room to discuss and debate; however, most people consider meetings to be boring, demoralising and meaningless! Bringing people together for a meeting means removing people from their work, sometimes even necessitating travel just to attend.
Most of us want to avoid conflict and will often shy away from having what we see as critical conversations with others. It will help everyone, especially yourself, if you stop viewing it in an emotional context and start to see it as simply giving constructive feedback. Used effectively, constructive feedback can transform team and individual performance, whilst not having that so called difficult conversation can have a huge impact on everyone.
Why do some teams function much better than others? Why do some companies seem to have that certain something that makes them tick. When you walk through the door you instantly feel that these people know what they’re doing and enjoy doing it. Well, there are a range of things that help create an environment where teams can function at their very best. As the leader, it’s up to you to ensure these things are in place, and remember, people often leave leaders rather than companies! Your behaviours have a direct effect on your people, so if your team or company isn’t performing as well as it should, first take a good long look at yourself!
Many leaders and managers fail to master effective delegation skills, seriously blocking their career progression and hampering their ability to lead. The natural cascade of authority and challenge down through the organisation is often unnecessarily derailed by a combination of fear and a lack of trust. If you do not delegate enough your people many begin to demonstrate what psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania termed “learned helplessness”, where they basically stop trying.
Many of my clients tell me how much of their time is taken up trying to keep on top of everything that’s going on and how they never seem to have enough hours in the day. When I look at the things they’re doing, I’m nearly always surprised and saddened at how little of what they are doing is actually related to their roles as a leader. The truth is that many teams achieve success despite their leaders, rather than because of them.
Listening is one of your most important leadership skills and has a major impact on the quality of your relationships with others, and leadership is all about the quality of the relationships that you create with those around you. Most of us are very poor listeners; studies show we only remember 30%-60% of what we hear and are often so distracted with our own thoughts we don’t even bother to absorb the 30%!
The vast majority of us (but not all sadly) are very good at saying “Thank You” when someone has done something for us, like holding a door open or bringing a coffee. It takes little effort to be considerate, and we know it is the right thing to do. But how many of us think of letting those who have, or are, making a difference in our lives know just how grateful we really are?