More Resources to Support Your 'Rockstar' Leadership Career
Free Training: Tools To Improve Employee Performance
So, one of your team members is basking in the sun at lunchtime, and his phone rings, he looks down, and your name flashes up. What does he feel at that moment?
Is it a happy, "Oh, it's (your name) I wonder what she wants" Or is it a stab of anxiety and, "Ugghh it's my boss what's she going to whack me with this time?"
Either reaction comes about because of how you have shown up as a leader and the emotional impact you have had on the people around you.
Your success of failure depends upon how people feel about you. It's not about being liked. It's about being inspiring and competent.
Would You Want to be Led by You?
In one of the leadership development programs I run called, "Would You Want To Be Led By You" I ask participants to write down the six words that you'd like people to use to describe you.
I then ask them to write down, hand over heart what they think people are likely to say today.
And finally, I get the people they work with to let me know in three sentences, or less, how they would sum up this leader - with both positive and negative observations.
The results can be eye-opening!
Some leaders realize that the people they work with don't necessarily view them through the same lens as they see themselves.
Some leaders realize the list they write down of what they'd like people to be saying about them, and the list that they know is likely to come back to them ... have a gap ... sometimes a yawning gap!
And some leaders .... those high-performance leaders ... the how they'd "like to be described" list and the sentences they get back from their colleagues, all have fairly similar sentiments.
There is one thing you can rely upon as a leader.
If people aren't inspired by you, if you aren't inspiring to yourself ... you're going nowhere fast!
You'll get to that rocking chair at the end of your life and look back and be thinking, "Is that it?"
What is it That High-Performance Leaders do Differently?
So, what is it that high-performance leaders - remarkable leaders - do differently from the 'run-of-the-mill'? How do they make that emotional connection with others, that causes people to want to go where they lead?
Well, it isn't at all about group hugs and soul-bearing sessions. It's a bit more practical than that!
There are a myriad of things you could do to be a remarkable, high-performance leader who is inspired and inspiring - but if I could only give you my top 7 leadership tips they would be:
- 1Have a clear picture of where you are going and how you are going to get there
- 2Hold yourself to a higher standard and show up consistently
- 3Spend time in reflection and introspection
- 4Get people focused
- 5Set clear goals and measure performance
- 6Help people to feel they belong
- 7Coach up or coach out fast
Let's take a deeper dive into each of these 7 key areas
1. Have a Clear Picture of Where You are Going
Think this is all airy-fairy, blah blah stuff? Think again.
People who have a clear picture of where they are heading have always led people who don't. You don't have to be a history buff to know the truth of this statement.
All the remarkable leaders I work with, and those I've studied, have clearly defined vision, mission, and values statements. I call this their Inner Compass. They use their Inner Compass so that, when they get to the end of their life, they have made a positive dent in the universe that is in their heart.
People with a clear vision of where they want to go have always led those who don't.
You can have the most amazing vision in the world, but if you don't follow it up with a clear set of values that you use to drive your decision-making, you'll end up being in the Trump, Kardashian, camp. Some success (depending upon how you measure it), but not really adding a whole lot to the world. Not making a positive dent.
If you've never created an Inner Compass get to it now. If you've already got one in place, make sure that it is up-to-date and still reflects where you want to go and how you want to get there. In the free training, Mindset of a High-Performance Employee, you'll find templates to help you do this.
2. Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard
Having an Inner compass is wonderful. However, if all you do is document your vision, mission, and values and then don't use these to drive your decision-making, drive how you show up in the world ... it will be like the vision, mission and values statements of the majority of companies that aren't high-performance ... words on paper that are meaningless.
Using their Inner Compass high performance, remarkable leaders hold themselves to a higher standard. When they let their standards drop they use a mantra like, "I am better than that, the next time I intend to .... " They fix problems they create, and they work at anticipating how they can avoid problems before they arise.
Once you've got your Inner Compass hold yourself to that standard and work consistently at excelling.
3. Introspection and Reflection
High-performance leaders spend time reflecting on their performance. What they did well, where they could improve. This is indeed one of the elements that set high performers apart. They don't just blindly rush from one meeting to the next, from one crisis to another.
They build into their diaries time to stop and think. For example, What went well in the meeting? What could I have improved? Who do I need to have a conversation with following this meeting - so that I can enrich our relationship?
In the book, Leadership at Scale, McKinsey researchers say:
Our research on organizational health shows that making one's mindset the subject of conscious scrutiny is an indispensable prerequisite of leadership effectiveness. Only about a third of over 2,500 executives in our sample said that their organization's transformations explicitly assessed the mindsets that would need to change to reach their goals. Those that did were 4 times more likely to be successful.
4. Get People Focused
Work with purpose is passion. Work without passion is punishment. Remarkable leaders are great at connecting their team with the Vision and Mission of the organization - why they are coming to work, beyond the paycheck.
In fact, research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board identified 50 levers of employee discretionary effort. 34 of the top 50 levers for inducing discretionary effort are attributable to an individual's direct leader. The #1 lever: Connection between work and organizational strategy. The #3 lever: Importance of Job to Organizational Success.
Several of the leaders I coach ask their people this on a regular basis (and ask themselves daily!): "Why did you turn up at work today? What's your purpose, what's your focus?".
People leave work, at day's end, with that blah feeling of, "Does what I do really make a difference?" when they are just focused on getting tasks done
Instead, get them focused on their purpose and on why they are doing what they are doing. On how they are going to do it. Get those elements right and you'll go a long way toward inspiring them to connect to their work emotionally.
Importantly, don't discount emotions. Emotions and the consequent feelings that come from those emotions, drive performance.
What was Their Job?
I'm sure you've heard the story of three men laying bricks. Each one was asked, "What are you doing?" The first man replied, 'I'm laying these darn bricks!'.
The second replied 'I'm putting food on the table for my wife and kids'.
The third one replied, 'I'm building a cathedral, and one day right where we are standing, the spires will rise high above us, people will come and look at it in awe, people will come inside this beautiful building to be inspired and to worship their God and feel at peace'.
If the first two bricklayers had had a leader who connected them to their personal value in being part of the project, do you think they may have had a higher level of commitment to it?
People Only Get Out of Bed for Two Reasons
People only get out of bed for two reasons - inspiration and desperation. Running on desperation, people are coming to work with a 'have-to' feeling. They have to go to work to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, get the kids through school, pay for the next holiday.
Running on inspiration, people are coming to work with a 'want-to' feeling. They come to work because they feel they are having an impact. They like the people they work with. They feel they belong. They believe in what their business is doing.
Remarkable leaders are truly skillful at connecting people with what inspires them.
5. Set Goals and Measure Performance
People are naturally competitive. They instinctively want to feel they are achieving and making an impact. Yet, many organizations don't take advantage of this.
Imagine I take you down to the local bowling alley, and get you set up to play, but I don't tell you how you'll know if you've been successful. I don't give you a target to strive for. Even worse, every time the bowling ball gets half-way down the lane I pull a big curtain down, and you can't see how many pins you've knocked over.
Could you imagine that being a fun game to play?
Every day of the week, people are down at sporting events chasing down goals, getting measured against how they are performing, trying to win that Gold Medal/Championship etc. People love the thrill of the chase. The thrill of competing against themselves or others. The thrill of improving.
If you haven't set up the conditions for them to feel those thrills, you are shutting down some of their emotional touch-points, and you are likely getting lackluster performance.
Work with your team individually and collectively to set goals. Make sure they get regular, timely feedback that enables them to track progress and work out how they can continuously improve their performance.
6. Help People Feel They Belong
Do you realize it is only some 250 odd years ago that we stopped being hunters and gatherers living in small communities and moved into offices and factories?
If you think about it, it has been a couple of hundred thousand years since we turned up on the planet as humans. Or, you could look back a couple of million years to when Homo Erectus showed up.
So that 250 since we've shifted from primarily being hunters and gatherers is just a blip of time.
And yes, we may be the most adaptive beast on the planet, yet our instincts are still very caveman-like. We still have strongly ingrained in us our fight and flight reflex (which is another article - but does show up in organizational life as aggressive, passive-aggressive, passive behavior etc).
Those 250 years since we moved out of small family-based communities and into large, stranger-based communities is too short a time for our instinctive needs to be dismissed. We still have this intense need to belong. Which is why the second B of high-performance is Belonging.
If you've got people who don't feel they belong, who are in teams larger than 7 (plus or minus two) and who feel they aren't heard or that they matter - you're likely to have problems.
7. Coach-up or Coach-out Fast!
I often say, if you are playing cricket and your team member is better suited to playing baseball, then help them to find a baseball diamond to play in, rather than a cricket pitch!
Your first focus should always be on coaching the person up to the level of performance you need. However, if the person doesn't want to or can't get to that level, then you must coach them out of either their role, your team, or the organization fast. Don't let it linger on for months on end. It is kinder to you and the individual.
Sure on the first occasion, depending upon what it is, you might take note and let it slide. The second time, you might make a diary note. However, by the third occasion, you must be addressing the issue with the individual. If you don't, it is team suicide.
As a high performing leader, you must hold yourself and your people to high standards. As soon as you witness someone's performance slide, you need to do something about it.
Nothing brings the performance of a team down quicker than under-performers. They are a blot of ink in a clean glass of water - they discolor everything and everyone around them.
It continues to amaze me that in this day and age organizations still aren't teaching and embedding into the DNA of their culture, how to coach up and coach out fast.
It's interesting, the most consistent topic that many of my clients want to discuss is the under-performance of one of their team members or a barbed relationship they have with someone.
In closing, next time you ring a colleague, what emotional reaction will you elicit?
I've been lucky enough in my career that I've had leaders who even when they are the bearer of 'bad' news, I'm still happy they've called. Could you be that leader?
If you'd like to dig deeper into how to do any of these tips at a remarkable level, contact me about coaching, workshops or one of the online training programs. I've got something that will suit most budgets!
The leaders I coach are not broken - they are great men and women who are already remarkable and want to fine-tune or who are committed to becoming remarkable.