Leading people isn’t easy. It takes effort, time and a true desire to help others to grow and develop. Many books and articles have discussed how to be an effective leader. Sometimes these instructions can be too complicated as they delve deeply into business theory and group metrics. We have found that it doesn’t require an MBA to be a good leader as much as it requires a concern for others and a good plan. Here are 5 processes that you can follow to improve your leadership abilities.
Mold – One of our earliest opportunities for leadership is to teach a new co-worker in how to do their job. Sometimes we find ourselves training our replacement when we are being promoted to a higher position. It is crucial to instruct these people as well as you can. First, it will ensure that you won’t have to go back and do their job over again, thus wasting your time. Second, it will give you a higher level of trust in their work, keeping you from having to over supervise them. Third, you will gain a loyal peer by helping them to achieve success in their new position. The people that we mold properly become the allies that we need to support us throughout our careers.
Model – Believe it or not, you are being watched. Sometimes it is by your supervisors to determine if you can get the job done. But more often it is by your team to see how you get the job done. You can decide to follow proper procedures and focus on quality or cut corners and do substandard work. Leadership is happening in either scenario, but everyone will benefit when you take the more difficult path and show by a good example. We have often heard the saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.” Followers will emulate the style and habits of the leader. It is up you to model the proper ones.
Monitor – Early in my career I worked for Larry, who was my district manager. Every two or three months Larry would drop by my store and tell me what changes he (and the corporation) wanted me to make. After he left I would make the changes I liked and ignore the rest. Upon his return he wouldn’t remember what he had told me and therefore couldn’t gauge my progress, then he would tell me some of the same things again. This process continued until Larry left a year or two later. His replacement, John, came to my store and told me the changes I should make, then wrote them down and gave me one of the copies. I treated his instructions just as I did Larry’s and did the ones I felt like doing. Upon his return to my store John had the audacity to pull out his list and proceeded to light me up regarding the work I had not done. I learned quickly that I was dealing with a very different kind of manager! You better believe that the next time John visited my store he found the entire list done to his satisfaction. John and I eventually became great friends and he taught me some wonderful things about working and managing other. Chief among his lessons was, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
Motivate – We would hope that all of our team members are self-motivated and able to be focused and functional 24/7. However, we don’t need to look any further than our own selves to know that staying motivated all the time is difficult if not impossible. We need to be motivated as do those that we lead. Knowing that people need to be motivated is not enough. The real key is knowing what motivates each individual. There are many writers and theories of motivation that discuss the needs of the individual and what it takes to motivate them. The best method we have found is to get to know your team and discuss with them what they want to get from their work. What (besides money) gets them excited about the work your organization is doing. Achievement, promotions, free time, self-direction? Once you have discovered their desires, help them to accomplish them – even if you can’t understand how someone could be motivated in that way. A successful leader attains his or her goals by helping others attain theirs.
Mentor – Lastly we arrive at the difficult yet important concept of mentoring. This is a process where we develop a one-on-one relationship with another person to share our knowledge, insights and professional skills to further their development. Being willing to make the time for another person and honestly and skillfully guiding them in their career is a true sign of leadership. The interesting thing about mentoring others is how much we learn about ourselves in the process. Commit yourself to not only being a mentor to that sharp new associate, but find someone who you can trust, and ask them to guide you as you move through your career and your life.