Many people talk about the characteristics that leaders must have to be considered great leaders. Words such as vision, character, empathy, charisma, outgoing, sympathetic, fair, ability to communicate, persuasive, etc. are just some the words most people use. I agree that all of these are important. But there are things that leaders must do that are even more important.
Most of the lists people have created describe what leaders must be. Meaning they must possess these characteristics and skills to be a great leader. What I am describing in this article is what leaders must do. There is a big GAP in what people do and what they say they do.
This list provides leaders a great outline on how to lead in todays workforce and get people to buy in to their vision. Vision, charisma, persuasive, and all of the other traits are important, but doing these six things are more important.
Time: Time is the one of our most precious commodities. No matter who you are and what you do, you don’t have any more than anyone else. And in this hyper busy and noisy world, it seems like we all have less of it than ever before. So when a leader spends some of their time with the people they lead, it demonstrates and communicates to the person or persons, that they are important enough that the leader is willing to take some of their precious time and spend some of it with them.
I know spending time with the people seems like a simple thing to do. However, as I work with leaders around the country, I find that most leaders are spending less time with their team. Instead they are going from meeting to meeting, running reports, and putting out fires and not actually spending enough time with the people they lead.
If you want to become a better leader and get engagement from your team, you have to make time for the people on your team. This must be a priority.
Recognition: Being recognized is probably one of the most inherent qualities that we as humans have. We love to stand out or be pointed out in a crowd as someone who is doing something different. I have worked with thousands of individuals in my training sessions and I have yet to find a person that says they don’t like to be recognized. Great leaders find ways to recognize employees in everyday interactions.
Appreciation: Being a trainer for many years now, one of my favorite sessions in my training classes is something we do called “strength centered comments”. A strength centered comment is where the people in the training recognize each other for the strengths they have observed while they have been in the training together. Most of the training I do is spending a day with a group, many days with a group, or many sessions with a group. The group has the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the other participants in the training. At the end of the training, they have to get in to group of three-five and write out strengths they have witnessed in the other participants in their group throughout the training.
The way it sounds is like this “Laura, one of the strengths I have observed and appreciate about you, is your willingness to ask very thought-provoking questions. This tells me that you are really listening to the other person and really care about what they are saying. I watched you do this throughout the training in all of the interactions you have been a part of.
Everyone loves this session in my training courses. Leaders have the opportunity to do this every single day. They can show appreciation for their teams strengths daily, and good leaders do this consistently.
Forgiveness: You and I both have done things that we wanted forgiveness for. It is just a part of life. If you aren’t doing things that require forgiveness from time to time, then the chances are you aren’t taking any risks, especially in the work environment. Forgiveness is something that we all want when we do something that we shouldn’t have done. It may not have been maliciously done, but it was done nonetheless. And we as humans want affirmation that the person impacted by whatever we did, has forgiven us and put it to the past.
In leadership, you want employees taking risks, you want employees pushing the boundaries to ensure success. You don’t want them to do anything that is unethical, illegal, or unmoral, however, you do want them to be creative and look for new ways to solve problems that impact business.
If a person feels like a leader is resenting them or holding a grudge on a decision they made. This creates animosity and lack of engagement on the part of the employee. A leader must communicate to this person that it wasn’t a big deal, that is was okay, and it is in the past. Now I know this seems like an easy thing to do, and it may be a little overstated. However, I have been the person that needed forgiveness and affirmation from a leader that what I did was in the past and it wasn’t impacting any thing going forward. We all seek this in our personal lives, so leaders must also give this to people in the business environment.
Attention: Spending time with someone is very important, but when you spend that time with someone giving them your full attention and being fully present is just as important. They way you show that you are fully attentive and present is by engaging with the individual to show that you are hearing what they want you to hear. Leaders today may be willing to give some time to their team, but they may not be fully attentive. Great leaders clear off the desk and put their phones down and give their employees all of their attention and not part of it.
Credit: I don’t care who you are and what you say, my experience tells me that all of us want credit for anything and everything that has a positive outcome. Whether it is an opinion on a football game, a thought on a project, or we guess on the right directions on a road trip, all of us love to get credit for something. My guess is some of the mostly used words together in the human language are “I told you”, “That is what I said”, or the passive aggressive way to say this is “Didn’t I say that?”. All of these statements are examples of all of us wanting to get credit for are efforts and being right.
As a leader, especially a good leader, you should be listening more than talking. Which means most of the good ideas that solve problems in your organization are coming from the people on your team. Most of us have had leaders take credit for our ideas. You know they did. This is one of the most demoralizing and infuriating things you can do to someone on your team. If you are a leader, you have to give public credit to people on your team for their contributions. I would say that you have to go out of your way to ensure the people on your team know that in the board room and in other meetings, that their leader is giving the proper credit.
Here is your challenge: Write these six words down on a piece of paper. Next to the words also write down the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Now circle the number you feel like represents how well you do these six things. 10 being you do it really well. 1 meaning you don’t do it well at all. After you rank yourself in each of these areas. Write down a specific goal you would like to work on accomplishing in this area?
Is it giving more public credit? Is it recognizing people more? Whatever it is, you have to commit to a goal and then implement ways to accomplish the goal.
To your success and your future.