Four Tips for Being a Good Leader

Being a true leader takes time and thought. It’s not enough to simply hire good people and assume that everything will go smoothly.
Rather, you need to really consider how you are going to lead those people and how you expect them to communicate, to respond to you and more.
Here are four important tips as a leader for ensuring that your workers follow your lead.

1. Delegate well: You’ve hired great people. Now it’s time to let them show you how much they know and can do. Often times, when a leader has gotten to the place of authority that he’s in, it’s very hard to give up the reigns and to trust that others will do things as well as you do them.
But you can’t do everything and you have to trust those around you. You need to learn to delegate the responsibility for completing work and the authority for others to get things accomplished.

2. Set very specific goals.It’s not enough to say that you hope this project will be finished by the end of the month.
You need to break down the tasks in more manageable ways so that you are clear about which pieces need to get done this week, which pieces you expect to see next week and so on. The more specific and goal oriented you can be, the more likely others will be to stick to the plan.

3. Communicate: Make sure that you really communicate with those whom you lead.
You need to keep your employees up-to-date on important news, changes in plans and changes to how you do business.
Make sure you get that information out to your employees and that they give it to those whom they manage as well.

4. Keep the long-term goals in mind: It’s very easy to get sidetracked with short term needs.
Most of us spend our day dealing with the immediate crises that are in front of us and the needs for this week or next week.
But as the leader, it’s important to remember the long term plans and the long term goals.
Don’t forget about these in the day to day activities that have to get done.

Getting the Best from Your Team

All managers want the same thing: getting the best from their workers. Although the goal sounds simple, it is anything but. Managers can be frustrated by less than 100% engagement from their team. Studies show that as many as 70% of employees are disengaged or emotionally disconnected from the companies that they work for. Luckily, it has also been shown that often the simplest and most basic tools to get improved performance work. Here are a few that are efficacious as well as cost-free.

Be a role model: If you want others to perform at their best, get your team to respect you. Be even handed and ethical, and your team will want to please you out of their respect for you. If your employees don’t respect you, they won’t want to give you their “all.” If they do respect you, they will be happy to follow you anywhere. It is bad form and bad for business for managers to be “above the law.” Setting an example is not only free, it leads to productivity.

Show a real interest in the careers of your team: Research has shown that successful companies motivate their workers by putting a real focus on career development. This strategy is nothing but common sense. All employees, on every level, are fiercely interested in their rise through the ranks. When a manager shows sincere interest in helping his employees acquire the skills to succeed, this brings loyalty and improved productivity, too.

Learn about your people and take an interest in their lives: You can’t really bring out the best in your employees without really knowing them. Try to find out what they are interested in, what they do and don’t like, what motivates them, and what are the issues they care about. Perhaps they are interested in money, respect praise, a bigger working space, or more time at home? The better you know your people and what makes them tick, the better your ability to push the correct managerial buttons.

Keeping Up the Company Morale

It’s not always easy being the boss and keeping your workers happy with their work. To get the most out of your workers, you don’t need them to just produce, but to feel that their production matters and that their place in the company matters. How do you keep workers motivated without taking away too much work time or spending too much on their comfort and entertainment?

First, everyone wants to have their accomplishments celebrated. Of course we always want to look forward to our goals and to future plans, but it’s very important to stop along the way to acknowledge past accomplishments. This can be done in many ways. Department heads can point out the best accomplishments in their department and one person from each department can be rewarded each quarter. Employees can be asked to write down their biggest accomplishments at the end of each month and one statement from each person can be compiled into a company email. These are a few ideas to keep people encouraged and to recognize their accomplishments.

Sometimes all that it takes is a chance to break away from the mold to make employees happy. This could be as simple as arranging for a group outing once a year or having a group lunch as a surprise in the office once in a while. You could pair up employees and give them a specific task you would like them to accomplish during the month, and offer them a few hours each week to work on it together. This allows people to get to know each other, to break up the routine and to accomplish something for the company.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can keep your eye on the prize while still rewarding your employees. Everyone wants to feel special and to have their accomplishments recognized. Make sure you are doing so to keep up company morale.

Maintain Your Objectivity And Credibility Through A One-Over-One Approval Process

One-over-one means that the actions you want to take for/against your direct reports must be approved by your boss. You shouldn’t have unilateral authority to reward or punish those under you without first clearing it with someone over you. Don’t be the judge, jury and executioner of your staff. Separation of powers is a worthy and time tested concept that has direct application to the business world. With positional power, you can change lives with a stroke of a pen: pay raises, promotions, demotions, dismissals. That kind of power deserves a check and balance. Having to justify your actions to someone above you is not a perfect solution by any means. But at least it presumes the decision making is objective.

Increase transparency to all of your key constituents. Offering a window to your bosses into your most sensitive of decisions will increase the transparency and therefore trust related to your judgments. It fosters a stronger position of moral authority and not a weaker one. The strength of your image is an important part of the tone you set as a leader.

Support your decisions with objective information. Facts are your friends when it comes to important judgements. They provide for just outcomes but equally are key lubricants for the change process as they are the foundation for rational communications. People need to understand the reasons behind your demands in order to best comply. It is much easier to explain why when the rationale is fact based.

 Explain the differences to winners and losers. Your ability to say that the process drove the decision, it was scrutinized and therefore fair, is a powerful way to build credibility. The beneficiaries of the decisions (the winners) will feel like they’ve really earned it. The disadvantaged (losers) will at least feel it was fair. It’s essential for both to have a solid reason to say yes or no and the fact that the decision came under a higher level of scrutiny will increase the credibility of the explanation.

Empowerment should Be Extended Gradually And Based On Performance

Giving things away is a lot easier than taking things back. Delegating authority, or empowerment, is no different. It isn’t something that should be rushed or freely given. It is something that should be earned that requires a solid foundation to ensure it is strong and sustainable.

Trust takes time. Building a foundation of trust doesn’t happen in an instant. Think of it as bricklaying. Trust is assembled one brick, or event, at a time. It requires a series of events that can be assessed for their effectiveness. What was the expected outcome and what was the actual outcome? What choices (decisions) were made along the way. Were they knucklehead choices or were they sound decisions, ideally based on data. If there was no analysis or assessment, the decisions may be more like gambling than risk taking. Bake that learning into your empowerment plans for the next go around and adjust your delegation as necessary. Take the time to evolve your levels of empowerment.

Seek disconfirming evidence. Insist that your team try to make good choices by looking for data that disputes what they believe. In assessing choices, utilizing facts as a basis is always a good start. But it is not enough to find data that agrees with their conclusions. They must actively seek data that doesn’t agree. This is called disconfirming evidence and essentially it means, they might be wrong. Oh boy, that’s a problem! Why would you want your team to actively seek to disprove what they believe? Well, because they could be wrong. And wouldn’t you want them to know that before they make a knucklehead choice. If you actively look for and don’t find evidence that disproves your beliefs, then by all means carry on, with confidence.

Have them repeat it back. You may know what you want them to do and may have repeated it a few times. There is always a risk of misunderstanding. A simple but powerful way to reduce this risk is to ask them to describe to you what they are doing. Have them repeat the problem statement so you can assure you are aligned. They can get corrective guidance at the beginning and you can avoid rework, frustration and hard feelings along the way.

Operating Plans Should Contemplate Setbacks And Include Alternatives

Plans are intended to guide your execution and will never be as precise as a mathematical formula because of the many variables they do and don’t contemplate. And let’s not forget the human factor, which is an essential part of any plan, is the least predictable variable of all. So a good plan should incorporate some room for mistakes, delays in timing, revenue misses, and cost overruns. These are downsides that require mitigation. You should think through them before you execute. Outcomes can also be better than plan. Isolate those variables as well and include them in your upsides list.

Isolate key assumptions that drive your financial performance. These assumptions / variables are the critical factors that you need to manage. They can include launch dates, hiring levels, expenditures, new product introductions, price changes, advertising, response rates, etc. It is critical that you get a clear handle on the 3 – 5 things that will drive your financial results and thereby determine your success. Have clear monitoring plans in place and stay on top of them. Make course corrections as needed.

Look for weak points that require attention. Always assess your plan, actuals and gaps. If you have a miss or a win by 10% or more, it bears looking into. It isn’t luck (good or bad). Something more important is going on. If you address misses as they arise, you lower your risks and get control of your execution before it can get out of hand.

Build on strengths and don’t abandon them. Operating plan management is not just about downsides. If you did a good job planning and you are executing well, you will be delighted to find that some things are going better than expected. Don’t ignore them. Isolate the reasons why and make sure the wins are sustainable.

Glen Wakeman: If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes

Demand excellence and you can get it. However, stars need the opportunity to shine and demands without rewards amount to tyranny. High performance organizations know this and always take the time to acknowledge excellence

Award effort but reward results. Excellence doesn’t mean effort. As a famous philosopher once said, “Do or not, there is no try.” Hard work deserves a thank you. Great results deserve more than that. They deserve recognition.

Make the rewards public. Recognition by peers is a powerful motivator. Blowing off steam by taking a bow and having a few laughs can re-energize the workforce. Public praise when it is meaningful, specific and personal cements bonds to the company and re-humanizes demanding leaders.  It’s also a great way to share tips, insights and secrets of success.

Share techniques as best practices. People are copy cats. Why not let your workforce copy the best practices of your best performers. Give the “Stars” an award, hand them a microphone and have them take a few seconds and explain what they did to get the results they achieved. Everyone will try to copy that and you will have instantly raised the skill levels of your employees. You will praise the best performers, strengthen your culture and have fun at the same time. Big or small organizations will benefit.

Use Dashboards To Enable Data Driven Management

Glen Wakeman Dashboard AccuracyKeeping track of things is an essential component of performance management. You do need to know if you are on track and Dashboards can be a great tool to clarify direction, set standards and align your team. The simpler the better. Good Dashboards are easy to find, read and understand. Dashboards are like an abbreviated scorecard.

Keep them simple so they can be easily understood. If it’s longer than 1 page, it isn’t a dashboard. It’s a report. Your goal on a dashboard is to quickly assimilate the status and then proceed to adjust. Clarity is paramount. Allow your staff to quickly spot the good, the maybe and bad by color coding the dashboards with green, yellow and red ratings. Refresh them often.

Focus on key variables that drive real performance. Identify the things you are trying to accomplish and avoid the temptation to go number crazy. More isn’t necessarily better. Quite often, long lists of numbers make things more confusing and ineffective. So, you will need a filter to determine what is really important. Measure how you make money, and ensure that your Dashboards track the drivers of your progress.  That’s the easiest way to align interests and is a powerful, no-surprises, communication tool.

Be consistent and disciplined about capturing, analyzing and communicating the results. Routine and repetition can ensure that the learnings are closely adhered to and acted upon. Accuracy is paramount to create a level playing field and the sense of fairness. Dashboards can be a great communication tool, provide a foundation for rewards and celebration and enhance the credibility of your views on performance.

Periodically Reset The Unit Baselines To Drive Productivity

People behave according to metrics; production metrics can be used to enhance profitability. Metrics are best when they are representative, rational and achievable. But they can also be used to create a culture of continual improvement.

Use the group average to set the minimum standards. Do not let your lowest producers set the standard for your operations. Allow your best performers to set the standard for everyone.

Leverage the success of top performers. They are outperforming the rest for good reasons. Let them explain what they are doing to your other team members. Give them a forum to speak at a staff meeting or recognition meeting and allow them to share their expertise. Sharing best practices, experiences, ideas and tactics improves both engagement and productivity. Both will move the needle.

Periodically reset the new minimums. Capitalize on your teams’ improvements by upping the bar at scheduled intervals. Avoid being overly random or scientific. If you use actual performance averages, you will simultaneously capture the benefits of the leaders and also avoid a protracted discussion about fairness. Insist on improvement.


Match Your Organization Design To Your Needs

The design of your organizational structure can have a big impact on your company’s performance as it will ease or hinder communication and action. Contemplate your personal leadership style and key company challenges when deciding on your design to optimize the match of needs and outputs.

Hierarchical designs work best for a directive style. If you want to control your company from the center, a hierarchical design (with a clear set of checks and balances) is the way forward. It helps you decide the level you want to empower others with decision-making abilities. The downside is that it is harder to delegate, can be slower to implement changes and the more successful employees may not like it.

Adopt a flat design if speed is your goal. Managerial review cycles take time and with a flat organization, you really do not have a built in, 1 over 1 type of process. So you get the speed in decision making but without someone to double check, a higher risk may be incurred. Empowerment is easier and employee engagement should also trend up. But coordination can be difficult and you will need to create forums for collaboration to ensure the entire team is on the same page. In other words, if you go flat, make sure everyone talks to each other.

Loosely-defined organizations can enable innovation. It is always smart to have your best people work on your biggest problems. If you do not set clear organizational boundaries, employees will migrate easily and quickly to the problem areas, develop ideas and feel free to quickly implement them. Sounds perfect. There is a drawback to this design however which is especially risky if you are surrounded with a bunch of type “A” players. They will all migrate to the problem and then fight about who is in charge.  If that’s the case, make sure that there is a designated apex predator in the group to keep order.