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Nine Months of Leadership Growth

Big speeches don’t impact most teams — It’s in the little day-to-day moments that true leadership is seen and felt by teams. Download this eBook now for nine months of leadership skills-building exercises that will help you become a better leader. 

Nine Months of Leadership Growth

Let Someone Else Run the Meeting

One of the most effective ways to get more people involved in your meetings is to pass the chairman duties of your monthly or weekly meetings to someone else. When team members now have to create an agenda, manage the people in the room, finish on time, take minutes and come away with action items they realize how challenging running a great meeting can be. 

Rotate the duty of the meeting chair amongst your team members. Have team members arrange the agenda, submit to you for approval, then let them facilitate the meeting as you back them up. Watch your team engagement improve as each person has new respect for meetings.

Monthly Innovations

So often, the downfall of companies is reduced innovation as they become more successful. One way to show leadership and engage the team is to develop a system to collect new innovative ideas from your team. Encourage your team to provide their input and ideas on ways to innovate.

Each month review the ideas and look for two suggestions that you can implement. It shows you are prepared to listen and act on their suggestions. It shows leadership through service and team involvement.

Random One-on-Ones

People always appreciate annual one-on-one reviews because it’s often the only time of year they get any substantial feedback. One way to show leadership and an interest in your team is for random one-on-ones. Chat with your team members and offer to take them out for a coffee or lunch. Ask them questions and listen.

Let them talk — that is the point. Everyone needs to feel heard. Ask them personal questions first. Then ask their opinions about their work. It’s incredibly powerful when you listen to learn from your team — both for them and for you.

State of the Union

People like to know that the company they work for is in capable hands. Just like sailors on the open ocean, they want to know someone capable is at the helm. Like a politician, sometimes a great speech is what people need to hear. With your team, monthly or quarterly, get everyone together (in person is best) and tell them what’s going on. 

Talk to them about the present and the future; because the future vision is important for everyone. Celebrate some of the wins of the business and recognize some standout performances. Tell them what needs to happen for the business and everyone to be successful. Then, watch as people respond to your leadership with more interest, understanding and enthusiasm.

Ask Your Team for Input and Hold Them to It

So often, as leaders we want input from our teams. We ask them in a meeting to come back with some ideas and we hear nothing. There are two main reasons for that. First, they brought ideas before and they were all shot down, ignored or rejected. This doesn’t promote the consistent sharing of new suggestions. The second reason is actually more prevalent. It’s that we don’t hold our teams to it. We ask and then let it go.

No one shows up with an idea and we let it slide. Next time, create some accountability and tell them no one leaves the room until you have 10 suggestions. Tell them you need one suggestion from everyone by the end of day and check to make sure you get them. Great leadership starts with accountability and contribution.

Everyone’s Role Impacts the Company Goal

Good leaders often explain the goals of the company to their teams. This can be exciting and inspiring for staff. It can also be frustrating and irrelevant if they can’t see how that relates to their role or job in the company.

Often we see companies with broad goals and their teams want to buy in, but they don’t know how to support that big picture goal day-today. When you set company objectives and goals, take time to explain to all different departments and internal groups how they can contribute in their own roles.

Have managers break down broad goals into incremental steps and weekly targets. Leaders often think people don’t want to contribute, but this is not true. Often people don’t know how. Show them how and watch them step up with support and action.

Set the Standard

In most companies, the standard of service, effort, quality and attitude flows down through an organization. It starts at the top with the president or executive team and flows to the management and then into the team. 

As the leader, when you talk about a standard and then don’t enforce it, you send a message that the standards aren’t really that important. So, keep your own standards high and enforce them with others at every turn. 

If you need to roll up your sleeves to show how far everyone must go to keep the standards, do it. It also builds respect from the team. A great leader is a role model of high standards.

Sit in Meetings Silently

Just because you are the leader in a group or organization, it doesn’t mean you need to run every meeting. When you sit in on meetings to just listen, it does two things. It allows you to really understand what is going on. 

You start to really hear the voices and opinions of people when you are not actively speaking in the meeting or conversation. Secondly, when you want to show support for an idea or a person it is enough to sit in on a meeting or presentation they are doing. 

Your silent support and appearance is a message to everyone else that they should get on board. Before each meeting, determine if you need to speak or listen silently with open ears.

Clarify and Share Your Vision

Many leaders and managers say their vision for the future is very clear. Unfortunately, when you ask the team they can’t articulate it, can’t repeat it and don’t know how to implement it. 

What good is a vision that no one can see or understand? Ask your team what the vision for the business is and how it can be implemented in their role. It is a tell-tale way to see if your vision really speaks to anyone.  

A simple statement that everyone gets like, “a PC on every desktop”, is far easier for people to get behind. Keep it simple. Make it easy to buy into and make sure it provokes action.

Be Decisive

One of the most effective traits of good leaders is the ability to be decisive. Making decisions quickly and rarely looking back or second-guessing is key. Excessive deliberation or stalling rarely improves an outcome and it sends a poor message to the team. People want their leader to be decisive because it gives them a sense that the person leading has strength, commitment, focus and foresight. 

Not all decisions are right for anyone or any organization — too many things change too rapidly to always be “right”. Being decisive allows an organization to keep moving. Like someone on ice skates, it is always easier to change directions while still moving than it is to stop and start again.

Solve Problems With Your Team, Not for Them

Too often, business owners and leaders get bogged down because they need to solve everyone else’s problems. The unintentional precedent gets set that you shouldn’t make a decision but rather bring the issue to your boss. People ask the boss and he decides. 

This stops the team from thinking, stops them from taking any risk and from solving their own issues. It limits responsibility, growth and confidence building. Why would they do it when they can hand it up to their boss? I want you to start a new style of leadership. 

When someone has a problem, they need to find a solution and present both to their boss. With this method, they grow responsibility, confidence and problem-solving skills.

Promote Challenge

People in many organizations are not encouraged to challenge things and it stunts the growth of a business and its potential. From the top leadership down, in any company, people should be encouraged to challenge processes and the status quo. So often, the excuse is, “we have always done it that way”. 

Challenge creates the need to justify the existing methods and procedures. It also uncovers flaws and opportunities. Challenge is not promoting complaining or personal attacks, but rather encouraging independent thinking and innovation. Innovative leaders should bring this philosophy to their meetings, processes and overall company culture.

Cover All the Details

As a great leader, you must be aware of the details. Often, leaders think that they need to operate at the 50,000 foot level and only deal with the big picture. Their role is actually to start at that high level and then to ensure those high level strategies and ideas are implemented down to the fine details. 

It is attention and commitment to details that keep companies and teams sharp. When “nothing gets past the boss” is understood by everyone, it ensures others live up to the same attention to detail and eliminates a culture of, “that’s good enough”.

Leaders Set the Tone for Relationships

The way that your customers are treated is directly related to how you present them to your team. Are they clients, customers, prospects, or guests? Each has a connotation that sets the tone for the whole relationship. The leader of a company sets an example for how clients are referred to and treated. 

Ever demonstrate frustration with clients in front of staff? It lets them know that we honor clients sometimes but not all the time. Ever suggest you should fire a client or you don’t need their business? It may be true of that one client but it sets the tone for how all your clients may be treated the next time there is an issue. 

Your team is looking to you and watching you at every turn to see how clients are treated, viewed and serviced. Great leadership exemplifies exceptional treatment of clients and the service they deserve. Treat them all as VIP’s.

Use Reassurance Not Silence

Your team needs a consistent voice to let them know that the business is moving in the right direction, and that it is weathering the storms. Too often, when things get tough leaders get quiet they aren’t sure what to say and what not to say. Saying nothing is never the solution. It only allows people to create their own message — which is never positive. 

Even if things are tough, be honest and say that. Then, focus on what you are doing well. What is positive and what will uplift the team? Let them know about all the silver linings and the bright sides. It will ensure that your team stays focused on work, not rumors. People want to follow positive leaders.

Leadership is Thinking Large

Everyone in a company gets consumed with the day-to-day management and challenges that arise. Often, the solutions for problems are found with an immediate solution mindset. Opportunities are seen for the obvious revenue and upside they present. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger often asked, “how do I make this big”? He is a good leader because he takes time to see problems and opportunities on a large scale. He looks for long term, sustainable, systemized solutions. 

He looks to make moderate opportunities into home runs. While your team works on the day to day, think large.

Visions Can Be Departmental

In larger organizations, there may be a variety of departments and functional areas that have little in common. As a leader you must aim to make the greater company vision directly relatable to each department. 

When each department has a vision that fits within the greater company vision, and when team members within each department can get behind a localized vision, it serves the whole organization. 

If your company is lacking a global vision, start with a vision for each department and find the common areas to make universal.

Your Communication Gauge – Your Team

This may seem obvious but it is something that comes up again and again in leadership training programs. If your team doesn’t know what your plan is then you are not communicating it properly. It’s not them, it’s you. It is a leader’s responsibility to present the plans, decisions and actions to their team in a way that everyone understands and comprehends. 

Make it simple, as though presenting to eighth grade students. Ensure they understand having them explain it back to you. Ask for questions and challenges. When a team is silent, it often masks misunderstanding.

Are You Living the Culture?

So often, the leader of a company talks about what the organization stands for, but then operates in a different fashion. How congruent are you? Do you talk about working extra hard and then leave before your team? Do you talk about honesty and then demonstrate dishonesty in negotiating a deal? People learn the culture from the actions of leaders, not their words. 

Your team is watching all the time to see how you will act and from that they determine what is culturally acceptable. Not sure what your culture is? Then ask your team. In the absence of proactive culture a reactive one grows.

Support Risk Taking

For an organization to really be innovative and progressive, leaders should be willing to take risks. Support the idea of people making mistakes that will have a cost! It is through taking some calculated risks and trying new things that breakthroughs are made and markets captured. Introducing new innovations each month is a terrific way to create and support risk taking. 

They say, “fortune favours the bold”. Do you encourage bold decisions and behaviours? Now, bold behaviours and recklessness are not synonymous. Encourage people to find better ways and let them know they will be supported even in the event of a failure. How are you supporting bold new innovation in your organization?

Explain What’s in it For Them

As an employee or team member, all corporate goals, initiatives and visions are most impactful when people understand how they impact them as an individual. Have you ever presented a profit sharing program to a team? Everyone gets excited when they see how much money they might actually make. 

When they understand, ‘What’s In It For Me,’ they pay attention. When you explain WIIFM to your employees, then you can generate the support you need from each person when defining their necessary contribution. 

When an employee understands what they stand to gain, and how they can contribute, they will commit to doing their part. As a leader, make sure the outcome of all initiatives can be felt by all team members as individuals.

Leadership is Body Language

So many people in leadership roles think they need to rally the troops with a good speech. They figure if they tell a good story, then they can paint a positive picture. Sometimes, even with good intentions, they twist the truth to make it seem more positive. However, people read body language, and 55% of communication is non-verbal. Think about your tone of voice, the look on your face, the body language through the glass window in the boardroom. 

People know when things are good and when things are bad from every little gesture and motion you initiate. So, when things are tough, show strong leadership by being truthful. People will stick through tough times when leadership is honest, strong and congruent in all their words, tones, and actions.

Delegate Versus Abdicate

How many times have you handed something off to someone in your office and then realized days or weeks later you have no idea where that project is at?! This is called abdication and is how most people operate when they think they are delegating. Delegation maintains a reporting structure so information gets back to you on all the projects people are working on for you. 

If you delegate 10 projects this week, the week should end with updates and documentation on each of those projects. Then you have the knowledge without all the work. That is true leverage of your team and their expertise. If you find yourself not knowing the status of projects, then you need to move from abdication of work to strong delegation where you share the responsibility still but assign the work.

Accepting Excuses

When do you make an exception to a rule or accept an excuse? My favorite is when someone decides that rules are going to be hard and fast from now on, and then breaks those rules within the first eight hours. What message does it send your team when you say meetings will now start on time, all the time, and in the next meeting someone rolls in three minutes late and it goes unnoticed or unaddressed? Often, we break our rules and accept excuses or reasons when we need to show strong leadership and stick to our guns. Strong leadership says, these are rules to work here; if you can’t follow them, then you can’t work here. The problem is not staff that won’t adhere to rules — they are a symptom. Strong leadership sets the tone and says no to excuses.

Take Responsibility To Show Strength

This may seem obvious, but many people in a leadership role know this intellectually but don’t live it in their work. The same way great leaders like Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs or Jack Welch at GE said the buck stops here; this is how all good leaders need to respond. 

When I see the person at the top accept responsibility for their mistakes or shortcomings, I know I am in the presence of a great leader. Most people look for the scapegoat. 

Great organizations demand that you take responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone steps up to accept them. What approach are you taking? What message do you send to your team?

Become A Pep-Talk Expert

In times when people are bombarded with negative information about the economy, the company performance, their increased potential for job loss, they need regular pep talks.

Let’s be clear; our definition of a pep talk is not all, ‘rah-rah’! A good pep talk should include:

1. Recognition of some of the negative stories and facts people may have heard
2. A leader’s opinion on whether this will really affect their organization or their people
3. A list of ideas or strategies that are going to be used to make the organization more resilient, sustainable and proactive
4. A statement of belief that with teamwork, effort, and focus there is good opportunity to survive and even flourish
5. A request to have everyone’s effort and participation in the campaign to survive and thrive with a verbal commitment
6. A thank-you and a congratulations for doing such a great job
7. Hit all these points and it will actually spur people to focus, take action and feel comfort in your leadership.

Are Your Really Watching Staff?

Every phone call, every customer, every proposal, every shift — are you watching them all? So often, as leaders, we get comfortable that everyone is doing a great job but we don’t stop to check in as a client or customer. 

Are all the touch points of service and delivery being met the way we want? Often it’s not. Take time to walk the halls, go in through the front door like a customer, call into your own business. People need to know that you are watching and that there is accountability for their level of performance. 

Randomness is a great way to catch things. Mark it on a calendar or set a reminder to, “check on operations”. Identify room for improvement and document it. Great leadership is about setting the standard for the team and checking to ensure it’s there.

Post What You Want to Improve

Why do charities or churches that raise money always have a giant thermometer on their lawn? It’s always a measure of, “we have raised 50% of our goal of X”. They post it so that everyone knows where they are at. It is really a measure of performance and success. 

It’s also a measure of focus. If you want more sales, then post your sales performance. If you want more service, then post your service response ratings. If you need better delivery times, then post your average delivery time. People may struggle with being open with their results but, without that open, public visual indicator of performance, it is very easy to lose focus. 

It’s too easy to sweep poor results under the carpet. So, determine what areas need improvement and then monitor and post results for everyone to see.

Leadership Is Like A Car

Quality, performance, value and experience. All the things you might be looking for in your next car. They are also qualities that people list when talking about a strong leader. If your team had to describe your leadership style, what kind of car would you be? Would you be a Mercedes or would you be a Saturn? It’s a great exercise to allow people to describe you without directly describing you. 

It is essential to know what vehicle you are trying to BE, and represent. It’s also easier to picture that car in your mind all day or week long versus trying to remember all the words that describe it. Start your week as a Mercedes or a Hummer and see how your team’s response changes and improves.

How Are You Today? Your Thermostat for Success

Leaders and managers like to get a sense of how their team is operating and how they are feeling. When people have a great day, they project their level of energy, enthusiasm and optimism to the rest of the team. 

Ask your team, “how are you today?” Ideally, your team will answer, “I’m great today” or, “excellent this morning”. Watch out for answers like, “okay”, “not bad”or, “I’m not bleeding” (one of my favorites). When someone gives this answer you know their whole approach to their job, their project and their life at that moment. 

Get your team thinking about how they are setting the bar for their day — fine, good, great, fantastic or beyond! It shapes the way people feel and how they perform for their leader and their team.

Random Acts of Kindness

Many organizations have employee of the month awards or recognition. Unfortunately, there are usually only one or a couple of team members that receive this recognition at any time. 

So, why not have a whole slew of little rewards that can be handed out at any time, for any great performance? You did a great job on a conference call with a client — here’s a Starbucks card for $5. You stayed late yesterday to get a project done — here’s a movie coupon. 

You have an exceptional work ethic and attitude — here are some flowers for your desk. Being a great leader is about recognizing and supporting your staff all the time — every day and every week. The more you recognize them, the more they will recognize your authority, vision and the team effort.

Lead in All Areas of Your Life

Great leadership is demonstrated to your team in how you manage your whole life. Many business leaders think it’s only about how they operate in the office and how they lead in meetings, campaigns or with staff. 

Your team is gauging your leadership in your management of your health, your family, your marriage, your personal finances, your car care, your hours, etc. All of this happens in addition to how you lead in the office. Make sure that leadership development is holistic in your life and watch your results within the office improve too.

Make a List of All the Things You Loved

Every leader — whether good or bad — was at one point an employee. As an employee we all remember things we loved about our previous bosses. We also remember things that we hated. 

Take a moment to think about all the things you loved as an employee. What empowered you? What made you feel great? Make a list of these things and post it in a place where you will see it and do those things with your team.

Make a List of All the Things You Hated

What are the things you hated about every job you ever had? What things did your old boss or manager do that drove you wild or made you feel bad? Often realizing what didn’t empower you gives insight into what you need to avoid as a leader. 

Although we like to work on positive action taking, we can also formulate those by recognizing what didn’t work with us and making sure we don’t do it to others.

Emotional Intelligence is Key

Traditionally, leaders were chosen for their intellectual ability or IQ — both in education and on the job. It has been clearly demonstrated that far more important than IQ is your EQ. 

What is your emotional intelligence level in terms of reading people, reading situations, knowing when to listen and what to say (or not to say). Your team will grow in respect and commitment as they see that your leadership understands them and works with them. 

If you don’t have an understanding of your EQ then it probably needs work.

Leader of Leaders

A friend of mine once said that his focus was becoming the leader of leaders. It goes towards the point that a component of being a strong leader is not just about keeping all the leadership responsibility to yourself, but expecting everyone on your team to share leadership responsibilities, accountability and tasks. When you raise the expectation that everyone has some leadership in their role, you will start to share the success and failures of every project, event and initiative.

Forget the Vanilla – Get Passionate

Too often, we look at leaders as people that don’t get excited, that don’t get nervous, that are steady, strong and never sweat. Well, we are here to tell you to forget that approach. 

Your team and your customers want to see you get excited. They want to see your passion, your frustration but also your willingness to get dirty, to dive in, to make it happen. They want to see energy and fast thinking. They don’t want another boring meeting where you discuss options methodically. 

Show people your emotions, be human, open and excitable. Then watch them catch that infectious leadership.

Balance Your Public and Private

Strong leaders make a point of being out among their team, their customers and their suppliers — It is critical for people to see the leader of the organization being just that. It’s also critically important to have quiet and internal time. This time is spent reflecting, imagining, planning and assessing. It is when a great leader re-groups and determines what needs to be adapted, changed or re-enforced. 

Find time each week and each month to be both the bold public figure, but also the introspective visionary that makes quiet time. Sometimes we need to slow down to speed up.

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Nine Months of Leadership Growth