Everyone you interview has the potential to be a future leader. The problem is we often want to hire people who are the leaders today. Not only that, we want them to have 3 PhDs and 15 years of experience in each field. I just read a wonderful article from Liz Ryan, the founder of Human Workplace. She discusses how so many HR departments are posting job ads for people that simply don’t exist or, if they did, they certainly wouldn’t work for the salary being offered.
When I hire, I look for those future leaders, the people I know will be great with some coaching. I search for passion, integrity, and drive to improve. Training is so easy and 90% of any job is on the job training regardless of how much relevant experience the person has. Your systems, culture, and team dynamics are always going to be different from what they were doing before. In short, a person’s potential is often far more valuable than their actual experience and qualifications.
The plaintiff if Liz’s article above illustrates another common situation, especially here in China. Management is way behind on deadlines they shouldn’t have set in the first place because they don’t actually have the staff to deliver. Then they decide they need some mythical wizard that magically takes over a role and does the best job ever to deliver on time and to specs. Of course, this person can’t be found (and even if they could, they certainly have a job already and wouldn’t be sending in applications to web ads) and then, instead of reexamining their assumptions about deadlines, capabilities, and hiring requirements, they blame the poor recruitment manager for not finding the right people. I’ve seen this more times than I can count.
Real leaders set realistic goals for their teams and make sure they have the staff and resources available before promising the moon. They also know they will need to hire good people and develop them, not expect to be able to find some wizard to clean up the mess they’ve put themselves in.
Look for those people who would be a great fit for your team. Give them your time and your attention . Pretty soon, you’ll find you built a team of incredible people, people who are loyal to you for the help you’ve given them.
You may be asking yourself, how does the afterlife fit into a blog on business and leadership. However, it could be one of the most important questions to ask yourself in a business situation because it provides a compass for your actions and decisions. When your standing at the pearly gates, you can rest assured that you won’t be asked how much money you made for your company in the first quarter of 2013. Even if you don’t believe in judgment after death, how do you want people to remember you? Do you think anyone will give a eulogy related to your business’s profit margins or do you think instead they’ll talk about your character and how you did or did not help others?
If you ever find yourself saying, “You need to think about the business” to justify a decision that you would otherwise consider unethical or not undertake in your personal life, you might want to stop and rethink your decision.
The face of your organization is your team. Your front-line staff may appear the most important and certainly they have the most direct contact with your customers, but everyone in your organization has some impact on your front-line staff and sets the tone for your culture. The formula is simple: Happy workers make happy customers. Your people can be your biggest advocates or they can bring down the entire organization. Would you go back to McDonalds if you always had to deal with disagreeable or unhappy people? Definitely not. Have you ever been in an Apple Store and infected by their enthusiasm for their products. That doesn’t happen by treating employees as a business expense. It happens by treating them with respect, involving them in the organization, and making them proud of what your organization is offering.
Treat your team with respect. You’ll not only feel good about how you’re putting a little happiness into people’s lives, you’ll also be investing in the people that have the most power to make or break your organization.
Words speak louder than actions. Do your actions match your words? It’s easy to send mixed messages without even realizing it. Like many managers, I like to tell my team that I have an open door policy and they can talk to me whenever they need to. Yet, in one of my past roles, few people would come to see me or they would come once the situation had escalated too far.
I had to stop and ask myself why this was happening, so I reached out to my team for feedback. The most common response was that, “I always appeared in a hurry, like I had too much to do”, so my team didn’t want to bother me. While I certainly often had a very full plate, I realized part of that was because I was getting feedback or hearing problems after the fact. I made a conscious effort to slow down and appear relaxed, even if I had a million things on my mind. Staff started to feel more comfortable in approaching me and the work environment was more positive for everyone.
There are many ways we can send mixed messages. Maybe it’s where we spend our time the most, or what how frequently we email on a given subject. I once had a manager tell me that supporting our teams was our top priority, but I never received a single email about supporting our teams. Instead, I received frequent emails about sales numbers. His words didn’t match his actions.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be very conscious of my actions and how they connect to the messages I am trying to promote. Do you have any similar lessons you’ve learned in your work experience?
There is nothing more frustrating than being told different things by different bosses and then having each one try to hold you accountable for their conflicting instructions. As leaders, it’s essential that we communicate well with the other leaders in our organization and that everyone is on the same page. This ensures organizational efficiency, reduces stress, and provides a clear direction for getting things done. Resources are limited in any organization and we have to work as a team with other leaders and other departments to create the best possible outcome. Also, nothing looks more unprofessional than leaders giving conflicting instructions or working towards disparate goals. Having regular leadership meetings is one of the best ways to avoid these situations and reach agreements with other leaders and other departments.
I hear leaders complain all the time about their teams: “This person didn’t complete the project on time.” “This person just can’t seem to get it right.”, “The numbers are below expectations yet again.” You notice in those statements, there was a whole lot of “them” and no “I”.
The reality is that you are the leader and you are accountable for delivering those results, even if you’ve delegated the task to someone else. I bet you tell your team all the time not to point fingers and place blame. Are you leading by example, though? Instead of pointing fingers yourself, we can ask questions related to our own accountability: “Did I provide enough support or coaching to this person?”, “Do I clearly explain my expectations and then listen to them regarding challenges they’ll face in meeting them?”, “What can I do as a leader to help bring those numbers up?”, “Are my expectations in line with what our team and organization are currently capable of?” or even “Did I make the right hiring decision?”.
It’s a cliche, but it’s true. When you point a finger at someone, there are four fingers pointing back at you.
Have you ever used any of these phrases: “Don’t play the victim”, “Regardless, this is what we need and what we are doing”, “I don’t care how you do it, just do it.”? If so, you may be undermining your own goals by losing the respect of your team, not to mention just getting on everyone’s nerves.
Steve Jobs is often sited for his notorious Reality Distortion Field, lauded and criticized at the same time. Your ability as a leader to inspire your team to achieve what they never thought possible is the key to break-through success. However, the opposite end of that is stress, frustration, and resentment when your expectations simply aren’t in line with reality. This is especially true if you demand something and then fail to give any support to bring that goal about.
I’ve worked with many leaders in the past who closed their ears to their teams. Of course, the team members sure talked a lot about that person when they weren’t in the room and most of it was not very flattering. As a leader, you need to know what your team is thinking and you want them to know you respect both their ideas and the challenges they face. For that reason, it’s important to always keep an open mind and listen to their thoughts. This way, you can provide targeted support, your team gets what they need to try and meet your demands, and the relationships remain strong.