“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” - Stephen Covey
Successfully leading people requires three distinct roles
I recently heard leadership author and speaker Connie Podesta state that our focus for our “wants” should be on personal relationships and our focus for our “needs” should be on material items. She stressed the danger that occurs when the two get flipped. If you “need” a relationship, that is not a healthy relationship. You should “want” the relationship! Taking the focus off of what we want or need, I can see how this can also apply to what we want from the individuals that follow us.
As a leader, do we want our followers to “want” or “need” us? It should be obvious that we want our team to “want” us, not “need” us. If a leader has a desire for his team to “need” him, the relationship will be unhealthy. If your team is only following you because they were told they have to, it will be difficult to get the most from this team.
To be a strong leader, how can we promote an environment where our team “wants” to follow us? The answer lies in three key roles the leader must serve with their teams. These three roles are called Observer, Coach and Guide.
To truly understand and offer your best to your team, you must be with the team. Watching the team in action is how an effective leader observes the strengths and areas of concern on their team. Observing is not just “making the rounds” so the team can see you on the shop floor. Observing is conversational and interactive. The goal for the Leader as the Observer is to take note of the wins and losses of each individual as they perform their roles. Skillfully taking note of the behaviors that should be complimented and the behaviors which must be stopped, the leader should gather information for future conversations. At the same time, if immediate recognition or discipline is appropriate, the leader will deliver it. As you observe your team, ask questions, make conversation and gather information.
If you have an extended team in multiple geographies, travel may not be in the budget for this year. The effective leader can still find methods of communication to observe their teams. With technologies today, video conference and phone calls can serve as an adequate substitute, when necessary.
Once information has been gathered, the leader must serve as the coach to the team. As a manager and leader, annual performance reviews are commonplace. However, to effectively improve the behaviors and skill sets of the individuals on your team, coaching must become a more regular endeavor. Remember, in a coaching session, goals should be set which are better than their best, but still seen as attainable. Then, in the conversation the leader should use open ended questions (How…? Why…? What are…?) to discuss methods for achieving these goals. Criticism may be necessary, but it should be brief and it should be delivered toward the end of the conversation, not the beginning.
Once goals have been set in the coaching session, an effective leader will guide the individuals utilizing two tools, recognition and discipline. Guidance is used by the leader to either redirect (discipline) an individual back toward their goals or it is used to reinforce (recognition) improvements observed to continue that behavior. Depending on your communication style, some leaders struggle with discipline because they don’t want to damage the buddy-buddy relationship they may share. Strong leaders will understand that discipline must be utilized for what it is, a deserved correction based on current behaviors which are hindering the individual from reaching the goals they have set with you.
Focus on the Followers
Remember, strong leaders take the time to observe their teams and see the potential in each individual. Then, by coaching and guiding each individual toward their goals, they will create a group of followers that truly “want” to follow. That is the mark of leadership that can make a difference.
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