It is a known fact that an effective leader is only as good as the team they assemble (recruit and select), develop (properly train) and lead (set expectations and goals).
If the leader is not effective, then it stands to reason that the team will not perform well on a consistent basis. If the leader doesn’t set expectations for the team to achieve, then the team will set their own expectations and pretty much do what they want, including wasting as much time as they can.
In reality, most people will only do what they are asked to do. If they are not asked to do something specific or if the instructions are too broad or vague, then it should come as no surprise that they will set their own expectations; waste valuable time and fail to produce a satisfactory level of productivity.
It’s no wonder that when employees are surveyed as to why they waste time, they gave answers to the effect of “not challenged enough,” “no incentive to work harder,” or lack of job satisfaction.” When leaders do a poor job at leading, the team decides what will be done and when they feel like doing it.
Teams with strong leaders become active participants in finding solutions—without having to be told. When this happens, you are leading your team to be engaged. When your team starts to think, speak and act in this “engaged” way, they begin to grow and become more productive (because they want to) and the growth of your business will follow.
So what do you need to do to be “that” leader that produces the right results with an “engaged” and productive team? Consider these six actions:
Great leaders do these 6 things
1. Leaders define reality and responsibilities
One cannot move to a better place until they know or define where they are – in the most specific way possible. Why? Because the current reality dictates what’s required to move forward. Plus, for others to see the value of moving forward, the leader must make certain that they understand the reality of the current situation. With reality accurately defined and understood by all, the leader is then in an excellent position to assign responsibilities to each team member to move the organization forward.
2. Leaders set performance expectations and hold people accountable to get the job done
Leaders know that their primary role is to make the “right” things happen. The most basic responsibility of every leader is to set expectations. Expectations, when met, make things happen! Yet, many do not make full use of this very valuable tool. In order to make the leader’s vision the new reality, you need expectations to set the process in motion.
People will achieve the expectations set for them only if they are held accountable to do so. I don’t mean held accountable in a negative sense – although that is possible, and sometimes necessary – but rather in a positive, motivational way. People perform best; are the most satisfied, when they see themselves making progress. By holding people accountable, a leader acknowledges and helps them see their progress.
3. Leaders find ways to challenge their team to help them grow and “stretch” their skills
A leader knows that if he improves his own performance and ability to lead, his organization will automatically follow. He or she also knows that if an individual team member gets better, the entire team will benefit. This dynamic of improving the team through the improvement of each individual member was best described by noted author Rudyard Kipling when he wrote “the strength of the wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.” Each team member is dependent on each other for the collective success.
In addition, an effective leader knows that none of his team members (including him) are working to their fullest potential. His recognizes that as each member gets better, they are beginning to tap into and “stretch” their capabilities.
4. Leaders reward the right actions
The right actions are those that move the organization closer to the vision that the leader has created. Some will be significant but most of these actions will be performed daily as part of the usual routine. If the leader has done a good job in defining reality; creating the vision for the future; assigning responsibilities; setting expectations and holding people accountable, then, it will be easy to recognize and reward the right actions.
5. Leaders never accept “below average” results and act quickly when poor performance has been identified
Regardless of how good a leader is or how well intentioned they are, the decision to follow him and meet the expectations he has set is made by each employee. However, just as it is easy to find and reward the right actions, a poor performing employee will be painfully obvious. When that occurs, a leader must take quick and decisive action to remedy the situation. This remedy could involve additional training and guidance, or it may involve more serious actions like a probationary period or termination. If a leader puts off taking action, they run the risk of sending a dangerous message to the better performers on his team – namely, “I will tolerate less than acceptable levels of job performance so you don’t have to work that hard.”
6. Leaders know how important it is to listen to what their team members have to say
Effective leaders know that one of the best ways to engage their team members is to listen to them – about their job concerns, job challenges and their suggestions about how things can be improved. The team is on the line, doing the work. They have a valuable perspective to offer, and an effective leader wants their input. Their comments may lead to business improvements. As I’ve written previously, “no trust = no leader” because effective listening builds trust. Trust builds or strengthens relationships, and strong relationships are the foundation of a healthy team. Strong teams are focused and get results; they perform for their leader because they want to, not because they have to.
When leaders follow these six steps, lay out the right performance expectations and stick to them, your team starts to do their homework and is better able to identify, understand and solve the challenges they confront.