The Unvarnished Truth About Leadership (Part 2)

Are you a good leader? In The Unvarnished Truth About Leadership Part 1, I gave you the backstory of how I became qualified to talk about leadership with some authority.

In this post, I outline what I feel are the necessary elements of good leadership. Bear in mind, these elements or personal beliefs, are in fact, just that. Personal beliefs. But as I have shared them over the years, I have come to believe (because people have told me) that there is a great deal of universally applicable advice here.

First, you hire the smartest people you can.  Not only does this save you time (it frees YOU up) to concentrate on what you are good at, it allows them to do everything and more that they are good at.  Then you share with them absolutely everything they need to do their job exceptionally well.  Now you develop the trust thing.

Build Trust I believe EVERYTHING in the world starts with trust. You will never get me off that tenet. So for me, the most important part of being a leader is the constant work of building trust in your team. There are several benefits of building trust: effective communication, employee engagement, and better job performance.

However, let’s start at the beginning.  Trust means you can unabashedly and unselfconsciously love your customer.  Trust means you get to work exceptionally well with very simple processes.  And trust means you give back.  First to your people.  Then to your community.

How to build trust: • Make sure that you’re always honest. Always tell the truth, even if the news is bad or it’s to your disadvantage. Just be honest! • Be fair and consistent. While it is easy to judge people on their actions, sometimes it’s worth taking a closer look at their motives. • Never gossip and never share anyone’s personal information. Never say bad things about someone who is not there to defend him/her self. • Demonstrate you are a team-player and others can rely on you. Set a good example, finish your work ahead of time and never ask others to do the jobs you dislike. • Be empathetic. When you know someone is having a hard time, don’t be afraid to ask them if they’re alright or if they need help.

Lavish Praise Recognition cannot be underestimated and cannot be overdone either. It must be genuine, credible, and in the moment. I personally hate the employee of the month plaques and love the immediate silly shout outs and hip hip hooray moments. I guarantee that recognition thanks to your team members means they will be more loyal and satisfied, their individual productivity will increase and their retention will be lowered.

How to recognize your team members: • Thank the person by name, • Specifically, state or write the details of why they are being recognized, • Point out the value they provided by the action(s) they took, • Reward them with a specific token

Inspire Inspiration is about commitment and passion. When your people love what they do, they need just a tiny bit of help from you to spread their wings.

How to inspire your team members: • Tell them about your vision – people love to know that they are part of something important, • Tell them about the benefits of your ideas.  Don’t speak just about the “how” but also about the “why”, • Praise them and encourage them to develop, • Share your knowledge with them freely. • Acknowledge their feedback!

Create A Good Comfort Level When you accept your team members as they are, you expect that they will feel more comfortable in the workplace. If you want them to be highly motivated, you cannot increase the division between home and work. You need to integrate them.

How To Let You Team Members Be Themselves • If there is no need to look smart, don’t try to implement a dress code, • Encourage them to talk about their passions, • Trust them and let them decide how to achieve their goals, • Encourage them to take ownership of their work, • Encourage fun. Allow them to bring joy into your workplace.

Always Listen To And Value Feedback There are no perfect people.  There are no perfect workers. There are no perfect team members. That is exactly why you should encourage open, honest communication in your company. Don’t be afraid of it! Even if you hear something unpleasant, treat it as an opportunity to develop. Research shows that people who are better at handling negative feedback tend to be more successful!

How To Encourage Feedback: • Ask questions. “What would you change if you were me,” “what do you like or dislike about your job” or “is there anything you’d like to change in our team” are great examples. • if you don’t want to speak in person, you can ask for surveys (be sure to make it anonymous), • tell everyone honestly that if there is any feedback they would like to share with you, you’re happy to hear it.

Leadership Is Hard Because It Really Is Lonely At The Top

Leading is a lonely job. Being a leader is hard. There is no glamour. Rarely are you told you are doing it right.  If you do your best, it is never enough.  Most days, all you ever deal with are the worst problems no one else can solve.  Gosh — that sounds exactly like being an entrepreneur, doesn’t it?  And there is no one person you can let your hair down with and relax and completely be yourself.   Because one part of you is always on guard.

And yet, there are those moments when you are overcome with such a rush, such exhilaration and such a sense of accomplishment, everything seems so very, very worthwhile.

Last fall, I attended a trade show here in the smaller city I recently moved to. I could tell it was totally different from anything I had attended before. I walked around and watched and then I sought out the president who had put it on.

I complimented him on his team’s fabulous job and said I could tell he was a wonderful leader. He asked me how. Because your people are over the moon happy, buzzing like bees and thrilled to be here. That is the You effect. He smiled and thanked me for noticing. Apparently not many notice. Indeed!

A few days ago, I spoke to the former owner of the local health food store. He had owned the shop for 30 years and still occasionally helps the new owner on weekends. We were chatting for about an hour. He pointed out one of the part-time ladies who had arrived for her four-hour shift. He was thrilled that she still arrived one hour ahead of time – just like she did for him for the 20 years she worked for him.

I looked at him and said, “Sir, you are one incredibly fine leader.” He grinned sheepishly and told me that he just treated all his employees like family. Exactly!

To your success!

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