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Here’s a Great Mash-Up of Ideas for Better Leadership

leadership mash-up

In recent posts, I’ve explored two great themes that have received a lot of attention on social media. Leaders and managers can benefit from both ideas. Today, we’re going to do a mash-up of the two.

The first topic is Inspect What You Expect. It’s about an old piece of sage advice that often gets spoken but can be misunderstood. When you set goals or objectives for your team, you have to follow-up and check up on them.

The other topic is increasing accountability; your personal accountability as well as making those around you be accountable.

If we do the mash-up on these two principles of leadership, you’ll get a much better understanding of a powerful way to get the most from your team.

First, let’s review Expectation Inspection.

Inspect what you expect maybe a bit obvious, yet it is frequently ignored or forgotten by busy managers.

Once you explain your vision for your team and begin plotting the course for what success should look like, you will be tasking members of your team with their own duties and responsibilities.

If you then hide in your office and simply wait for results, you’re going to be disappointed.

You have to mingle within your team, making yourself available to answer clarifying questions, lead people through problem-solving, and guide the effort.

Periodically, you have to simply ask about progress. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Let people tell you whether they have roadblocks or not. Give them the chance to show you the progress they are making.

A few decades ago a popular management theory grew up called “management by walking around”. I still run into managers who were taught that as their primary leadership style.

It sounds great, but it’s too easily misapplied. Just walking the office floor or shop area isn’t enough. It’s what you do out there that makes a difference.

You have to engage with the team. Interact with everyone at all levels. Let them ask you questions.

Accountability

Good teams set goals and standards. Great teams are accountable for results. It all starts with the leader.

Becoming a better leader with accountability

Leaders need to clearly communicate the vision, plan, and expectations. There has to be an understanding of what a win should look like.

If your team is not clear on these basic terms, the leader must do more to provide clarity.

However, once the clarity is understood, everyone on the team, including the leader, must be held accountable for driving toward success.

To understand more about the reasons accountability is so important, refer to this article.

Hand In Hand

Applying both principles creates a big win. By setting the vision and creating standards you now have the measure of success.

But to get there, you have to inspect the very thing you expect. If adjustments are needed, that is the accountability piece.

leadership accountability

Holding others accountable, then re-inspecting what you expect assures greater success.

It’s really a cycle that needs to be administered daily if you really want to score high returns.

Leader’s ABCs

business team meeting

What is your most valuable leadership skill? Is your team achieving all you wish they would?

Love him or hate him, Alec Baldwin made the ABC catchphrase famous. “ABC, always be closing.” Later it was parodied on SNL with a bunch of Christmas elves who were scolded by Baldwin to “Always be Cobbling”.

With highly effective leadership another ABC applies; Always Be Coaching.

A leader’s influence on the people they serve is best demonstrated with perpetual coaching and mentoring. Above all, sharing insights and giving your team honest feedback helps build a legacy of powerful leadership.

In this crazy busy world in which we live, it’s easy for a manager to feel the need to just get by; get your own things done and call it quits at a reasonable hour each day.

Yet when you spend the time to coach your team, one by one, you get amazing dividends. In other words, rewards that are returned to you in higher performance, greater trust, and even better efficiency.

What is Coaching

Coaching is a different approach to developing employees’ potential. With coaching, you provide your staff with the opportunity to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling and mentoring.

Rather than relying solely on a review schedule, you can support employees along the path to meeting their goals. Done in the right way, coaching is perceived as a roadmap for success and a benefit. Done incorrectly and employees may feel berated, unappreciated, even punished.

This requires the skill of reacting and expanding. You should acknowledge the employee’s suggestion, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the suggestion, ask for and offer additional suggestions, and ask the employee to explain how to resolve the issue under discussion.

These seven steps, when followed, can help create a positive environment for providing feedback.

Step 1: Build a Relationship of Trust

The foundation of any coaching relationship is rooted in the manager’s day-to-day relationship with the employee. Without some degree of trust, conducting an effective coaching meeting is impossible.

Step 2: Get Agreement

Probably the most critical step in any coaching process is getting the employee to agree verbally that they are open to your coaching.

Step 3: Communicating Clearly During the Open

If you choose to schedule a coaching session, in opening the meeting, it’s important for the leader to clarify, in a nonaccusatory way, the specific reason the meeting was arranged.

The key to this step is to restate — in a friendly, nonjudgmental manner — the meeting purpose that was first set when the appointment was scheduled.

Step 4: If Performance is Really at Risk

Overlooking or avoiding the performance issue because you assume the employee understands its significance is a typical mistake of managers.

To persuade an employee a performance issue exists, a manager must be able to define the nature of the issue and get the employee to recognize the consequences of not changing his or her behavior. To do this, you must specify the behavior and clarify the consequences.

Step 4: Explore Alternatives

The best coaching happens in the moment. For example, if you are walking the floor and hear or see behavior from an employee that needs adjusting, don’t be afraid to get the employee’s attention.

Remind them of the vision and values your unit operates under. Show them the connection between their action and that vision.

Be specific in the coaching moment.

In doing this you must be certain to have your discussion in a manner that does not demean or degrade the employee, but rather helps to build them up, showing the better way.

Next, explore ways the issue can be improved or corrected by encouraging the employee to identify alternative solutions.

Step 5: Get a Commitment to Act

The next step is to help the employee choose an alternative. Don’t make the choice for the employee.

To accomplish this step, the manager must be sure to get a verbal commitment from the employee regarding what action will be taken and when it will be taken. Be sure to support the employee’s choice and offer praise.

Step 6: Handle Excuses

Employee excuses may occur at any point during the coaching process. To handle excuses, rephrase the point by taking a comment or statement that was perceived by the employee to be blaming or accusatory and recast it as an encouragement for the employee to examine his or her behavior.

Respond empathetically to show support for the employee’s situation and communicate an understanding of both the content and feeling of the employee’s comment.

Step 7: Provide Feedback

Effective coaches understand the value and importance of giving continual feedback to their people, both positive and corrective.

There are a few critical things to remember when giving feedback to others. Feedback should:

  • Be timely. It should occur as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made.
  • Be specific. Statements like “You did a great job” or “You didn’t take care of the clients’ concerns very well” are too vague and don’t give enough insight into the behavior you would like to see repeated or changed.
  • Focus on the “what,” not the “why.” Avoid making the feedback seem as if it is a judgment. Begin with “I have observed…” or “I have seen…” and then refer to the behavior. Focus on behavior and not the person. Describe what you heard and saw and how those behaviors impact the team, client, etc.
  • Use a sincere tone of voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment or sarcasm.

Positive feedback strengthens performance. People will naturally go the extra mile when they feel recognized and appreciated.

Remember Your ABCs

Always Be Coaching. These are the ABCs of real, effective leadership.

Lastly, if you’re still not sure what coaching can do for your team, ask a coach. Engage someone who coaches for a living to share the methods and principles they use for effective coaching.

Are You a FAST Leader?

FAST leaders

International leadership guru Gordon Tredgold coined the term FAST for his book by the same name and his teaching on effective leadership.

FAST is an acronym that encompasses all the best attributes for finding success. Whether your dreams are personal or professional, FAST can help.

Let’s unpack this powerful meaning.

F is for FOCUS. You must be able to focus your vision and view of the goal you are trying to achieve. Too many business leaders are fuzzy on the exact expectation they have.

If you’re not clear on where you’re going most any road will get you there.

First, check to make sure that the goal(s) are clear, that they are aligned with the overall objective, and that they are going to deliver the right results.

A is for ACCOUNTABILITY. You must be accountable to the team, the cause and the process to get you to your goal.

Look at the organizational setup. Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, do they know what is expected of them, and do they have the right skills, tools, and training to be successful.

S is for SIMPLICITY. You must find the simplest of ways to make things happen.

It has been said complexity is the enemy of execution. Trying to reach a desired destination with too many complex and conflicting pieces of information or procedure can only interrupt the desired results.

In the military we used the KISS principle, which most of you know: “Keep It Simple Stupid.”

Review the approach. Ask yourself if the solution is the simplest available. Is it easy to understand, and is it believable? Teams become inspired when they have plans they believe in. When we over complicate things, it leads to doubt, hesitation and often failure.

T is for TRANSPARENCY. Transparency allows the leader to be genuine and clear for the benefit of everyone around.

Look at the progress tracking. How easy is it to check that progress is being made and was outcome-based rather than just recording effort spent? Is the information accurate and fact-based, or just based on gut feel? How often is it shared with the teams? Do they know how they are doing, or are they just running blind?

Does It Work?

Gordon tells the story of deciding at age 52 to start running marathons. He wasn’t in very good shape. Friends told him he was foolish. They asked how he expected to get that done.

He applied FAST. The focus was running a marathon. The simple part for getting there was to run 15 minutes every day for the first week. Then run 20 the next week, 25 the week after, and so on.

Did it work? Well, I’d say yes. He’s now run 10 marathons.

FAST can be applied to your own leadership toolkit. Regardless of the size of your organization or the scope of your budget, FAST can energize and propel your way to success on a consistent and reliable way.

Question: In what ways can you adjust your leadership to follow the FAST method for success?

Get Gordon Tredgold’s book here:

FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Achieve Success and Drive Results