6 Powerful Leadership Principles to Bring Out the Best in Your People
As a business growth coach I am often asked the question, “What’s your advice on achieving fast business growth?”
My one line response, “Never try to do it alone.”
Whether you are the CEO or a key manager, the quickest road to fast business growth is through having a team of committed people. Strong development is what will allow you to laser focus on your core areas of competencies and not fall into the trap of wearing too many hats, which will only slow you down.
These leadership skills apply just as true for virtual teams. It does not matter if your team is made up of employees who work in your same building or a group of independent contractors from all over the globe.
So, what does strong development look like?
- You don’t have to tell people what to do; they stay a step ahead of you.
- You don’t have to physically be there to monitor their work.
- You don’t have to nag them or constantly remind them what they need to do.
- You don’t have to continually correct their errors and sloppy mistakes.
- Your people are highly motivated and highly productive.
- Your people are able to self diagnose and solve much of their own day to day work challenges.
The road to having stronger development means taking a closer look and examining your own leadership development in the way you approach managing your people. In this 2-part series you will learn 6 powerful leadership principles from 2 common leadership scenarios.
Here’s part one:
Case Study #1. Manager has been tolerating poor performance.
A newly promoted operations manager I coach was venting her frustrations to me one day about a particular employee she manages. This employee was turning out to be a high maintenance new hire. My client (we’ll call her Beth) shares her chief complaint about her employee (we’ll call him Lloyd) as primarily lacking enough progress and growth.
After almost a year on the job Lloyd was still asking the same beginner type questions, still making the same sloppy mistakes, and still required a great deal of daily direction from Beth. This was draining Beth. She knew managing this one newer employee was diffusing her impact on the other 12 employees she was in charge of.
Observation: Beth waited almost a year to bring this to our coaching session as opposed to addressing this much earlier on perhaps by the 3rd or 4th month of the new hire. Our private phone coaching session examined why she had been tolerating this problem for this long, and in the process uncovered the golden nugget — her take-away on 3 powerful leadership principles.
Beth’s 3 Leadership Principle Learned:
A. “I get what I expect.”
During our laser coaching session Beth discovered that early on she subconsciously made the assumption that Lloyd was only there to clock in and clock out. She assumed he was an employee who did not care as much as everyone else and therefore, she began to not have the same expectations from him as she did the other employees. In fact, she realized she labeled Lloyd early on in her own mind as a “low-flyer” and therefore expected Lloyd to continue to behave that way (which he did).
B. “Communicate expectations specifically & clearly.”
As it turned out there were only 3 or 4 behaviors from Lloyd that consistently pushed Beth’s buttons increasing her frustration and blood pressure. What Beth didn’t realize was that she was contributing to this problem because she never clearly communicated her expectations of Lloyd. She was using vague language with Lloyd like “I need you to get better”, but she didn’t spell out specifically what changes she was looking for from Lloyd. So, when Lloyd kept falling short of those expectations day in and day out Beth allowed herself to stay stuck stewing in her annoyance with Lloyd.
C. “Performance measured is performance gained.”
If Beth wanted Lloyd to improve in his level of productivity she needed to be able to identify with Lloyd his current level of performance in relation to his target level of performance. Because he was not given any benchmarks and targets he had no idea whether his output was acceptable or not acceptable. Measuring performance also allowed Beth to measure and recognize Lloyd’s small wins which snowballed into bigger wins. As a new hire it was also important for Lloyd to feel like he was succeeding.
Corrective Actions: Beth changed her own expectations.
- Beth stopped labeling Lloyd’s as “low-flyer”.
- Beth created a checklist for Lloyd with a step-by-step procedure on how to edit his own work.
- Beth reviewed with Lloyd her written list of expectations and target dates for his performance results.
- Beth had Lloyd track his own performance on a daily basis.
- Beth also had Lloyd fill out a weekly report where he had to identify his wins, his specific challenges that week and his ideas on how he will overcome those challenges.
Result: The result from these 5 actions above surprised Beth.
For most the year Beth thought Lloyd was not engaged, did not care, was not focused or attentive at work. However, what she discovered was that Lloyd cared a lot about his job and his work. The root problem was that Lloyd was too anxious and afraid he would make a mistake. So, he ended up overcompensating taking too long to complete his projects and asking too many redundant questions of Beth instead of trusting in what he already knows.
1. What specific poor performance have you been tolerating?
2. Who are the people draining you the most?
3. How long have you been tolerating this?
4. Why have you been tolerating this problem?
5. What proactive actions can you take to correct this problem?
6. When will you take action on this?
Achieving Driving Business Growth
In a previous post I shared my one line response to a popular question I am often asked — “What’s your advice on achieving fast driving business growth?”
“Never try to do it alone” is always my response.
If you enjoyed reading about the 3 powerful leadership principles that helped operations manager Beth to bring out the best in her people, here are 3 more powerful leadership principles from my coaching work with Bob.
KEY CHALLENGE: Sales Growth Stuck at 7M
One of my clients (we’ll call him Bob) is a CEO of a family run technology company focused on growing his 7 Million company into a 10 Million company. For several years he keeps plateauing at the same level.
When asked what he attributed may be the primary cause he pointed to the pattern that he continues to be the primary problem solver instead of his people being able to make swift executive decisions in their day to day work.
Observation: In visiting Bob’s company I noticed his office (and everyone else’s offices) were in an open floor plan. Bob wanted the open floor plan to let his people know he was never too high up that he was perceived as far too removed or inaccessible. He also liked the ease and convenience of being able to monitor people on the floor.
But, because of the open floor plan and Bob’s open door policy, he was bombarded with constant daily interruptions and thereby, pulled into every problem that occurred. His people can see him there, so the easiest thing for his managers to do is go straight to Bob to help them resolve their problems and/or help them make decisions quickly.
Bob’s 3 Leadership Principles That Transformed Positive Change:
A. Effective leaders must create boundaries.
B. Don’t ever forget you’re in the PEOPLE business.
C. Commit to helping your people S.O.A.R.
Actions Bob implemented:
1. Creating boundaries:
We eliminated a whopping 70% of his interruptions by Bob communicating changes to his accessibility. This might sound overly simple, but it just goes to prove how easy it is for business owners to fall into patterns of behavior when you have no one else to report to.
So, Bob posted a few weekly time slots where he could still have his open door policy, but outside of those hours each of his key people were given scheduled meeting appointments instead of the old way of allowing them to approach Bob whenever they wanted.
For the first time, Bob even started posting a “do not disturb” sign on his door (and stuck to it) which allowed him to make huge strides in working “on” his business
2. Reframing what business you’re in.
Bob’s technology business took off because his knowledge, expertise and passion was in technology. But, as Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote, “what got you here, won’t get you there”.
During our coaching sessions Bob admitted he really didn’t enjoy managing people. That just wasn’t his area of expertise. But, it was his area of greatest frustration. Because he didn’t like having to manage people, he avoided holding any regular meetings with this team whenever possible.
After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of:
A. Hiring a General Manager to manage everyone for him
B. Creating more effective approaches for Bob to manage his key people or …
C. Keep doing things the same way …
Bob chose option B and began to reframe what business he was really in. And, after some practice, Bob even came to embrace it.
One of the tools that helped Bob be more effective and enjoy managing people was holding weekly one on one meetings with his key staff using my simple S.O.A.R. meeting template.
3. Holding weekly 1-1 meetings to help your people S.O.A.R.
In the past, Bob tried to schedule bi-weekly meetings with his team members, but they often got postponed, cancelled and eventually avoided all together.
When I asked why Bob vented he felt like he was just babysitting his employees. We discovered there was no set structure to his meetings outside of being a low level Q&A session.
I encouraged Bob to start using my simple S.O.A.R. meeting template and to commit to it for 12 weeks (12 meetings). Only 3 weeks into the challenge it didn’t surprise me how excited Bob was at seeing positive changes in his people’s performance already.
Here is the S.O.A.R. 1-1 meeting template:
S = What is your SINGLE motivating purpose that is driving you this week?
O = What OBSTACLES do you need to overcome this week (month, quarter) and how do you plan on overcoming them?
A = How do you want to be held ACCOUNTABLE for key actions you will take full ownership of?
R = Recognition – What are the greatest wins you’re most proud of this week?
1. Bob’s interruptions decreased dramatically allowing him to be able to focus on CEO level tasks that were sorely needed to drive the company’s revenue growth.
2. Now that Bob embraced being in the ‘people business’ he saw his team getting faster and better at completing client projects, allowing them to handle more sales.
3. The S.O.A.R. meetings Bob instituted developed his people’s critical thinking muscles. They were able to handle higher-level tasks and decisions on their own and needed Bob’s guidance less. As a bonus, his people now use the same process to train their direct reports on developing their own critical thinking skills.
- Who are the people who interrupt you the most?
- What kind of boundaries do you need to create?
- How effective are your 1-1 meetings with your key people?
I you liked part one of this article please go ahead and share this content with other entrepreneurs you know. Just be sure to give full attribution.
Here’s to your success!