A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Setting The Pace: Thoughts On The Power Of Leadership” that generated a positive response from many readers, and it’s also been about 18 months since I moved into an executive role at my company, so I thought it might be time to revisit the leadership topic.
After reviewing the earlier article, I’ve found that my perspective has changed a bit, but thankfully I still largely agree with myself. (There’s a shocker!)
Yet the passage of time in general – and gaining additional experience in particular – leads me to share the following points and priorities for any who are (or might in the future) end up in charge of a team, a department, a project or even a company.
1. Learn to listen well.
Most of us have the unfortunate habit of listening in order to respond, and/or thinking of something we want to say while a subordinate is speaking.
This is a big mistake because most of us have a deep need to be heard and understood, plus we may be missing out on crucial information. Anyone in the role of manager or boss needs to fulfill the need for others to be heard by listening attentively – and – not passing judgment until the expressed ideas, concerns, or requests are fully expressed.
2. Your team is likely to come up with some great ideas.
And probably some boneheaded ones, too. It takes a big person to promote ideas that aren’t our own, but the results can be spectacular. Sure, leaders are there to shape those ideas and provide input and advice, but there’s no better way to motivate people than to give them a real shot. And as mentioned in my original article, don’t forget to give them the credit!
3. A primary role of leaders is to make the tough decisions.
There are times when those decisions won’t be popular, but that’s indeed why we “get paid the big bucks.” Turning down a new proposal or a budgetary expenditure usually isn’t fun, especially if there’s at least some merit in the proposal and if the person proposing it has merit as well.
However, being tough when it’s important can also serve to engender respect from associates and subordinates. After all, few (if any) of us want to be known as a pushover.
4. Don’t avoid “the talk” with certain employees when necessary.
Many people aren’t sure what they can get away with until they find out in the form of a closed door meeting where the boss makes boundaries very clear. Again, most folks won’t like it, and sometimes they find it petty (hopefully not too often) but ultimately if the discussion is handled in a professional manner, the result is usually mutual respect.
It’s also very important to stick to the facts of the issue and the behavior of the person in an impartial and unbiased manner. Try to keep emotions out of it; there lies the road to further difficulties.
5. Give ownership to subordinates.
In the previous piece, I made the point about not making people change their work based only on your opinion as long as the work is valid. By giving employees a reasonable degree of license in how they do their work and even what work they’re doing, they feel the pride of ownership.
This usually motivates them to come up with more and better ideas because they’re truly contributing and not just spinning their wheels in being told what to do.
6. Allocate time and funds for team members to continue their professional development.
For one thing, we should all want the best and brightest on our side. Another way to look at it is to think about succession. Who will take your place if you get promoted, retire, or (heaven forbid) get hit by a bus?
Related, it’s important to make sure our team has the tools to get the job done as efficiently and professionally as possible. Don’t let the equipment languish until it falls apart. There’s certainly pride in using gear – if not the latest and greatest – that’s at least serviceable, reliable, performs well, and looks good.
7. Keep up the communication!
In all of my years in business, the one single thing that’s a common thread behind the majority of problems is poor communication. Managers must foster clear communication in terms of direction and comprehension on both sides. It’s absolutely critical to success.
Also, be careful to avoid “You” statements, as in “You need to coil those cables over/under.” Sure, it’s true, but the collaborative approach is much more effective: “It’s really helpful to coil the cables over/under, and here’s why.”
8. The majority of people are capable of rising to the occasion.
Not everyone, and that’s OK (“too many chiefs”), but we’re interested in those that do. Finding them is largely a matter of following the previous points listed here. By creating the right kind of environment for our associates and subordinates, the cream will definitely rise to the top.
That said, most teams include those that pull their weight (and then some) and those who slack off. Whatever the case, the best way to go is creating a positive, motivating environment. The few who don’t want to get with the program either depart of their own accord or can be “encouraged” to do so.
The ultimate goal is building solid team members as well as certain “star performers” will eventually be revealed and could, in the future, succeed us. There’s no better feeling than handing the keys of a well-oiled machine over to the people that helped invent that machine and kept it oiled before you even thought to suggest it.
Karl Winkler serves as vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 25 years.