13 Practical Leadership Tips from 10 Years of Managing People

Author

Alex McClafferty, Contributor

January 20, 2015

In this post, I’ll share 13 actionable leadership tips to help you motivate, connect with, and inspire your team.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Compassion first

A high performer, who typically delivers excellent work, misses a deadline. It’s completely out of character for them. As a leader, use your compassion and empathy to help you understand what went wrong. Instead of jumping to conclusions or trying to guess what happened, take a moment, and then take a breath. Be hard on the results and soft on the person.

Default to trust

When you give your unwavering trust to your team, they will do a great job. Inexperienced managers tend to meddle in the minutiae of what their teams are doing instead of giving them the tools and support they need to do a great job. It’s easy to get caught up in what might go wrong, but in my experience, most staff will go the extra mile to do a great job and keep your trust.

Know the difference between skill and will

There are two main reasons for underperformance: a skill gap or a will gap. A skill gap is easy to close through coaching, training, and support. A will gap is more difficult to close. You need to take time to dig into your employee’s motivation. Do they understand how their work fits into the big picture? Is there something blocking them? It’s your job as a leader to find out.

Systematize team contribution

Dictating a grand vision will get you nowhere. Instead, involve your team in planning goals and regularly check in to find out what’s blocking them from achieving their targets. My team leader, Julie, runs a weekly forum for team members, where they can vent frustrations, share constructive ideas, and improve our service. When your team is constructively challenging the status quo, you’re operating at a high level as a leader.

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

Be specific

The quality of your input directly impacts the quality of your output. If you ask a team member to review a process and share their thoughts, it will be hard to know whether they have offered their best ideas. A better framework is to explain why it’s important, what your concerns are, who the customer is, how you think it could be better, and when you’d like it to be completed. A power move is to ask for input, then lead with: “Specifically, I would like you to look at XYZ.” These extra 10 minutes of work will help you drill down into what you really want from your employee and increase the quality of their feedback tenfold.

Build your leadership library

Psychology and management literature will accelerate your development as a leader.

I recommend Peter Drucker’s work as a foundation, Ray Dalio’s management principles for a framework, and finally, Lighthouse for highly actionable leadership tips.

Family first, work second

My mantra is ‘Family first.’ This means that any time a team member has an urgent family issue they need to attend to, it becomes their #1 priority. It’s truly surprising to learn how often family issues influence work performance, so make sure your team knows that you care about their home life as well as their work life.

Explain the why

Sure, you need to explain what needs to be done and provide guidance on how to do it. But the most important goal is to gain buy-in from your team. You achieve it by outlining why something is important. A project, that can easily drag on for weeks, can be finished in hours by a motivated staff member. As a leader, you choose your own adventure.

Link results and goals

If you’re expecting high quality work or aggressive sales results, make sure your team incentives match the single goal you’re striving for. In larger companies, it can feel like teams within the same department are striving to achieve contradictory goals. A simple way to lock down your incentive is to understand the single most important driver of customer success in your business, then build from that.

Take ownership… and action

As a leader, you need to relate to your team as your customer. If they point out a problem, it’s your responsibility to solve it. Make sure you understand the problem first by speaking it back to your team. Then regularly update your team on your progress, and close the loop by offering a solution.

Check in frequently

Don’t wait until a quarterly or annual review to give feedback on team performance. Regular check-ins and performance updates will help your team to stay motivated and on course.

Model your favorite leaders

My favorite manager, Steve Adams, is a leader whom I’ve modeled for years. He taught me three simple but highly effective approaches to leadership:

  1. Be ruthlessly focused on reaching a shared goal
  2. Maintain high expectations of what can be achieved
  3. Regularly ask your team how you can better serve them

If you’re new to team leadership, implementing these three simple pieces of advice will rapidly improve your results.

The ‘little things’ matter

Observing holidays, religious events, and special milestones like birthdays is an effective but overlooked way to build a great relationship with your team members. If you have international employees, learn a few phrases in their native tongues like “Good morning” and “How are you?” Your team will love you for it.

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This article was written by Alex McClafferty from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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