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February 2018

Lifting Your Leadership

Good leaders are hard to find, and great leaders are even more elusive. Whether there’s a team reporting to you or not, you have the ability to lift your level of respect with your peers while also improving your capacity for greater leadership opportunities.

To enhance your own abilities as a leader, begin with an intentional mindset of being open to new ways of thinking and new ways of interacting with your peers, your team and your organization as a whole. To lift your leadership, start with this list of top 10 tips.

1. Listen to Your Team. It’s not necessary for leaders to know everything, but you do need to know what the individual skillsets are in the members of your team, so you’ll know who to approach to get the answer you need. It’s also important to ask your team for input, and listen to what they have to say. They’ll appreciate being included in any decision made—especially if it impacts their workload, their department, their budget or the amount of time they have allocated. When your team feels like a valued part of the process, it helps improve both their personal connection and overall commitment to the desired results.

2. Make Tough Decisions. Your team may not like every decision you make, but don’t let that scare you into not making the right ones, or worse, no decisions at all. For any decision you make, do your research and get feedback from your team. If you’re able, explain your decisions diplomatically and address the concerns. At the very least, your team will feel informed, and be thankful the decision wasn’t theirs to make.

3. Delegate to Team Members. There are many leaders who diminish their potential by hoarding tasks and duties because they’re afraid of what others will think if they “can’t do it all.” This is a misconception that can lead to burnout, and even worse, cause your peers and teammates to lose their trust, respect and loyalty to you as a leader.

Great leaders are also great delegators. If you’re not sure what you can delegate, here’s a general process for you to consider: Make a list of your specific tasks and duties. Put your name next to the ones you absolutely must do yourself. For the tasks that are left, think of people on your team and their specific skillsets. If they’re capable of doing a task at least 80 percent as well as you, then delegate that task. Finally, empower your team with delegated tasks and duties while also allowing them autonomy needed (meaning don’t micro-manage them). Be sure to also give them the authority necessary to ask questions and get help if needed. People will surprise you with their skill and abilities when given the trust in an opportunity.

4. Admit When You’re Wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, and leaders are no different. When you make a mistake, be up front with your team. Your honesty and vulnerability will help open a pathway to better trust and communication. When you show your willingness to trust them with your mistakes, they in turn will feel more valued as a team member and work with you to help correct mistakes, and ensure a lesson is learned for everyone involved.

5. Show Appreciation. When your team members do good work, make sure you let them know you noticed. Write a hand-written thank you note, give them a special gift card and take time to recognize them publicly. To make an even bigger impression, send their spouse a hand-written note sharing how important they were to the team’s success. Appreciation goes a long way, and as you incorporate a culture of gratitude, your staff will reciprocate that appreciation through loyalty and a job well done.

6. Be Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty. The most successful leaders won’t ever ask a team member to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. People in general acquire much more respect for leaders who aren’t afraid to jump in to accomplish any task needed. This doesn’t mean you’re doing the work for them, but at those critical moments when help is needed, your assistance could help motivate your team to reach—or even exceed—the goals set.

7. Mentor Your Team Members. If you can help your members to become more successful, the whole team will benefit. The more you invest into your team members, the more they’ll be willing to give in return. As you lead by example in a mentorship role for those in your organization, others with similar skills and capabilities will follow your lead. This creates a culture where current and upcoming leaders develop a mindset of helping others succeed.

8. Bond Through a Social Cause. To lead a team effectively, you need to be a part of the team. Start a new social cause as a team-building activity and make sure you lead the way. To add even more lift to your leadership, adopt a charity to support within your local community and get away from the office where you can get to know your team members on a more personal level.

9. Let Your Team See You Learn. Leaders are learners. Let your team observe you reading a book or a trade publication in the break room, and encourage them to do the same.

You could also start an optional book club focused on self-improvement and leadership books where you can discuss how those books have made an impact on you and how they helped change the way you lead.

10. Keep Meetings as Short as Possible. Everyone generally has a list of tasks and duties that take up their entire workday. Although necessary, meetings can be seen as disruptive and non-productive, especially if nothing was essentially accomplished.

Meetings should have a specific purpose and agenda that involves everyone in the room. The more you respect the time of your team, the more they will respect you as a leader.

Improving your capacity to lead is something that will take intentional effort, and these tips will help you focus in on what matters most. Your attention to detail is sure to be rewarded in the form of enhanced loyalty, higher respect, and increase the success of you, your team and the overall organization.

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, sales and safety.

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February 2018 Issue
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