At Strategic Catalyst, we do believe great leaders can be made because we’ve seen it happen with hundreds of our clients. The Leadership in the Workplace series we just wrapped up focused on traits of leaders and strategies to sharpen leadership skills. These strategies are intended to build the person in the leadership role. With a strong leader in place, it’s time to assess the current business landscape and identify what is needed to propel the business to the next level.
“The next level” will vary by business – it may be penetrating a new market, increased net revenue, adding key staff, or redefining the corporate culture. Such changes can stir a range of emotions in employees; fear, anger, anxiety, and tension are common and can stop progress dead in its tracks if left unchecked. Leadership can be a lonely road when charting through such changes. Strategic Catalyst can be the objective coach and mentor to navigate leaders along the emotional path to the next level.
Create a leadership action plan
Working together, our first step is to define the action plan needed to ensure a leader is equipped to address the challenges ahead:
- Set Leadership Goals
In leadership, as in life, you will never come to the end of your learning, but you want to rank in priority order those qualities you want to develop.
- Address the Goals
Determine how you will accomplish your goals. Do you feel you need to learn more about teamwork so you can better lead a team? Join a team sport. Do you want to communicate better? Take a creative writing class or join Toastmasters and get some public speaking experience.
- Seek Inspiration
Learn about a variety of leaders, their styles and how they dealt with challenges. Read books and conduct research on the internet or at libraries.
- Choose a Role Model
Based on your research; choose a role model that fits your personality. Read several biographies and find videos on his or her life.
- Seek Experience
Take a leadership role in a social group or club. Gain experience working with people on many levels.
- Create a Personal Mission Statement
Imagine your legacy. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want people to think of you? What kind of leader are you determined to be? Write a statement that defines who you will become.
Be the change
In their book, The Leadership Challenge, authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner identified five abilities that were crucial to successful leadership:
- Model the Way
You must lead by example. You can’t come into work 10 minutes late every day if you want your employees to arrive on time.
- Inspire a Shared Vision
If you capture the imagination, you will inspire creative thought and increase loyalty.
- Challenge the Process
Don’t continue doing something just because “We’ve always done it that way.” Situations change, and sometimes a policy or procedure never worked well in the first place. Think outside the box.
- Enable Others to Act
Truly empower people to act on their own within their level of authority.
- Encourage the Heart
A positive attitude is infectious.
Understand your leadership style
Christine works with leaders to identify their leadership style, and how to leverage it. The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model addresses four types of leadership styles:
Identify SMART goals
You are prepared as a leader to be the champion everyone in the business needs to follow in order to reach the next level. Now is the time to identify what that next level is and define the parameters of success around it. List the SMART goals and be sure to share them with everyone in the business. Remember the emotions employees may be feeling and help them understand what’s in it for them as the changes are being implemented.
- Specific: The vision itself is general while the goals are specific targets to be met.
- Measurable: Goals must be measurable in terms of progress and attainment.
- Attainable: Clearly, a goal which cannot be met is not a goal, it is an ideal.
- Realistic: A goal may be attainable, but not with the resources at hand.
- Timely: All goals need to be accomplished within an established time frame.
Change is not easy. People don’t like it. Leaders must be willing to walk alone because some of the team who started the journey with you will not finish with you. And that’s OK. Strategic Catalyst is here to help.
By Christine R. Spray
This fourth article concludes our Leadership in the Workplace series. To reiterate what is the foundation of this series – great leaders can indeed be made. By focusing on a few basic traits, it is possible to develop leaders who are the backbone of a strong business.
The previous articles addressed how to cultivate meaningful relationships, building trust, fostering positive workplace values, and coaching and motivating others. We wrap up the series with a trio of related topics to take your leadership skills from good to great – clarifying issues, conducting better meetings, and strategizing for improvement.
Leaders are responsible for creating and fostering the workplace environment. All the articles in this series address some aspect of crafting a positive, engaging, and fulfilling workplace. The leader’s role is to regularly set the stage for success through all the cycles a business naturally takes.
All businesses face issues, things that challenge forward progress toward the established goals. Leadership requires the ability and skill to address issues head-on as soon as they occur.
- Create a committee clearing house to identify, define, and prioritize team issues.
- Carry a small notebook to jot down information, opinions, and ideas you hear from the team.
- Identify a personal mentor or coach who you can meet with regularly to talk openly about leadership issues.
- Establish a feedback group to get insights into your leadership style and behavior.
- As you gather opinions and viewpoints on an issue, make sure you get a diversity of ideas from diverse people.
- Stop on occasion and identify those things that you feel are working well and those things that are causing stress.
- List the major issues that you have confronted over the last two years. Is there a pattern? Is there a type of issue that keeps emerging?
- Keep a log of the time it takes you to handle an issue. Determine if you are handling issues in a timely and efficient manner.
Meetings are what some might call a necessary evil. Yet meetings should not be the time suck they so often are in many businesses. Take disciplined steps to make meetings a better experience for all involved.
Conduct Better Meetings
- Develop a list of things that you can say to let meeting latecomers know that tardiness is unacceptable.
- Complete the following metaphor: “My style as a meeting facilitator is like ______.”
- At your next meeting tell the participants that you are working on one or two meeting facilitation skills. After the meeting ask the group how you did with each. Ask for suggestions.
- Identify three to five adjectives that define your style as a meeting facilitator. Then, ask selected team members to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a meeting facilitator. Any Patterns? Similarities? Surprises?
- At your next meeting stop midway and ask the participants how the meeting is going. Ask for suggestions to improve your meeting facilitation.
- Establish an assessment group and identify ways to keep meetings focused and on track.
- Make a list of ways to replace meetings with other forms of communication.
Leadership is the constant pursuit of excellence, making your business the best it can be for employees and customers.
Strategize for Improvement
- Work with a small group to create a “stop doing list.” These are procedures, actions, or policies that are outdated, cumbersome, redundant, or annoying.
- Set a few minutes aside each day to reflect on how things are going professionally. You may want to ask a few team members to reflect with you.
- Make a point to recognize team members who successfully implemented positive change.
- Make a list of procedures, functions, and/or policies. With a committee of key players, grade each from A to F. Then talk about improvements.
- Make a point to talk to numerous team members one-on-one and ask them the following two questions: “What is quality?” and “How do we achieve quality?” Take notes.
- Review your current process of delegating. Then develop a list of guidelines for the delegation of tasks. Ask yourself how you can do it more effectively.
I routinely work with the C-suite to develop leaders. While not all employees have the ability or desire to lead, leadership can be honed in those willing to pursue the greater good. Use these closing tips to constantly keep your company’s vision in mind.
- Hold informal “round tables” to discuss the future of your team.
- Keep a professional journal in which you focus on four aspects of visionary thinking: needs, wants, desires, and dreams.
- Write out the “best case” scenario for what you want your team to become. Give it to your team and ask for responses and additions.
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership has so many concise and clear thoughts on leadership. This one sums up what has been addressed in this Leadership series. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
By Christine R. Spray
The previous article in this leadership series focused on building trust and reinforcing values. Part 3 builds on this positive momentum through coaching and motivating others.
Leaders are expected to model corporate values and set the bar for desirable employee behavior. Leaders should also be expected to motivate and grow other leaders from within the company. When leaders coach their team, not only does knowledge transfer occur, mission building occurs too. Motivating and coaching are also critical for the future of the business, empowering employees to hone their abilities and prepare for greater roles within the organization.
Coaching is a formalized practice, practiced by thousands of certified professionals. This type of internal coaching is focused on leading by example, demonstrating corporate values, and strengthening relationships with the executive team.
- Give selected individuals short but pertinent readings on professional strategies. Ask them later what they thought of the reading.
- Meet with individuals and identify personal goals. Ask them how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Form “new hire” focus groups to discuss workplace excellence and what it means in your business.
- Form Learning Circles, peer groups with a variety of skills sets and roles, to share best practices.
- Conduct open meetings—no agenda, just open talk.
- Don’t forget the easiest strategy of all—ask team members … “How are things going?”
Your coaching should take a more organized approach; schedule regular meetings, record and track goals and outcomes, and consistently take and share notes (or assign someone to this task) from group meetings.
A less organized but no less important way to build future leaders and promote a more cohesive workplace is to make a mindful practice of motivating others. The key is to make motivation a habit, something done without even having to think about it. With the tips below, find the frequency for each that works best, then stay the course.
- Write an “open letter” in which you extol the achievements of your team. Be certain to use specifics.
- Establish peer coaching partnerships to help inexperienced or stressed team members.
- Arrange open forums in which volunteers’ exchange ideas and encouragement to support and motivate one another.
- Design and administer a team “morale” survey.
- Initiate a simple rewards program that offers prizes or recognition—even if you just draw names out of a hat. Explain that the process symbolizes how you appreciate their hard work. Note that the prizes can be humorous or donated by team members. It is the symbolism that counts.
- Go a full work week without using attacking or discouraging language when dealing with your team members.
One closing thought is from John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
By Christine R. Spray
The second article in this leadership series is on trust, one of the most critical traits of a strong leader and necessary for success in the workplace.
Trust is defined as the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, or surety of a person or thing – confidence. A 2016 survey by consulting firm PwC found that 55% of business leaders believed lack of trust in the workplace was a foundational threat to their company. Yet, to have a trusting workplace, leaders must first be trustworthy.
Below are exercises that can help develop and strengthen in all leaders. Remember to execute these steps with a clear purpose in mind, and then reflect on each upon completion. Build these exercises into your daily, weekly and quarterly schedule, to ensure completion and achieve greater frequency.
- Work with a small group and identify “trust busters.” Discuss ways to avoid or eliminate trustbusters.
- Identify three team members who you trust the least and list those things that you distrust about them. Are there some common threads in all three? What is it that drives you to react to them cautiously?
- Over the next few weeks try at least one strategy to build a positive connection with each of the identified team members.
- Find a short article on trust and give a copy to each of your team members. Ask them to discuss it with you over lunch or before or after work.
- Establish a feedback group in which you discuss the level of trust on your team. Identify positive things that you can do to build trust.
- If you made a leadership mistake, admit it, and discuss it with your team. Note how the team reacts.
- Define authentic behavior for yourself. Set some standards for authentic behavior and hold yourself accountable to them.
- Make a short audio tape in which you affirm your commitment to building stronger levels of trust. Listen to this tape periodically for motivation and affirmation.
- Survey your leadership peers to discover what they do to build trust with their teams.
Driving Positive Work Values
As you continually build and model trust, be mindful that it is only one of the values critical for success. While the specific values of each business will vary, a regular and mindful focus on developing those values is necessary to instill them at all levels of the workplace. Try these exercises with your core leadership team:
- Engage team members in casual conversations around the question…” What is a values-driven team?”
- Discuss ethical standards with your team members.
- Develop a matrix that shows the relationship between your values and your management behavior.
- Research managerial ethics. Report your findings to the team.
- Identify and clarify team norms or rules of professional interaction.
- Link professional behavior to workplace values.
- Write down the workplace values that define your approach to leadership. Share them with your team members.
By Christine R. Spray