Lead Better Today
4 Simple Ways to Lead Better During Disruption
There's this thing I don't agree with when it comes to leadership development.
Often, companies establish a set of leadership expectations for an individual to emulate for the leader to strive forward — all in an effort to ensure they lead their team better by increasing productivity, managing conflict and more.
However, I believe that if we can help a leader understand their strengths, and then understand what their followers need, leaders can then build people, and then build their business.
With a bottom-up approach to leadership, with the help of Gallup and CliftonStrengths, I've compiled a list of four simple, actionable ways to be a better leader in your business, at your organization, or with your family, starting today. These four needs are Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.
1) Everything begins with TRUST
“Trust is built in very small moments.” - Brene Brown
In the leadership development and coaching space, trust between a coach and client is defined as the ability to create a safe, supportive environment, one which shows genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future.
The work we are doing today requires that we, as leaders, show vulnerability when appropriate — and create space for trust and intimacy. We do this with active listening. Listen for understanding and listen with curiosity. This authenticity is a skill to be honed and sharpened, one exchange with a follower at a time. It means saying the hard things with compassion. It means doing the little things right over and over again.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team-A Leadership Fable”, he states “The first dysfunction, Absence of Trust, stems from the unwillingness among team members to be genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.” This is why it’s so important for a team to have courageous conversations and to hold each other accountable.
Trust improves when two people see each other as human beings. Better yet, as human "becomings." No one is perfect and no one has all of the answers. Accomplished leaders know how to see and care for someone as a human, and not simply a co-worker. Moreover, it’s difficult to trust a leader who exploits, or appears to exploit, their teams for their own interests.
Trust flourishes when we as leaders do what we say we will do — all of the time. It’s completing the little things that seem to be “no big deal”, but also the bigger things. When we do them we send the message that our employees are important, that they matter. Being “leaders of our word” creates credibility and reliability. And, nothing erodes trust faster than neglecting what we promised.
Questions to Explore:
How can I be sure that I commit to things that I know I can follow through on?
How can I be more approachable and vulnerable as a leader?
How can I help others to see the greater mission of the work we are doing?
2) Encourage Compassion Among Your Team. It Converts Directly to Performance!
“You can love someone and not lead them, but you will never lead someone without loving them.” - Mary Kay Ash
Our people must know we care about them. We must show them with our words and actions that we are curious about their lives outside of work. What are they interested in? Who are their loved ones? What hobbies, interests and pursuits are they passionate about? What makes their heart sing and the tears come to their eyes? When we tell less and ask more, our followers feel like active contributors on the team. They feel like they matter and consequently they are more innovative, productive and creative on the job. “Compassion, simply put, converts to performance.” - Gallup, Strengths Based Leadership
For decades I was both a follower and a leader for a Fortune 500 company, depending on the time in my career and the role I was in. The times where I felt most valued and cared about were during times where I needed my leaders and my company to check in on me — when I was home sick, or after giving birth to one of my sons, or during my husband’s layoff. When my leaders called, sent flowers and encouraged me to rest and return to work when ready, my spirit soared. I mattered.
Additionally, as leaders we need to check in on our belief that we have to have all of the answers to be a strong leader. I would challenge this wholeheartedly. “Knowing it all” is a recipe for team dysfunction. When we adopt a collaboration mindset, we send the message that we care about our team member’s thoughts. We can work toward a solution together. Curiosity will always win. Collaboration is born from leaders not having all of the answers.
Questions to Explore:
How can I help my team to know that they matter and how they contribute to our mission?
How can I use my strengths to lean more toward collaboration vs commanding?
How can I be super curious about my employees’ lives outside of work?
3) Stability is Key to Increasing Your Team's Engagement.
The definition of "stability" is the state of being resistant to change and not prone to wild fluctuations in emotion. An example of stability is a calm, stable life where you don't have wild ups and downs.
Just recently I watched a short video from the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz in a message during the Coronavirus pandemic to all people of Minnesota. This leader provided stability on a whole new level during a very uncertain time in our history.
“We are used to long winters in Minnesota. We are resilient people with a deep reserve of courage, optimism, and grit. We won’t just make it to spring – we will come out better on the other side.” - Gov Tim Walz, MN
By choosing this language, the governor reminded us of who we are as Minnesotans, where we came from, and where we are going. This creates stability among followers.
When followers are asked why they love their jobs, or why they like working where they do, they use words like security, strength, clarity and transparency. (Gallup 2018).
These all connect back to the key need of stability and are worth a brief discussion of each. First is the need for security. Here, employees need a strong belief that they can trust the leader and the organization through the ups and downs of business. No one can predict the future, and no one could’ve foreseen the exact impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, but followers need a deep sense of knowing that their leader has their back and will do everything possible to put the needs of followers first.
Second is the demand for strength. True strength comes from knowing when to lead and knowing when to follow. Strong, accomplished leaders know how to lead calmly, confidently and quietly to a desired result.
Third is the desire for, clarity. A confused mind does nothing. Leaders must equip and help their people to know what the next best thing is to do, and to trust them to do it. Clear expectations and outcomes quell the extraneous noise and free us from the ups and downs of life, providing stability.
And, lastly, transparency is key to leadership. Transparency in good times is easy, it’s during hard times that it really matters. When our followers know we can and will weather the storm together, stability occurs. When delivering difficult information transparency is a key piece so that followers can remove undue stress, freeing up their brains for engagement and productivity.
As leaders or entrepreneurs, we are less inclined to need or desire extreme stability on a day-to-day basis. However, it’s important to realize that our followers need and crave it. We must provide it. We must consider how our own ups and downs can contaminate or contribute to the very culture we desire to create.
Questions to Explore:
How can I be sure that I am creating clarity for my team?
When change is happening, how can I make sure that my team feels a sense of stability?
How can I help my followers be engaged in the process of expectations for our company?
4) Hope is Everything To Followers, so Lead with Optimism.
“If, as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are, no one else is either.” - Strengths Based Leadership
A business adage I heard once and remind myself of frequently is, “Am I working on my business or in my business?”
The distinction is important, because when we are working “in” our business, we are working on the day-to-day, putting out fires, answering employee or client questions, just overall reacting to the needs of the day.
However, when we are working “on” our business, we engage in longer-term projects. We work on what will be important one week, one month and one year from now. We tend to look out further, thus sharing the vision of what’s to come with others and painting a bright, hopeful picture of the future.
Hope doesn’t have to be a far away future. It can be here and now. It can be as simple as how a leader may react to a top sales person handing in their resignation.
One choice in attitude could be, “Oh great, how are we going to hit our sales numbers without him/her?” And, a more hopeful attitude could be, “Okay, we wish them the best and we can handle this with our other amazing sales leaders. We can and will still blow our goals out of the water."
As leaders, most likely we have strengths and can imagine with great passion a vision we have for our desired future. How well we nurture it, make it alive in our minds’ eye in technicolor, and believe in it directly affects how well we can paint this picture for our followers. They must be able to see themselves in our future.
If this is a challenge for you, it might just need more focus. Or, ask yourself — is it a belief issue (do I really see and believe that it is happening) or is it a communication issue (do I have the skills and language to convey it to others)? How can I improve in this area? Being able to convey hope is a skill and a leadership choice. What sense of direction are we providing?
In times of complex change, building a sense of hope for followers is critically important for the long term success of any organization. We need to know that the future is going to be even better and brighter than today. At every conversation are we instilling belief in a better tomorrow?
Questions to Explore:
Do we have faith in what we can accomplish?
How can I leverage my strengths to help employees see how they fit into our hopeful future?
How can I help employees feel optimistic during difficult times?
Thanks for taking the time to explore this article with ways to lead your team better, today. As a certified coach, I specialize in coaching leaders to create powerful teams by focusing on building people first.
If you’d like information about working with me, reach out! Drop me a note via my website or shoot me a message on LinkedIn. I offer individual coaching, StrengthsFinder leader/team workshops and sales training for sales managers and directors.
Thanks to Gallup for decades of research on this topic as well as relevant insight from Dr. Brene Brown and author Patrick Lencioni! Ultimate thanks and gratitude to my mentor, Mary Kay Ash.