21st Century Leadership

Having worked for someone else’s business and then gaining a team to motivate, inspire and manage, I know firsthand how tough it can be to be a leader. I bet you know someone that’s had a nightmare boss but it’s just as likely that you know someone that feels like it’s all their teams fault.

Unfortunately many of us aren’t born with natural leadership talent, but it is something you can learn. Great leadership used to be about standing in front of your team and telling them what to do, but the clever boss knows that the key to a self motivated and smiley team is a proactive approach that enables every member of staff to feel like they are a critical cog in the machine of your business. You’ve heard the saying “We are only as good as our weakest link” and this is never more so than in business.

So how do you create the dream team?
What stops your team from being self motivated and ready for anything?
And why can’t you just stand at the front and bark instructions at them?

Teams that effectively communicate and work together well under a leader are teams that have increased productivity, creativity and increased levels of success. And a happy place to work that people like going to. Does that sound good to you?

The biggest and most successful organisations in the world get their team all on the same page. Everyone from the cleaners to the CEO and everyone in between knows what makes that organisation tick.
A mission statement that is not hidden away in a business plan but a well loved much handled document ensures that everyone knows what matters to the business.

Ensuring your team is happy means that everyone feels listened to and if your leadership style is do as I say and not as I do, then it’s hardly likely to inspire.

The biggest obstacle I see for many new leaders is the ability to actually lead. When you’ve worked your way up through the business it’s all too easy to want to keep doing everything. The whole point of having a team is allowing the team to get on with their roles. You are not in charge of room full of clones of you so that’s the first thing you have to accept. That in itself is not easy because you have ways of working that you know work, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s methods would not work. It just means they are different.

Have confidence in your team. If you really struggle with this and have severe control freak issues start small. Turn your OCD into a good thing and flip it on its head so instead of your team thinking you are checking up on them every five minutes, they feel like you are there to help if they need it. If they are doing things different to the way you would do it, don’t instantly reject it. Ask them to explain their methodology as you feel it could be something that the whole team could adopt. Being an open and interested boss empowers your team.

Sometimes in the nicest possible way you do need everyone to sit down, shut and do as you say. But as much as you know never to say this many leaders are in effect barking this. There are ways and ways of saying things as we all know and I’ve learnt over the years that the most powerful way is the coaching way. When you have a deadline looming and you need heads down and results achieved – share with your team the results you need and help everyone take ownership of the goal.

Another top tip to steal from the coaching world is the removal of the blame game. Whether you mean to or not many in times of crisis or high stress have a habit of wanting to establish blame. In my experience as much as you need to understand what went wrong, laying blame at one door is never beneficial. Instead ask people what do you think we could have done differently? Aim to not start a question with why. Why is that you ask? (Ironically!)
Why is a word that attaches ownership and responsibility. On the other hand what do you think happened here? Just asks for that person’s opinion.

Try it with a few questions;
“Why did you let the dog out?”
Is different to “Do you feel that was the best thing to do with the dog?”
“Why did you leave coffee on your desk to get knocked over that really important document?”
Is different to “What do you think is a good place to put your cup?”

The minute Why is used we feel like we are ten years old and being told off, but if you remove the blame word then people can step back from the situation and look at it retrospectively.

A good boss doesn’t say you did that wrong, they ask what do you think worked here? What do you think we could do better? Do you feel there are ways I could support you more? Do you feel I gave you adequate instruction? And so forth.

21st Century leadership empowers people. It listens to people. It’s not always easy to look at the softer skills needed for leadership but just as imperative. Just because you are a natural on the phone or networking don’t make the assumption that everyone feels the same way. Listening is probably one of the most powerful skills the successful leader has. The ability to listen to what really is impacting on every individuals success and productivity is a great skill. Many businesses feel they tick the boxes if they send everyone away on a team building day or personality test them.

This kind of activity may of worked in the 90’s but 21st people are far too clever and switched on to be so easily  placated that they are being genuinely listened to.  But the great thing is that the effective leader that listens and learns from their team is likely to achieve just as good results without filling in a single assessment sheet. And are far more likely to have a team that feels like their boss is a human being that wants success for them as much as they do for themselves and the business. And that is good for everyone. Not just your profit margin!

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