What is the job of a leader?
“Get things done.”
“Set and achieve goals.”
All these are great, but they are not the core role of a leader. In fact, “getting things done” can actually keep a leader from leading.
The Core Role of a Leader
The core role of a leader is to develop the team that…gets things done, produces results, and achieves the goals that have been set.
If you are trying to do it all yourself, you are limiting yourself, your team, and your organization.
If you develop others, there is unlimited potential to what can be achieved.
How can you develop others?
1. Create a system of support.
Founders of companies very quickly realize there is more work than time, and so they hire a team. But if they have not taken the time to build a system for their business, they only make more work for themselves.
Team members will rely on them to answer questions, explain procedures, and direct them at every turn. Many leaders throw up their hands in despair and utter something like, “I can do it faster and better myself!”
And they begin a cycle of looking for the “perfect” team member to solve all their problems, not realizing it is not a people issue, but a systems issue.
Make it a priority to have systems in place to support your team – processes and procedures, the tools to do the work, and a centralized knowledge base. If you don’t have time to build it yourself, enlist the help of your current team to do so. You relay the big picture of what needs done and have them help you build out the details. If you have done your due diligence and hired dedicated employees, you can build the necessary systems together in this way.
2. Create a culture of respect.
You as the leader set the tone for your organization. If you hire people for their strengths and respect those strengths enough to seek their advice, you create a culture of respect. And you can bet the rest of your team will follow your example.
The fact is, no one knows everything. And the good news is, you as a leader are not expected to know everything.
To succeed, you must identify “experts” in those areas in which you do not excel.
Here’s a real life litmus test.
Have you ever noticed how a leader treats his or her assistant? It is a good indicator of their leadership. Do they show respect to their assistant as a qualified professional in their area of expertise, or do they treat him or her as a commodity that is easily replaceable and of little value.
Three things happen when you respect each member of your team: they respect you as the leader, they respect other members of the team for their individual gifts and strengths, and they commit to using their strengths to help build the organization.
Do you want to lose credibility fast in the eyes of your employees? Show disrespect to just ONE of them.
The choice is yours. One action will build a team that builds a strong organization; the other will tear it down.
3. Create a path for growth.
“The only way to advance is to leave the company.”
Sadly, some of the best talent in an organization goes right out the door, taking their experience, skills, and strong work ethic with them. This is often because they have outgrown a role and are ready for a new challenge, but they get overlooked or don’t have the opportunity to grow within their current company.
A wise leader will create a path for growth and will encourage each team member to advance along the path that best fits them.
Before you spend thousands and thousands of dollars on recruiting outside candidates, take a look around your current team for qualified candidates.
Think about it. When you hire from within, you save the costs of advertising and recruiting, save the time of an extensive interview process, and save considerably on the time and cost involved in new client onboarding and training.
If you have created a clear path for growth and identified qualified candidates from within, you can invest in more targeted growth training. This not only saves enormously on costs, but yields a higher return on investment.
4. Create a means for accountability.
Ah, the once-a-year annual review. Most leaders dread it; and most employees hate it.
Think about it. You go through the year working with someone, essentially saving your feedback, comments, and accolades for one time a year. Where is the real value in that?
Instead, consider that you are not in a leadership position to fill out paperwork. You are there to develop people. And consider that this should be a daily process, not a once-a-year process.
As you go through each day, observe your people. Are they doing a good job on something? Tell them immediately, and be specific in your compliment. This helps them grow. If you wait until the end of the year, you will forget about it.
If they are doing something incorrectly, or you notice they are not performing up to their normal high level, take the time to guide them into correct procedure or to determine and deflect issues that may be undermining their performance.
Here’s a point many leaders miss: Accountability goes both ways. Let your people know that you want and value their feedback as well. Be open to listening to their point of view. There is room for growth in every leader.
5. Create a network for sharing.
Through decades of coaching and executive level leadership, I have noticed a common characteristic that tends to prevent leaders from reaching their greatest level of achievement. That characteristic is the tendency to “hold things back” from their people.
For some, it is out of consideration and concern: “I don’t want employees to worry that their jobs may be impacted.”
For others, it may be out of pride or ego: “I don’t want anyone to know I’m failing here!”
Either way, you are limiting your greatest power – the power of a network.
There was a company that was struggling. Creditors were breathing down the proverbial neck of the organization. Some savvy employees knew there were issues. In fact, as they gathered for lunch one day, they identified, in a matter of minutes, a few small changes that would have saved several million dollars for the company – enough to turn the tide.
But, sadly, the leader of the organization wasn’t listening.
He went to great lengths to put out a “We’re doing great!” message.
All the while, many could see, “The emperor was naked.”
This failure, rooted in pride and evidenced as lack of transparency, resulted in the loss of a company – a company that could have survived if only the leader had tapped into the power of his network.
Don’t be a naked emperor.
Encourage communication across your entire organization – from the corner office to the field office. Keep your ear to the ground to learn of problems before they become crises; and to elicit new and profitable ideas from those on the front lines. Listen to the accountants who see where costs can be contained, and to customer service representatives who know the needs of your customers.
If you want a company that is sustainable, create a network of individuals who openly share their thoughts and ideas across your organization, and to you as their leader.
I encourage you as a leader to take out a 3 x 5 card or a sticky note, write “Develop Others” on it, and do that every day. As you go through the day, ask yourself, “Does this help to develop others?”
Use that as the lens of your effectiveness. If you apply these five tenets for developing others, it will solve a large percentage of your organizational problems.
Beyond that, this practice will help you create the one thing that becomes very important as you progress through your life and career: it creates legacy.
Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.