Are you a leader or are you just managing people? Even if your title says ‘leader’ there’s an easy way to tell the difference. Here are five of the most important things that leaders should be doing every day. If you’re not doing these, then maybe you should rethink your title.
1) Coach People
This is distinct from just interacting with people. You should coach people in some way every day. It can be formal or informal, it can be regarding technical performance, but if you’re a real leader you’ll likely find yourself coaching more around attitude, culture and behaviours. Do something every day to help someone approach the next level of their capabilities. And not just the people you like, but everyone. Put aside your bias and current perceptions and make sure you’re coaching everyone.
People want to be coached and mentored: they want to feel progress, mastery and development.
2) Connect People to Things They Care About
There are so many opportunities for feedback and transactional conversations. But rarely do I see leaders connect their people to the bigger picture often enough.
Decent leaders do this at monthly meetings or one-on-ones. Good leaders do it at a weekly team meeting. But great leaders do it daily. They try to weave it into any conversation about a project, task, meeting or sales pitch. They see these as opportunities to connect people to the bigger picture - the Vision, or Team Goals, or Mission.
3) Delegate the ‘Stuff’
We tend to move between roles and take all sorts of baggage with us. This baggage might be in the form of tasks we like to control, or tasks we enjoy, or things we get used to. By the time most people move into a leadership role, they have all sorts of baggage dragging behind them.
But at some stage, we have to jettison some of this baggage. If you’re a leader, you should be taking a systematic approach to removing things from your plate so that you can do the work you’re supposed to do - mentor people, coach and think strategically. Develop people and take stock of what you do every day: should it really be part of your job or do you have bigger fish to fry?
4) Take Some Thinking Time
Your job is not to get stuck in the day to day busy work of the team. Your job is to think strategically and help people do their best work. You can’t do that if you’re constantly buried in email and putting out fires. To think strategically we need space. To find great solutions to new problems, we need thinking time. Brain science tells us that all of our ‘a-ha moments’ are preceded by a moment of quiet. If you don’t find moments of quiet, then how do you expect to get breakthrough ideas?
You can’t read the label on the bottle when you’re stuck inside the jar.
5) Thank People
Too many managers get hung up about thanking people for ‘just doing their job’ (I wrote another article on it here). The reality is that positive reinforcement creates new behaviours. And something as simple as a ‘thank you’ - even for little things - goes a long way to changing the culture in your team, and creating little dopamine bursts for your people every day - making them feel valued and boosting their performance. Remember, people tend to remember three negatives for every positive..... it’s hard to over-do gratitude.
How did you score out of five? If you’re doing all of them, congratulations! If you’re only doing one or two, then take some time to work out how to start making the others happen as well.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.