Businesses today face a host of problems - for instance:
- The company used to be successful, but is now flat and starting to decline.
- Team members are not really committed their work.
- Everyone is wasting time in unnecessary details.
Leaders who suffer from these kinds of conditions tend to try to "fix" the people or the structure. And while your situation might be different, most of the time these are symptoms of problems with the personal practices of the leader.
In other words - the bad news is that you are probably the biggest contributor to the challenging problems in your business.
The good news is that you are in a great position to affect the person responsible.
Address the root cause (and it's probably you)
For example, one of our clients was frustrated with a lack of engagement from his senior leadership team. People wouldn't say what they really felt - until after the project failed. This leader began to question whether the team was capable of success. With our support, he did a bit of probing.
"Our opinions don't matter - so why do you ask us?" was the response.
Turns out this leader would say he wanted input from his leadership team, yet his actions demonstrated that he really just wanted validation of his own ideas. Once he got that validation - often in the middle of the team member sharing his or her thoughts - he would become visibly disinterested and break off the discussion. Team members became confused and withdrawn. One member said: "Why bother to offer thoughts when they don't matter? Why step up when we are being treated like little kids?"
The leader had to do some soul searching. He decided to change his approach to get better results - he had to make it clear to his team that their input was really valued, and also be clear when he just needed validation. With coaching, he learned to be clear about his needs when requesting people's perspectives. He stated his needs up front and invited the other person to participate. And we set up the condition that if the other person had further thoughts to share after the CEO got his needed validation, they would together decide if that discussion should be held right then, or if they should schedule a meeting later.
Project failures dropped dramatically, and the team's performance took off.
As a leader, you get what you project
Leaders often fail to recognize just how big an impact they have on the operations of their companies. The key to making the impact you desire is to make sure you are aligned as a person first.
In the example above, what the leader said, what he did, and his desire to personally drive results were out of alignment - and people withheld their best efforts as a result. When the leader began earnestly doing what he said and respecting people, they responded in the same way.
When you as leader make sure your strengths, desires, passion, and actions are all in alignment, the people in your company know where you're coming from and will be more effective.
Even better, your example will encourage them to strive for the same alignment within themselves.
10 minutes to better leadership
- Spend some time thinking about what's most important for your company. What does it need? How do those needs align with who you are and what you want to do? Note where the needs and strengths reinforce each other and start doing more of those things.
- Think about a problematic situation happening now. How is the company affected? How might you be contributing? Bonus: What's the personal payoff you get for doing things the way you're doing them? Can you get that payoff another more helpful way?
For a free checklist on how to get yourself better aligned, check out our blog post on the topic.