In the last two decades I had the chance to experience several leaders and business managers by myself who I watched carefully either while they tried or succeeded to lead me or while they lead their teams. They all shared the common goal of getting things done by their people while contributing in a more or less effective and efficient way by themselves. Just like management itself is a learnable skill, leadership is also not only bound to natural talent, but can be considered as a competence which can be developed and well sharpened by specific rules, tools and actions, too. Here are several tips from watching patterns over the last years which hopefully help you to feel smarter at the end of the leadership day. Feel free to share your own ideas and best inspirations.
Battle-hardened ground rules:
1) Do not lead without a mission and vision.
Define where you see yourself and your team in the future. Energize your people with a tasty and inspiring image towards which you strive together (vision) while knowing who you want to be together right now in the present (mission) to realize your smart long-term vision as team.
2) Know, grow and prime your environment.
Know yourself. Know your team. And, know your internal stakeholders, including your boss, peers and cross-functional contacts, as well as your external network, like suppliers, customers, competitors or best practices. Don't be a product of your environment, but prime it yourself.
3) Do not just be efficient, be primarily effective.
Most average leaders and managers are very skillful in being efficient or at least in appearing efficient by doing things "right". I had the chance to watch some with a smile. As a clever leader you do inspire yourself, your team and also your boss to do the "right" things in the "right" way.
4) Stay yourself and always lead authentically.
On the one hand, do not pretend at all and do not "play" a leadership role. Be yourself. Grow yourself. And earn the trust of your team in an authentic way as natural leader. On the other hand, also fake it till you make it. Act as if your team and you were already great... to grow :-).
5) Do not just lead others, be an example for them.
Dive deep on the processes and culture in your area of responsibility. Be proactive and strive for results by taking decisions and ownership by yourself to inspire your team as a good example. Know the tasks and processes to jump in from while to while to perform actions by example, and let yourself be surprised who well the team will perform.
6) Base your leadership on trust in others and yourself.
Nourish your positive energy and electrify the energy of your team by your own passion, attitude and trust. First, trust in yourself... your skills and your character. Second, build trust within the team by an open way of communication and a focus on strengths and mutual collaboration.
Basic tasks for leadership smarts:
1) Not just set goals, measure goal performance.
As a leader you set goals for your team and for yourself. Define and develop those goals in "smart" way: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and with a time frame. Adapt them to indicators of qualitative and/or quantitative performance to be able to track your progress.
2) Not just know your plan, but also nail the plan.
Invest a big and smart amount of time, energy, focus and resources into planning your goals and actions in a highly congruent way to the mission and vision. But then let go of planning and get your true horse power on the floor by taking personal action and inspiring team action.
3) Manage your resources, team and information.
Be economically and socially efficient by managing your resources of people, time, money, information and stakeholders. Keep an overview, track interdependencies in the big picture and follow a straight process of communication, controlling, information and quality assurance.
4) Identify and develop your high performers in your team.
Know and grow your best. Differentiate your people in the team by their strengths, needs and preferences to be able to adjust your tasking and goal setting to their skill set and motivation. Grow them all, but make it your priority to develop and personally coach your best 20% heroes.
5) Grow the trust of others, but check and control, too.
Keep a positive mindset as a leader and always start with a trustful attitude. Trust in yourself, your people and your way of goal setting and leadership first and don't mistrust before critical incidents happen. But: Check and control processes and results! To be able to give feedback.
6) Improve your processes, priorities and skill set.
Keep your mind clear, take action and seize opportunities for yourself and for your team to sharpen the social, professional, strategical and personal skill set. Make it a part of your mission as a leader to grow your people, to eliminate waste and to get the things done even better.
Effective and efficient tools and techniques:
1) Meeting: Always communicate with purpose and agenda.
Did you ever participated in a meeting which s*****? Well, do it different and lead by example by keeping your own meetings simple, smart and effective: Always have a purpose, a clear agenda, a code of conduct and a crystal-clear focus on results, tasks and ownership of actions.
2) Reporting: Protocol and document steps and actions.
Condition your team and yourself to build a routine of documenting the steps and actions in a simple, clever and short way to always be able to keep an overview on progress and learnings. Make it a routine to report your own actions, progress and problem solutions to your boss.
3) Job design: Define jobs from a process perspective.
Develop and grow a process and value perspective within your team. Make them ask themselves: Who is the customer? Which output does he/she expect? What are core processes of the team to always deliver in excellent way? What are the inputs? Who is the (in-)direct supplier?
4) 5S in office: Keep your work space clean, sorted & smart.
Strive for quality and continuous improvement in your own office and in the work space of your team by regularly inspiring and stimulating the self motivation and discipline of all to shine, to standardize, to sort, to sustain and to straighten all things and processes in an efficient way.
5) Lean: Eliminate all forms of waste, don't waste creativity.
Sharpen your sense for different forms of waste in your area and wake up the team on the topic of waste, for example: transportation, motion, inventory, waiting time, over-processing, over-production and various defects as well as the creative potential of the people within your team.
6) Motivation: Give feedback. Ask for feedback.
Create a trustful culture of feedback by giving and expecting balanced feedback on people, processes, goals in context of performance and quality. Start with positive details, describe your perceptions and their effects, and define your expectations and the mutual result in the end.
Those rules, tasks and tools are for sure no complete compendium of leadership tips and success factors. They are meant to share personal perceptions and inspirations on the leadership topic, and especially to be expanded and enriched by real life experiences. Enjoy the process!
In short: Work smart. Inspire your team. And strive for excellence... together. And: Just get started and lead. Do not wait for perfection. Try out what fits yourself, your team and your environment. Iterate!