A Direct and Practical Guide
You don’t need positional power to lead effectively. Don’t let the stereotypical power-hungry, barrel-chested man-babies sitting in the executive suites hold you back. Embrace the role of a supportive and inclusive leader by focusing on the people that make your team thrive.
Leading a team of any size is an important responsibility. It’s not always easy, but avoiding the pitfalls of being the biggest jerk on the team is crucial for success. Doing it well requires the right mindset and disciplined self-leadership. With this guide, you’ll have a set of tools to lead with confidence and avoid the mistakes of incompetent leaders. Adopt several of the tips and methods discussed, and you will be well on your way to managing better and leading well.
YOU START, BY GIVING A C.R.A.P.
Quiet quitting is a result of lousy leadership. Resistance to remote work is a leadership control problem. Layoffs are indicative of leaders who prioritize profits over people. When you, as a leader, give a crap, you get better results.
Make a positive difference as a leader! Don’t be like the estimated 50–65% of managers who don’t give a crap about their team, clients, or organization. Show that you care and set yourself apart from the pack.
CARE — Show empathy and concern for your team, clients, and boss. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job right. Improve or step down.
RECOGNIZE — Take the time to acknowledge and appreciate those who help you reach your goals. If you can’t, it may be best to return to being an individual contributor as recognition is a key aspect of effective leadership.
ACCOUNTABILITY — Hold yourself accountable first. Polish your integrity and honor your commitments. Maintain integrity, fulfill promises, and own up to mistakes. Instead of blaming others, accept and solve problems.
PERSIST — Do not abdicate your leadership when it gets too hard or uncomfortable. Persist. Don’t succumb to apathy when things do not immediately go your way. Persist.
Strong leadership doesn’t require a title. It’s about those who genuinely care and exhibit it in their actions. Show your dedication to your team and organization and become a leader that people admire and follow.
SHOW YOU CARE
An effective leader shows caring by demonstrating empathy, compassion, and a genuine interest in the well-being of their followers. Understand that your success is directly linked to the success and satisfaction of those you lead. Prioritize creating a supportive and inclusive work environment, where everyone feels valued and respected. By doing so, you foster a culture of trust, collaboration, and motivation, allowing your team to perform at their highest level. Caring leadership is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business, leading to increased productivity, employee retention, and overall job satisfaction. Ultimately, a leader who shows care is a leader who inspires their team to achieve great things and make a positive impact.
DEMONSTRATE EMPATHY: It is tempting to think of yourself first; after all, you are the person you spend the most time with. Make an effort to understand where another person is coming from. Resist being ego-driven and defensive. Instead, listen, show compassion, and cry unapologetically if you must. Be there for someone besides yourself.
MEET ONE-ON-ONE: Find the time to have meaningful and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your team members. If you cannot find the time to sit down with your team individually and learn more about their needs, obstacles, ideas, and status on their goals, you need to reevaluate where you are spending your time and begin to make adjustments — fast. Have meaningful and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. Check your calendar now and schedule Plan and Review time with everyone you are responsible for.
PLACE TEAM MEMBERS WHERE THEY CAN WIN: The point of a team is to accomplish results better than if pursued singularly. Evaluate your current results and decide if you have the right people in the right positions for right now.
SERVE THOSE YOU LEAD: It is not about you. The team is not there for the career betterment or aggrandization of the leader. It is the reverse. Determine how you will serve your team so they can achieve increasingly more significant things.
FEEDBACK IS A TOOL: Resolve to stop being stingy with feedback. Feedback is essential. Make it fast, frequent, relevant, and positively delivered. People tend to hold off on providing feedback as if it were a secret — that’s no good. Holding off dilutes the effectiveness over time or, worse, creates a vacuum. It is much better to provide feedback right then and there. The closer to the event, the better. Effective leaders are masters at providing, receiving, discerning, and integrating feedback.
PRIORITIZE THE TEAM’S WELL-BEING: Take care of your team’s mental and physical health by creating a supportive and inclusive work environment. Address any issues or conflicts in a timely manner and ensure that everyone feels valued and respected. Be a supportive and inclusive leader and prioritize the well-being of your team.
An effective leader recognizes and celebrates the hard work, achievements, and contributions of their team. Recognition helps to build a positive and motivated workplace culture, where employees feel appreciated and valued for their efforts. When you take the time to acknowledge your team’s efforts, you send a clear message that their work is important and valued. This not only boosts employee morale and satisfaction but also drives performance, as individuals are more likely to give their best when they feel their efforts are being noticed. A leader who consistently shows recognition builds trust and strong relationships with their team, as people are more likely to follow a leader who they feel cares about their success and well-being. Recognition is a powerful tool in the hands of an effective leader, and when used consistently, it helps to create a high-performing, engaged, and inspired team.
PRAISE PROGRESS: Who will you go out of your way to praise today? You might think someone is doing a good job, but telling them makes all the difference. Say it. Let someone feel recognized because they matter, what they are doing matters, and they are making a difference. Authentically praising people IS your job.
Who is doing something right or approximately right?
How will you praise them?
FIND WHAT’S RIGHT: Each day, find what’s right, or approximately right, and praise progress. Do not cast a blind eye to mistakes, but do not provide them with more attention than all the achievements, big or small, you have made along the way.
PROMOTE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT: Help your team members grow and develop by providing opportunities for learning and skill building. Encourage them to take on new challenges and provide support as needed. Recognize their achievements and celebrate their success.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Set the tone by being a model of the behavior you expect from your team. Show integrity, transparency, and empathy in your interactions. Be proactive and lead by example in everything you do, including recognition. Your team members are watching and will follow your lead.
An effective leader takes responsibility for their actions and the actions of their team. Understand that accountability is a crucial aspect of leadership, and set the tone for your team by being accountable yourself. This means acknowledging mistakes, owning up to any shortcomings, and making amends when necessary. By doing so, you demonstrate to your team that you are trustworthy and committed to doing what’s right, even in difficult circumstances. A leader who is accountable inspires their team to be accountable as well, creating a culture of transparency and integrity. When everyone is held accountable, mistakes are corrected, and processes are improved, leading to better outcomes and increased success. An effective leader who shows accountability instills confidence and helps to build a strong, cohesive team that is motivated to achieve great things. By showing accountability, an effective leader sets a powerful example, demonstrating the importance of taking responsibility and owning one’s actions.
STOP DOING DUMB THINGS AND PROPERLY HONOR THE PROCESSES YOU KILL: Find a process or system that everyone agrees has outlived its usefulness and put it to an end. Either stop it quietly and see if anyone notices, or have a big funeral to bury it. Remember, every solution creates another problem, so make sure you upgrade your problems.
Take a moment to respect their heritage when you find inefficiency, redundancy, antiquated process, policies, or practices. Many systems that have worn past their usefulness were at one time designed to solve a problem, speed things up, ensure quality, or some other noble purpose.
Do not merely eradicate a given system and move on; honor its contribution with a ceremony of sorts. Involve the team, perhaps members who created the system, to give it a proper send-off. Old systems were once heroes. Appreciate the contributions while making it clear that it is time to turn the page. Allow people to mourn the loss and then begin anew.
ALWAYS HAVE AN OBJECTIVE AND BE DELIBERATE WITH YOUR INTENTIONS: Act with purpose, every time. When you know your objective and purpose, you improve your execution and are less likely to fall prey to distractions or low-impact activity. For every meeting, interaction, and goal, have an objective and work toward completion.
The best intentions are still only intentions. To make an impact, you have to actually do something. Plan your intentions by asking yourself, “What do I want to achieve?”
Then give deliberate thought to the following:
- How will doing so make a big difference?
- What does success look like?
- Describe the feelings and impact on confidence, beliefs, finances, and other factors?
- Who else will be impacted?
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- What is the best-case scenario?
Don’t stop at making your intention, which is no different from making a wish. Instead, put in the work and make it happen!
CULTURE IS CREATED BY THE BEHAVIOR YOU TOLERATE AND BUILD EVERY DAY: Every manufacturing process has defects that are a small percentage of error or waste. Good managers reduce that amount of waste to maximize the asset’s output. Apply this philosophy to your culture. When you begin demonstrating new behaviors in your culture, there will be errors and misjudgments. Learn from them and make corrections.
You can post placards with uplifting words, and your memos and speeches can have soaring ideals, but your demonstrated behavior is what forms a culture. There will be valid excuses for occasional gaffes or one-off exceptions, but be careful. Build the environment you want and protect it, otherwise off-color jokes become commonplace, whining replaces winning, and respect for others dwindles.
Do not tolerate ongoing infractions, they reduce your positive production. Good leaders guard and nurture their culture, they don’t allow rust or contaminants to ruin their work. If you have a leader who regularly sullies the culture with their poor behavior, look for a new leader.
A high-performance team will not be built in one day, but you can start today. It takes a while to assemble a team, let alone one that is high performing. You cannot randomly throw people together without structure or purpose and expect brilliance because you will get dysfunction instead. Start knowing what success looks like for you, and then build toward that goal.
BE HONEST: Honesty isn’t always painless, but it is easier. When you trade truthfulness for expediency, you chip away at your integrity. Do it often enough, and your integrity is reduced to rubble. You will be left rudderless and subject to the whims of others without any control or direction of your own. Instead of a strong vision, you will be dependent on your wishes. You’ll chase the current and winds others produce instead of your own. You abdicate leadership. It’s not worth it. Protect your integrity.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR: Your environment mirrors what you have created; want a different view? Start with you. You can argue whether your external environment matches your inner thoughts or if your inner thoughts create your exterior results; the bottom line is that they are linked closely enough to influence each other. Change your surroundings if you do not like the environment you created.
LEARN WHY PEOPLE LEAVE YOU: People move on. Priorities change, and conditions ebb and flow. The makeup of your team will vary over time. Pay attention to what attracts people to you: Is it your reputation, your results, your humor, your empathy? Double down on your findings. More importantly, find out why people leave. For the vast majority, it is because of the boss. Are you or your leaders driving people away? Odds are, regardless of all the reasons you collect, they are excuses covering your behavior. Are you acting in alignment with your purpose, mission, and values? Your retention rate can help answer that question. Pay attention and fix yourself.
An effective leader shows persistence by demonstrating a steadfast commitment to their goals and the goals of their team, even in the face of challenges and obstacles. Understand that success often requires overcoming difficulties, and being willing to persevere in pursuit of your vision. By consistently pushing forward, you inspire your team to do the same, creating a culture of determination and resilience. A leader who shows persistence demonstrates to their team that success is possible, even in the face of adversity. They are a positive role model, demonstrating the importance of perseverance and the value of hard work. When a leader shows persistence, they demonstrate to their team that they are committed to their success, and they create a sense of trust and security, knowing that their leader will not give up on them. Persistence is a key attribute of an effective leader, as it helps to build a motivated and inspired team, capable of overcoming challenges and achieving great things.
LEAD PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU: Leading a group of yes-men is not particularly impressive. Skill is required to lead effectively, and this approach demonstrates very little mastery. If you rely on positional power and authoritarian tactics, you will attract the weak-willed who will fawn over you. That is not a difficult feat, and your results will be suboptimal.
It is better to be a leader who can influence, inspire, and compromise with those who disagree with you. To do so shows your ability to listen, empathize, negotiate, and collaborate. Disagreements do not have to be adversarial. Curiosity can just as easily fuel them. Curiosity is a desirable trait most people enjoy seeing in others.
If you are going to lead, make it worthwhile. Invite challengers to help you clear the obstacles in areas you may not see. They will inadvertently develop your strengths, and your mutual respect will move everyone closer to the desired vision.
LEAD PEOPLE FROM “A-HA” TO “NO-DUH.”: When faced with something new, it is safe to assume people don’t know things at first. Connect the dots for them and do it repeatedly. Sometimes, you will feel caught in an endless loop, and your work colleagues will still not “get” something. When you continue to repeat your message, they will eventually understand, perhaps roll their eyes, and say something like, “Everybody knows that.” Only then will you know you’ve succeeded.
What are you tired of repeating? How can you communicate it differently? What sounds, visuals, movement, or textures could you include in your message?
KNOW THE IMPLICATIONS: Work through the implications of your actions, preferably while they are still notions. Lousy leaders act without thought or think without acting. Effective leaders strike the right balance. Every action has good and bad consequences, intended and unintended consequences. Consider your actions without falling into over-analysis.
TEACH OTHERS: Sharing your skills and knowledge is a selfless act. Make the extra effort and take the needed time to share a skill, a shortcut, your wisdom gained, or a trick of the trade that will make an invaluable impact on someone else.
You become an effective leader who inspires and motivates others when you genuinely give a C.R.A.P.
- When you care and show empathy and concern for your team, clients, and boss, you demonstrate that you are invested in their success.
- When you recognize and appreciate the contributions of others, you create a culture of positivity and motivation.
- When you hold yourself accountable and demonstrate integrity in your actions you set a strong example for your team and foster trust.
- When you persist even in the face of challenges, you inspire your team to do the same, leading to greater success and achievement.
Give a C.R.A.P. and become a leader who makes a positive impact and inspires others to do the same.
You do not need positional power to lead well, but to be effective, you must recognize the essential leadership tools that focus on treating people with dignity, respect, and common sense. There is no excuse for taking advantage of people, withholding praise, leading selfishly, or quitting in the face of a new challenge.
Our world requires selfless leaders who understand the value of individual goals and collaborative success. When done correctly, leading a team can be one of life’s rewarding practices. Embrace your opportunities to manage better and lead well.
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