The challenge for entrepreneurs is being forced to frequently play a number of roles as innovator, marketer, strategist, manager and leader. Doing this while moving a new company forward is so challenging that it’s often easy to overlook the people side of a business.
While running leadership training sessions, I often ask participants to identify behavior they have disliked in past leaders. What starts out as an amusing exercise usually turns into quiet introspection as participants consider how they treat their supporting cast.
Sometimes work becomes so hectic that leaders don’t stop to consider how they're managing their staff.
You might not even be aware of the mistakes. Perhaps it just that you're not making a conscious choice to help others perform to the best of their abilities.
Take a moment to ask yourself the 10 questions below and answer them honestly. They might help you identify some areas in need of attention.
1. Do I provide clear directions for tasks?
If people are constantly engaged in rework, examine the specificity of your directions. If you're unintentionally vague, then your directions could be misinterpreted.
You can always ask, “What questions do you have about this assignment?”
2. Do I micromanage?
Do you check and double-check others’ work? Do you have time to meet your own responsibilities or are you so busy checking in with other people, you don’t have time to get your own work done?
Ask yourself this, Do I step in and take over projects I’ve asked others to do?
Confer with those who will be candid with you for feedback. If they answer in the affirmative, ask for specific examples of the micromanagement. Try to figure out if micromanagement ensues because of unclear directions or your underlying belief that a staff person is not capable of performing the job well.
3. Do I provide timely feedback?
People want to know when they are doing well and what needs to change. Providing specific feedback will open and strengthen existing channels of communication that are essential to great performance.
4. Do I ask questions to invite engagement?
Doing all the talking when giving directions or commands does not help you learn nor does it invite the perspective of those who will do the work. Sometimes employees have insights that you can ill afford to ignore. Asking questions is a great way to validate what you think or learn what you might not know.
5. Do I credit those who do the work?
Providing recognition to staffers who do superior work and celebrating their successes will reinforce the behaviors that realize the desired results. Recognize that your people are an extension of you.
When you recognize them, you communicate to everyone the value you place on the staff. Valuing others establishes your value in the eyes of others.
6. Am I available?
People want to know that they can get direction and feedback when challenges arise. They also want to know that they have your support.
When you are consistently available, people can receive the answers they need to get things right the first time, which eliminates the need for rework. Being able to receive the information they need builds their confidence in the contribution they make and in you as their leader.
7. When plans fall apart, do I grow angry?
When confronted with negative emotion, most people take a defensive posture as their rationality departs. You need to note when you're beginning to become emotional and check the source of your emotions.
Most emotional reactions arise because people perceive that a value has been violated. If you can recognize the value behind your emotions, you can learn what's driving a reaction. Control your feelings rather than having your feelings control you.
8. Am I respectful in language and behavior?
You need to pay attention to the words you use, the tone and gestures when delivering a message. If any of your language or tone is belittling or demeaning, eliminate it from your conversational tool kit.
Disrespectful language and behavior does not inspire others to follow you. Being demeaning creates fear that won't improve the candor, sincerity and honesty needed in any organization.
9. Do I support staffers when things go awry?
I once saw a senior leader take the side of the client against his own people who had done what he had told them to do. Fixing a problem or process is more important than affixing blame. People will work hard and put out discretionary effort when they know you're loyal to them and will back them up.
10. Do I provide opportunities for growth?
Great leaders look for people that will replace them. This requires teaching and mentoring others to acquire the necessary skills to improve. Taking time to explore the aspirations and desires of staffers increases their engagement, work satisfaction and retention. It also develops a more skilled workforce.