8 THINGS YOU MUST PROVIDE AS A LEADER
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Struggling to keep your people motivated and committed? Learn 8 things to do to boost their loyalty, trust, and engagement.
If you want to be a better leader, you’re going to have to understand what people need. No one’s going to be motivated to follow you if you haven’t tapped into what’s going to make someone care and take action.
Hey Everyone, it’s Dr. Karen Kendrick, and welcome back to Mastery Now.
With so much of the world evolving and so many crises right now, the need for good leadership is at a peak. This is coming at a time when there’s so much cynicism and skepticism about whether our leaders are really up to the task and whether they have our best interests at heart. And this is backed up by polls every day about politicians and government workers and institutions and so on.
There’s also data to suggest that there’s a shortage of leaders in general. In May of 2021, a global leadership forecast by the consulting firm Development Dimensions International found that only 11% of surveyed organizations reported that they have a strong or very strong leadership bench, and that’s the lowest it’s been in the past ten years.
So just to clarify what we mean by bench, that’s just this idea of having leaders that are ready to step in and step up into bigger roles when needed. This is really a metaphor that comes from baseball, where you have players ready, waiting in the wings to step up to the plate.
So the point is that the skills of leaders are being tested and the jobs are getting more complex as the world moves at a faster pace with more variables to consider. Think about how much has had to shift in the workplace as a result of the pandemic, from work at home strategies and policies, to mental health and burnout concerns, to staffing shortages and shifting recruiting and retention strategies that we need now.
So given this, I think it’s useful to step back and remember some of the basic things that all leaders need to do to be effective, no matter what kind of formal or informal leadership role that they’re in. Now, if you happen to be in any kind of leadership role as you listen to this, I hope that this will just be a good refresher on what is needed more than ever right now.
So I’m going to walk you through eight things that leaders really need to provide if they’re going to be successful in gaining people’s trust and engagement and commitment to do their best work and accomplish what you’re hoping for.
Now, I’m going to break these down into three categories as we go through this. What to give people tactically, what to give them mentally, and what to give them emotionally. So let’s start with the tactical, because I think that’s the most foundational.
Now, the first thing to give people on a tactical level, as you might expect, is just direction. People need to know where they need to go and where you want to take them. So you need to be clear about what your vision looks like and what aspirational place that you’re headed and then communicate this over and over in a simple, straightforward way.
Now, one of the greatest examples of this, that I always like to talk about, is back in 1961 where John Kennedy gave a speech about going to the moon and he said the words, “We choose to go to the moon.” And so the vision became a man on the moon by 1970. So really simple, really aspirational, really easy to get and so that became a real rallying point and very, very clear direction that he was giving to the country.
Now, a more recent example of this you may remember, was when Steve Jobs rolled out his vision for a digital device for music, which of course was called the iPod. Now, the vision for the iPod, which I thought was brilliant, was “1000 songs in your pocket.” It was just as simple as that. And so in the fall of 2001, he created this commercial and that was the tagline for that product. So very easy to understand, very visual, easy to get, and so it was very powerful.
So at a simple level, that’s what you’ve got to do when you give direction to people. You’ve got to be able to articulate where you want to take people. Now, it doesn’t have to be for a billion dollar brand launch like Apple’s iPod, but you do need to have a vision for where you want to go and try to make it as inspirational as possible. Because without direction people are just spinning their wheels and they really aren’t focused in the work that they’re doing.
Now the second thing tactically that you need to provide is a roadmap. You may have a really great vision, but without a plan you’re going to fail or you’re likely to be lost and you’re not going to get the results that you want. So a big part of leadership is having a good way forward and clarifying that in a way that spells things out. So this includes things like your actual strategies, your tactics, your goals, what resources you’re going to deploy and so on, so that people really get it. And communicating these things frequently, so everybody is on the same page.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of leaders over the years who feel like they’re clearly communicating their strategy, but when you talk to people they actually really don’t have much of a clue or they can’t really articulate it with enough detail. Or they might know the general direction but maybe not specific goals. Or they may know specific goals but they don’t really understand the big picture. So you’ve got to show how your vision and strategy and tactics and so on are all linked and how they fit together into the master plan.
Now you may be saying, “Well gee, I don’t have all this fully put together yet.” And if so, that’s fine. For example, when you’re in a new role, you may not have all that detail, but bottom line is, at some point you’ve got to get there. You’ve got to have that roadmap, and you’ve got to be able to show how it fits together.
Okay, so we’ve talked about two tactical things that you need to provide to people. Now let’s talk about three things on a mental level that you also need to provide.
Now, the first one is probably the most obvious, and that is people need to have a reason to believe. They need to have a reason to believe in your vision, how you’re going to get there, why it’s important, and how it’s going to benefit them. And this is because you don’t want people just to comply. You want to have people care and engage and commit to whatever you’re working on. So this means spelling out for people what’s really in it for them and why they should care.
Now, in certain situations, in certain organizations, it may be really easy to connect to what the overall vision or mission for the company is like. If you’re working for a health care company, it may be all about saving people’s lives. But depending on what you’re working on or what kind of company you’re in or what functional area you lead, it may be harder to make that connection.
And so you’ve got to figure out a way to do that if your vision or mission seems a little more removed from the day-to-day work of everybody, even at the more junior levels of the organization. So you’ve got to make that connection for people. Why is it that what they’re working on, specifically, their specific tasks and efforts matter, and how it’s directly connected to the overall success.
It’s easy for people to see how a CEO or CFO may matter because they’re in critical positions. But for the rest of the organization, they also need to know what their specific work accomplishes, what impact is it having on the greater goals.
Now, as you do this, just a quick tip, is just to remember to just make it tangible and real for people. Don’t make it fluffy or obscure. Just remind people of their essential function that they do and that without them, things would be much harder to accomplish.
Now, in HR, we used to have a term for this, and that is just this idea that you need to “re-recruit” people every day in order to retain them. So a big part of this is helping them feel valued for their work and show how they make a difference.
Another thing that you need to provide to people on a mental level is challenge. People need to feel like they’re growing and learning and not stagnating. If you’re going to keep people engaged, you’ve got to keep things stimulating and add some variety, because when people are bored, that’s really a waste of their talent. Most people have more inside them to give, then they may even realize.
And so it’s your job to help them step up to be more capable and do more and be more and contribute more. And so this may mean that you need to delegate more or give people more opportunities to just showcase what they know and what their talents are.
And you also want to continue to look for ways to improve the quality of their job content. What would make it go easier or be more enjoyable or provide more stimulation. And so one of the best ways to do that is just to ask people who are in those roles. Ask them what would make the work more efficient or challenging or interesting and so on. You really can learn a lot from what people tell you. Remember they’re closest to the actual tasks and they’re often in the best position to know what improvements would help. And this can really help a lot with turnover and burnout and absenteeism.
Now, that being said, be prepared for whatever answers that you’re going to get. Never ask if you’re not willing to listen or make an honest effort to address whatever suggestions they come up with because otherwise you’re just going to lose their trust and loyalty.
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Now, the third thing that you need to provide on a mental level is just access to information. You’ve got to give people the tools and training and knowledge needed to ensure that they feel confident and competent. So this also includes sharing what you know and cascading down important updates and news and changes and so on that affects them. They’ve got to see you as a valuable source of information that helps them do their job better.
Now, I see a lot of leaders who make this mistake of hoarding lots of strategic information because they feel that it’s beyond what the employees need to know or they’re assuming that they wouldn’t care or that they wouldn’t understand it. And I really think this is a big mistake because you really are not doing them a lot of good service if you’re not empowering them with as much information to be in the know that will help them make better decisions as well.
So I would err on the side of sharing as much as possible here. Now, obviously if you have some security concerns about the particular information, then take that into account. But I would push yourself to share as much as you can.
Now, you also want to be seen as somebody that can help them learn and grow and also someone that will give them honest feedback. Whether it’s through a formal performance review, or through one-on-one coaching that you might do on the job, or just informally when you’re mentoring them or whatever. But again, this is another aspect of providing access to information. You’re really somebody that is a wealth of knowledge in their area that they can feel that they can come to you and get help with.
And then the last area in terms of providing access to information is that you just want to also be seen as someone that’s transparent in terms of what the reasons are for your decisions. You don’t want people guessing about why you did what you did, because what’s going to happen there is that people aren’t really going to trust you if they really don’t really understand where you’re coming from, or if they perceive a decision that you made is not well-informed, or if they see the decision as unfair or whatever. So try to be as transparent as you can as you make different decisions.
So, bottom line, in all these different ways, what you want to be doing in this area is providing timely information, whether it’s about the company, or the ways in which the employee can do better or grow more, or the reasons for your decisions.
Okay, so now we’ve talked about some tactical things that you need to provide as well as some mental things that you need to provide. Now let’s talk about things that you need to provide on an emotional level.
Now, one of the most important things to provide emotionally is certainty and calmness. People need to know that there’s a stable hand at the helm rather than creating chaos and dysfunction. They need to know that you can be relied on and trusted to lead confidently, especially in difficult times, that you’re going to be able to step up and solve problems and make decisions and provide support and move through obstacles and resolve conflict.
And also that you’re going to do the right thing and be fair and honest. If they can’t feel that you’re reliable or that you’re giving different answers to different people, or having wild mood swings, or aren’t available on a consistent basis, that’s going to be a problem. People want leaders that they can depend on and who they look to as a role model in terms of integrity and reliability and fairness and accountability.
So overall, you’ve got to keep a level head and not behave in ways that bring on fear of retribution, or fear of risk-taking, or fear of being publicly ridiculed. If you can’t be those things, it’s going to be hard to create an environment that allows people to thrive.
The next thing that you need to provide on an emotional level is inspiration. Sometimes as a leader, it’s easy to forget that people may not all be equally as driven or focused as you to succeed. People are more likely to rise to do their best and most creative work when they feel inspired. When they’re engaged and excited or even intrigued. And also when they feel a sense of hope and optimism. So it’s your job to bring the energy and enthusiasm needed.
Now, inspiration can come in different forms, but it’s all about positive emotion. Tapping into those instincts in people. And this can then translate into their willingness to work long hours, be willing to come up with more ideas, feeling more comfortable speaking up, or maybe even signing on to take more responsibility.
Now, the inspiration you provide may be through your messages, but also through the examples you set with how you are with people or how hard you’re willing to work or what optimism you display. Just remember, people are watching what you do and say. You’ve got to convey a way of being and thinking and relating to others that generates passion, enthusiasm, excitement as well as excellence.
If you walk around with a cloud over your head in how you act and talk, people are going to notice, and that trickles down. You’ve got to bring your best attitude and game to the job every day. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re not authentic and you don’t show any frustrations or concerns, but it’s all in the degree and how long you display it.
So overall, you need to be upbeat and recover quickly from whatever setbacks or irritations are going on. Otherwise, it’s going to be harder for your people to feel inspired, and in the worst case, they’ll be down in the same negative emotions that you are.
Now, the third thing that you need to provide as a leader on an emotional level to people is a connection to you. People are going to need to know, like, and trust you if they’re going to stay engaged and do their best work.
Now, people may follow you if they’re required to based on a job description, but you’re never going to get the best efforts out of them if they don’t feel connected to you. They need to know that you care about their well-being and what’s important to them. And you also can’t treat one size fits all. Don’t just assume that everybody is the same and treat people as a number or interact in exactly the same way. You’ve got to see people as human and individual if you’re really going to be the most successful and create the most connection.
Now, the other thing in terms of being connected to you is they need to know what you value, and what’s important, and what you like or don’t like, or what your expectations are. So you’re going to need to share a little bit of who you are and what you believe in, as well as some personal background. Now, they don’t need to know all the intimate details, but at least to get a sense of who you are outside the office. Whether it’s your family or your hobbies or your passions or something else.
Now, I know for some people this comes really naturally and that’s not a big issue. But for other people who may like to keep things just on the professional level, that’s going to really hold you back, in terms of how much you’re going to be able to create that really strong connection, if you don’t share some of who you are.
And that also includes sometimes talking about some of your struggles or weaknesses once in a while. It doesn’t need to be all the time, but people do need to see that you’re human and that you’re real. And that’s really going to help them feel that they can relate to you and feel that greater sense of connection.
So to sum this all up, the bottom line here is that being a good leader requires you to tune in and meet a lot of different needs that your followers have. And then continue to stay focused on those needs and adapt as times change and people change and grow. Now, that may seem like a lot of work, but when you do it well, you’ll help them rise and bring out their very best.
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