Beverly D. Flaxington
I often remind my coaching clients that the reason most companies have a pyramid structure is that not many people are cut out for leading the charge. Unfortunately, very often a person who is politically connected, or who has done a good job and is technically competent, or who has paid their dues, may be selected for a top role.
In too many cases the person asked to lead isn’t doing so by example. They are leading with an iron fist, or a “let’s be collaborative” mantra, but they aren’t modeling the behavior they need from their constituents. It isn’t that this is unfair, or unjust – it’s that the leaders who don’t do as they want others to do, won’t find themselves with loyal followers. They won’t find people who are motivated to carry out the vision and mission. Without a team supporting you and walking beside you, it truly is very lonely at the top!
Lead as you’d want to be led
And it isn’t enough to have a vision and to articulate it. True leaders walk the vision every day. They, like good parents, model the behavior they want to see in their staff members.
I’ve been in senior leadership positions within corporate structures large and small, and I have worked with thousands of people over the years to help them become better leaders. After watching what doesn’t really work, I’ve developed six tips for leaders interested in modeling the behavior they want, and benefiting from doing so:
- Listen. Really, really listen. Ask clarifying questions. Get to the root of issues or comments. Don’t think you know – explore and understand what people are telling you. Practice both active listening and reflective listening. You will want your staff to listen well; make sure you do, too.
- Vary your communication style. Adult learners need different things in order to understand. In addition, we all have different behavioral preferences. Communicate the same message in a variety of ways to increase the chances of your staff hearing – and understanding. You want to be heard and understood – it takes work to get there.
- Treat each person with respect. Learn the strengths and gifts of the people around you. Respect that everyone has some inherent talent. It’s your job as the leader to find it – and reveal it. You are probably showing your strengths every day, but no one is an island. Show your appreciation for others’ talents.
- Balance praise and course correction. People need to know what they are doing well – specifically. They need to be clear about the behavior you want to reinforce. They also need to know where to make a correction – specifically. What behavior isn’t working for them, and what would you like them to do differently? Be specific and offer guidance on a regular basis. If you want them to improve, don’t just assume they will – be active in helping them.
- Ask for feedback. When you deliver a message, or have an important initiative to implement, ask your staff what they need to get it done. What obstacles and challenges might they face? How can you provide support? And as the process unfolds – take a keen interest in what’s working and what’s not. Live by feedback to continue to correct and improve. If you want interested staff members, you need to also be interested in their experiences.
- Pretend you are living under a microscope. Want loyal, committed followers? Pretend someone important is watching you at all times. Treat people well. Don’t lose your temper or talk down to people. Watch your tone – refrain from sarcastic or biting comments. Be truly genuine and authentic, and incorporate kindness and compassion into your day-to-day. You can be a firm leader, and still be kind. Practice this – everyone around you will appreciate it.
About the Author
Beverly D. Flaxington, two-time bestselling and Gold-award winning author, is an accomplished consultant, personal and career coach, author, corporate trainer, entrepreneur and business development expert. Bev co-founded The Collaborative in 1995, a sales and marketing consultancy. The firm provides strategic and tactical support to help client firms, and individuals, reach higher levels of effectiveness and meet their goals.