Once upon a time there was a little girl who was smart and full of ideas. She was naturally organized, creative, and able to come up with a system for just about anything. She loved to read, sew, draw, write letters, and play baseball with the boys. There was just one little tiny problem -she was bossy!
She kept her younger brothers in line – they hated it!
When the neighbor kids played school, she was the teacher, again!
And guess who managed the lemonade stand?
I hate to admit it, but that little girl was me. I have learned the hard way that being bossy, having all the answers, or the right experiences is not what makes a leader! In fact, the need to control or be bossy is mostly a great way to annoy the people around you! That goes for parents (yes, you are leaders), those who lead in corporate setting, non-profit setting, or if you are just leading you!
Thankfully, my leadership skills have come a long way since my little girl days! While it is always tempting to want to be in charge and give orders, it is a huge relief to realize that, as a leader, I don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, superior solutions are generally arrived at through collaboration. Nor is it always necessary for me to share my opinions or experiences. What does matter? Making sure the people I lead have ownership in whatever we are trying to accomplish.
So how can you lead in a way that encourages ownership and produces superior results?
1. Understand the basics
People get excited about their work when they feel good about themselves. As a leader, it is imperative that you take the time to notice, recognize, and appreciate the efforts your team makes. People want to know what they are doing right so they can do more of that. Resist the urge to say things like “great job” or “thank you for all that you do.” What you are recognizing and appreciating must be crystal clear so that people are able to repeat it.
If you want to be a leader that influences, then take the time to pay attention to your people. As an added bonus, regular positive communication lessens the sting when you have the occasional area a team member might need to improve in.
2. Pinpoint what motivates
What motivates you might not motivate your people. The truth is people do things for their reasons, not yours. How will you discover their reasons? Ask! What excites you about this project? What would make this assignment more motivating for you?
3. Encourage collaboration
If you want your team to increase their level of ownership, include them in the solution and implementation process. You will be surprised by the insights and creative ideas they have to offer and the effect it has on their engagement. A more engaged team member is a more productive team member, increasing the potential for results.
4. Ask challenging questions
A leader has many roles with, perhaps one of the most important being to develop other leaders. When you come from a place of having to have all the answers and needing to be in control, you rob your people of the opportunity to think for themselves and grow their leadership skills.
What if the most productive thing you could do as a leader was to work on your ability to ask questions – questions that got your people thinking about things in a way that radically changed not only their perspective, but also the possible solutions? What if better results hinged on your ability to stimulate your team to explore the current challenges, obstacles – even the things that are working, in a way that lead to fresh outcomes?
When coaching leaders, I find they are often excited about the idea of asking questions over telling and the potential results questions might lead to, but are often concerned that it will end up taking too much time. Add in a few looming deadlines and suddenly the idea of asking great questions feels even less feasible. The moments when you are tempted to “tell” to save time are the very moments that asking the right questions would have the most profound effect! Great leaders understand the impact of questions and how it increases their influence. While it may take a few more minutes now, it will save you oodles of time down the road! Not only will you be nurturing your team’s problem solving skills, but you, will also increase the level of participation in the process which leads to better results.
Perhaps the most important skill you can work on as a leader is your ability to ask timely, stretching, get-you-thinking-questions! Oh, and limit your telling!
5. Create safety
Without a safe place to try new things and make mistakes, your team will stop collaborating and participating no matter how much you involve them or how many provocative questions you ask. True innovation happens when there is a safe place to fail; when failure is seen as a stepping stone to success.
6. Set clear expectations
Before you can set clear expectations, you must be clear on the results you looking for. Then you can communicate clearly to your team. Without that clear target, I can guarantee you won’t get the results you are looking for. One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders making is not setting clear expectations and then wondering why they aren’t getting the results they wanted.
7. Give caring feedback
Setting expectations is just the beginning. Giving feedback is a powerful way to follow up and communicate what worked and what didn’t so that your team members can continue to work in a way that is most effective. Giving feedback is about pointing out the positive (back to point #1) as well as the negative. The most effective feedback is given sooner rather than later and is specific. In other words, you clearly share when, where, and what happened along with the impact their actions had. For example, “This morning you handled that irate client with skill. I especially liked how calm you remained and how you were able to walk them through the process. As a result of the way you handled that situation I can see how much you’ve grown and that you have much to offer others in this department.” Another example, “Yesterday you were late for the meeting and arrived unprepared for the presentation. As a result, we were not able to move forward on the project and now the team will have to scramble to meet the deadline next week.”
8. Trust God!
The need to control shrinks the more you trust God, follow His lead, and leave the results with Him. When you are confident in His love for you and His ability to work on your behalf it sets you free to be the leader you need to be!
Being bossy – that’s no way to lead. Having influence and getting results – now that’s a sign of a leader worth following.
What changes would make you a more influential leader?
© Can Stock Photo / SergeyNivens