Regardless of your role, you will be challenged with tough questions. If you are a salesperson, those questions will come from your clients. As a leader, the questions will come from peers, your superior or board, or even from your team. How do you handle questions that challenge your position?
It is important that you completely understand what is being asked. The question may be ambiguous. Or, it may not be the real question; what is actually being asked or the challenge to your position may lie beneath the surface of what is asked. The best way to completely understand the challenge is to repeat the question back; use your own words and restate the question a different way. Continue reading
Micromanaging your team can lead to success. However, if you want a team that functions at a high level and with creativity, you must give your team some autonomy. Instead of dictating how you want a project to be completed, describe, in detail, the results you want. Your role as a leader is provide your team with what they need, and to remove obstacles – make sure you are not one of those obstacles.
Instead of constantly checking up on your team’s progress, ask these questions:
- What do you need to complete this project?
- What is in the way?
- How can I help?
Make sure you engage in conversation with your team. Notice that the questions above are open-ended; they open the door for conversation. Look for ways to help, but stay out of the way. Your team will appreciate your confidence in them.
Many leaders have a hero complex. They want to be known as a problem-solver, the go-to person when something needs to be done or fixed. But, is being that hero in the best interest of your organization? Is handling a problem that could be handled just as well by someone else the best way for you to contribute to the good of your organization?
Defer projects better handled by someone else, to that someone else. As a leader, you should work strategically on the objectives that move you, your team, and your organization toward predetermined goals. Don’t do the wrong things.
To make the decision whether or not to defer a request, ask yourself these questions:
- Could someone else handle this project better than I can, or least handle it sufficiently?
- Does this request better fit the responsibilities of someone else?
- Does this project take me away from something core to my strategic goals or my part in my organization’s strategic goals?
- Is handling this request the best use of my time?
If the request is coming from a superior, the questions above will help you justify your deflection. Your boss does not want to take you away from your highest value activities.
Being a hero and solving problems is great. But, don’t let your hero complex and doing the wrong things get in the way of what really matters.
Opportunity knocks often. Are you prepared to take advantage of it?
Some people seem to be lucky. These people go from one success to another. But, is it really luck? Do they carry a talisman of some sort?
If these people are lucky, it is because they set themselves up to be lucky. Opportunities abound. But, you need to be ready to take advantage of it when it arrives.
- Practice – You have likely heard, “practice makes perfect”. Work to continuously improve. You cannot take advantage of opportunity if you aren’t prepared.
- Be persistent – Keep at it until your soul is no longer in it.
- Stay informed – You won’t answer the knock if you don’t hear it.
- Play to Win – You can’t merely show up. Show up planning to win.
- Listen for the knock – Expect to find opportunity. Pay attention and look for opportunity in your experiences.
A large part of leadership is creating vision and guiding a team toward that vision. As a leader, you must keep your teams’ focus on the vision. But, what if a team member’s goals seem to be out of alignment with the vision? Can you restore alignment?
Strong leaders make their corporate strategy transparent to their teams. Continuous communication of the strategy and its supporting goals helps maintain alignment. Many leaders assume the strategy is apparent and understood. But, this understanding is often not the case. It is important to make the vision clear and understood. Continue reading
For most leaders workload often becomes overwhelming. There are multiple projects, reports, and daily duties. Workload goes beyond the job. Many leaders also serve on boards and do volunteer work. There is also eating, sleeping, exercise, and family. Don’t let work overload overwhelm you. Here are three ways to streamline your life:
- Prioritize continuously – ask yourself if what you are doing is important, does it move you toward one of your long-term goals.
- Look for help – can you delegate any of your tasks? Don’t fall into the trap of “It faster to do it myself than to teach someone”. That is short-term thinking. Take the time to teach someone the task. Then, you have someone to whom you can delegate that task in the future.
- Learn to say “No” – You can’t do it all. Sometimes, although the request for your help may be for something very worthy, you just have to say “no”. If the request is from your boss, make sure he understands that by taking on something else, another project has to suffer. Whenever you are doing one thing, you are not doing something else.
It is easy to let the urgent push aside the important, especially when you are suffering from work overload. But, with thought and planning you can take control.
An organization’s decisions are made by individuals. Why do some organizations make better decisions? How can you help your team make better decisions?
Making good decisions is a skill. And, like any skill, practice leads to improvement.
- Let your team make decisions. Guide them, describe the results you want, but empower them to make decisions.
- After a project is concluded, do a debriefing. Review the decisions made. In retrospect, which would have been made differently ans why?
- Allow and encourage corrections. If during a project a it becomes obvious a decision was not the correct one, change it. Start over if necessary. A delay is better than a failure.
Performance reviews are an annual exercise at many organizations. Many people, on both sides of the review, loath them. But, the annual performance review is a terrific opportunity to reinforce ongoing performance management. The annual performance review should help define clear objectives. Here are 4 ways to make sure your reviews are useful to your team:
- Keep the review objective. This task can be difficult. Ask other leaders in your organization for their thoughts and observations. Put thought into comparing the person’s performance to their peers, and to people in other departments in a similar role.
- Balance evaluation and planning. A discussion of where the person is and where they should be, offers a perfect seque into discussions of goals.
- Goal alignment. The performance review is an excellent opportunity to discuss your organization’s strategy and goals, how your team’s goals fit into that strategy, and how the individual’s goals and functions fit into the bigger picture. (NOTE: I am writing a piece on this topic. Stay tuned!)
- Give continuous feedback to your team. There should be no surprises in the evaluation part of a review. As a leader, it is important that you have ongoing discussions with your team. Each member should know exactly where they stand at all times. You must be their coach.
Do you ever find yourself working with the mindset of avoiding failure? Perhaps you work through a project or assignment just to get it done, without getting any attention. We spend a lot of time and energy on not failing – this is a formula for mediocrity.
Instead, look for ways to improve on what you are doing. Work for growth and learning. Accept that you will fail. If you are not failing some, you are not changing enough. Remember that failure is an event, a point in time that passes, and a learning experience.
Success at work, regardless of your definition, is made up of many smaller successes. A successful life is made up of successful years; a successful year is made up of successful days. (I could put in weeks and drill to hours and minutes. But, you get the point). How do you make your work days successful?
A successful start to the day is important. Here are a few suggestions on how to start each day:
- Arrive a little early. An early arrival allows you time to transition into work mode.
- Stop. Relax a minute. Have a coffee. You likely had a harried morning. Perhaps there were traffic issues, or things were rushed or even left undone at home. Take time to focus on the now.
- Plan your day. Review your schedule; know what meetings you have. Review your to-do list. Decide the priorities. You likely left some things undone from the day before. Which of those still need to be done? Which items on your list should be delegated?
- Check in with your team. Connect with your team members. Be sure to be truly present. Pay attention to their needs. What are they working on that day? What do they need from you?
- Don’t check email – at least not first thing in the morning. If you dive into your email early, you may get pulled down rabbit holes of tasks and find it is lunchtime before you have done any of the other items above. If you must check email, scan for the urgent items. But, be careful not to be pulled into the rabbit hole trap.
- Make connections. If you have important calls to make, make them early in the day. It is easy to get pulled into the day, and put off making important calls.
- Take a mid-morning break. Perhaps have a second cup of coffee. Take a walk around the office. Use the time to ascertain how your morning is progressing. Are you on track?
Your mornings set the pace for your days. Take control of your morning and choose success for your day.