2013-03-20

Eight things great leaders do

Drake Editorial Team

What do you think is the number one factor that determines a high-performing workplace? High rates of pay? The threat of redundancy hanging over everyone's heads?


Some recent research by the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, found it was simply the quality of the leadership.


Certainly this fits with many people's experience— that they have been most happy and performed at their best when they have had a great manager. It certainly fits with my experience of high-performing workplaces as well. When I speak to staff from such workplaces, they tend to say to me comments like, "We are so lucky with the manager we have. He is so good to work for …"


But I think the more important question is: what are these great leaders doing to create a team of people that are more productive, engaged and innovative? Is it simply that they have chosen the right people? Here is what the research found.


1. Great leaders spend more time speaking with their people. Put simply, great leaders are 'good people people'. They find time for their staff, they are approachable, and take a genuine interest in how staff are doing. They treat staff well on a consistent basis and support team members with challenges they may be having at work or at home.


People who work for such leaders often say they feel genuinely cared for. Compare this to stories of managers who go missing in action, are unapproachable, or who seem to have a closed-door policy.


2. Great leaders have clear values and practise what they preach. Here there is a match between what those in management say is important, and what they actually do.


We love to see leaders who set the example for the behaviour they want to see - those who find time for people when they say relationships are important, those who encourage innovation, and those who model the respectful behaviour they want to see throughout the organization.
If you are in a leadership role, what are the key values you want to encourage? And would staff say there is a strong match with your own behaviour?


3. Great leaders give employees opportunities to lead work assignments and activities. Strangely enough, as busy as people are, there are many people who love the opportunity to take on more responsibility.


Great leaders find out which team members would like more responsibility, what type of challenge or project they would like to take on, and support them in doing so.


Team members are also encouraged to contribute to decision-making whenever possible. In high-performing workplaces, you often see collaborative decision-making where many decisions are made by consensus. This is a very powerful way to encourage team members to take greater ownership and leadership over solutions.


4. Great leaders encourage employee development and learning. It is often the very high-performing workplaces who want training programs for their staff, not those who are struggling. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Great leaders invest in their people.


Such leaders know they can always do things better. They also know that most people want to grow and excel at what they do. Supporting staff in developing their skills also sends staff a clear message that they are valued.


5. Great leaders welcome criticism and feedback as opportunities to learn. They make it easy for team members to raise concerns, often asking for feedback informally and also putting in place processes that make it easy for team members to speak up. Regular two-way discussions and staff surveys are two examples. Importantly, great leaders respond in a positive way, often thanking people when they have raised their concerns.


Making it easy for people to raise concerns and give feedback has benefits at a number of levels. Firstly, it helps challenges to be identified so appropriate action can be taken sooner. Feedback also results in issues being addressed before they escalate into major concerns. A team leader's openness to feedback from their team also makes team members more open to feedback themselves.


6. Great leaders give increased recognition and acknowledgement to employees. They genuinely appreciate their people and the efforts they put in, and make a point of letting them know. Sadly, only about a third of people say they receive sufficient recognition for what they do. People in leadership roles should be concerned about this. The absence of sufficient recognition can be tremendously de-motivating for people.


Great leaders acknowledge effort and notice how team members’ best like their recognition. For many, a genuine and simple thanks is well-received. Others feel valued when they get to initiate a particular change. Some liked to be left alone and trusted to do their work.


7. Great leaders have a clear vision and goals for the future. People gain a lot of certainty from knowing the overall direction the workplace is heading and the specific goals that indicate progress in this direction. Importantly, people are clear as to their part in helping make these goals happen.


One of the interesting things about vision is that team members' ability to engage with the vision is largely up to their leader's ability to communicate it well. If the team leader can communicate their vision with genuine enthusiasm, this certainly becomes more engaging for their team.


8. Great leaders are innovative and encourage team members to think about problems in new ways. Because high-performing teams always want to improve, new ways of thinking and working are actively sought out.


Team members are actively encouraged to contribute and to experiment with new approaches. Failure, when it occurs, is seen as a positive thing - as a sign that innovation is taking place. One of the additional benefits of innovation is that it encourages a culture where people are more receptive to change.


How are those in leadership roles making out with the above at present? If you are in a leadership role, you may well be in a position to influence change. At the very least, rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 10 with each of the above strategies and set yourself a goal to lift your performance in one or two areas. I assure you, your team members will notice the difference.


Reprinted with the permission of Ken Warren BA, M Soc Sc, CSP, a Relationships Specialist who helps teams to perform at their very best. Through his positive, interactive and engaging speaking programs, Ken helps people to:• Build even stronger, more positive and productive teams • Cope well with the stress and challenges of their work • Produce better outcomes with very difficult clientsCheck out all of his FREE resources through www.positivepeoplesolutions.com.au

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