Strategic leadership is a challenging job, which is why it took grit and determination to get to where you are today. You can stay there, while being an effective leader of an excelling team. You can even do it without the stress. To get better results without feeling like you’re always playing from behind, focus on these four skills:
Set Clear Expectations & Communicate
Most of us assume that we’re better communicators than we actually are. The trouble is, we have an idea in our head of our expectations for our team yet don’t fully communicate them to the right people. As a result, our leadership fails before it even gets off the ground because our team doesn’t know what’s expected of them.
First, get crystal clear in your own mind about what it takes for a team member to be successful and identify how you’ll measure your team’s progress. Then communicate these expectations, clearly. Putting the expectations in writing helps, but it’s also important to allow an open communication about them. Allow team members to ask for clarification and buy into the expectations.
Be sure to stay connected to team members so you can keep them updated on progress and any changes to the expectations. Facts on the ground often change what we need or want from our teams, and it’s up to us to update them and be sure we’re communicating.
Get Great at Giving Feedback
Having difficult conversations is…difficult, especially when the lines of communication aren’t always open. But giving feedback is a core competency of leadership and one that needs to be done often. Without regular feedback, people make assumptions about how they’re doing and whether or not they’re meeting expectations. In the absence of feedback, people not performing up to par tend to think they’re doing well and those high achievers tend to think they’re not living up to the ideal. That’s a lose/lose situation for everyone!
When team members receive both positive and negative feedback on a regular basis, it’s easier to have the more difficult conversations when needed. Many of us are so busy we forget to give our teams a verbal high-five when they deserve it. But getting in the habit of praising people for great performance isn’t just good for your team; it helps you get more comfortable giving feedback overall and can bolster you when you need to give negative feedback as well.
It’s critical that high performers are told they’re doing a good job because it becomes easier to communicate when it’s time to talk about a problem. Be sure that you’re giving feedback consistently, not just at review time. And when you do have to give negative feedback, keep it to the facts and avoid personal criticism.
Learn to Delegate Effectively
Being a great leader means you don’t have time to do it all by yourself. It means you empower your team by delegating work and tasks to them so you have time to do what you do best–lead. But delegation is also difficult because it raises several mental blocks, including the belief that you’re the only person who can do it right. And training team members to act in your absence takes time, which is often in short supply.
First, make up your mind that it’s time to delegate and know what you need to take off your plate. Administrative tasks, projects that aren’t in your area of expertise and even tasks that you just don’t love to do are all a good place to start delegating.
Once you make up your mind to delegate, don’t fall short by adopting an all or nothing approach. Too many leaders micromanage team members through tasks (making it impossible to evaluate the team) or dump work on teams and run (not giving them the background and support they need to do the task right). The result? We’re “surprised” when things don’t work out well.
Instead, set your team up for success by having systems in place for deciding who does what. A quality organizational chart and up-to-date job descriptions are a good place to start. Then check in and follow up with team member who you’ve delegated to, but avoid checking in too much and micromanaging them.
Take Coaching and Development Seriously
In every business and every industry, coaching and team development is a key to success. It’s your responsibility as a leader to ensure that each team member receives the professional development they need to be successful in their current role and in future roles as they grow. This is key to retaining quality talent and reaching your goals as a leader, team and organization.
Coaching and development is a long-term, slower play, so it’s easy to forget about it or not see its value in a busy day. Free up time on your calendar to make it happen for yourself and your team members. The more systems and delegation you have in place, the easier this will be.
Then engage with your team regularly to find out where their development needs are and what future plans they have. Have conversations about individual team members’ hopes and goals for their careers as well as where they may be struggling or need more support. It’s about asking the right questions and keeping the lines of communication open so team members feel comfortable sharing with you.
Leading your team to success is what you do best, but having the tools in place and the communication open will help ensure that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Having trouble getting your mindset where it needs to be so you can start delegating? Grab my free resource, The Four Pillars of a Success Mindset, today!