We begin our careers by accepting an entry level job with specific requirements and responsibility only for ourself. If we do well, and increasingly master our assigned duties, we get promoted; if we sustain our high performance, then we continue to earn greater responsibility.
Eventually, given our reliable performance and high mastery of skills, we’re promoted into a leadership role and required to lead others who are responsible for doing the tasks we excelled at doing. We’re expected to transfer our mastery to those we lead. And our success is no longer about us getting results – it’s about helping our people get results.
Leadership is all about making our people the priority. It succeeds by leveraging influence, inspiring initiative, and sacrificing ego, taking no credit but accepting all blame. If we lead well, then our people will choose to follow our lead, discovering how they make a difference, and creating value for customers and the business. This is what defines successful leadership – it’s not about getting the most out of people, but rather helping people do their best work.
If one person on your team is performing poorly, do you challenge that person to do better, to turn things around, with the realization that their future with your company depends on this, or do you ask how they are doing, and how you can help them succeed?
Fear can be an effective tool to sharpen focus when confronting a crisis, but using it to motivate improvement in an individual’s performance, depletes trust and destroys leadership credibility; it confirms that the leader cares more about job output than the people who are responsible for delivering it. Most employees are naturally fearful about asking for help, believing that it exposes a weakness that could cost them.
But putting the person above the job creates the opposite impact, building trust, inspiring people to do better, and making them more comfortable asking for assistance. It encourages curiosity, initiative and commitment.
After a year of disruption, isolation and anxiety, during which much has changed, leading your people with empathy and appreciation may be the most effective way to help them generate results.
How do you lead your people?