Leading people can be one of the most challenging (and one of the most rewarding) responsibilities in one’s career. Getting to a place of leadership often means that you have succeeded, whether that is in launching a company or helping to grow and manage one. Great leaders successfully impart the wisdom that comes with experience while inspiring teams to achieve their goals and function as a well-oiled machine.
But like anything that is both challenging and rewarding, the ideal is different from the reality. In reality, people are human. And that status applies to those we lead as well as ourselves. We all make mistakes and we all have room to learn. Whether being a good leader comes to you naturally – or not – it is still a skill that must be refined.
Here are 10 leadership hacks that I’ve developed as Global COO of Elevate – ideas that have helped me and my team reach higher levels of success.
Encourage your team to prioritise their own well-being to help prevent burnout. And walk the talk. As the workforce demographic shifts to millennials and Gen Z, the way we all approach the workplace is changing. Encourage your team to take that lunch-time gym class or book an amazing yoga class – even though it starts at 9am. And lead by example. When your team members see you behave this way, they’ll know that they can – and should – too.
Schedule time that serves specifically as space for strategic thought. Filling your day with back-to-back meetings feels suffocating for a reason – brains need space to “breathe.” As leaders, we need to have the ability to innovate. Without space and time to think, new ideas can be difficult to achieve.
How you perceive a situation can be dramatically different than how each of your team members sees things. Opportunities for feedback should be seen as gifts – embrace them! Be open and non-judgemental when you receive feedback and encourage your team to do the same. Additionally, if you want to increase your influence as a leader, it’s critical to hear how people perceive you. Their answers might not match your own pre-conceived notions. And remember, there are tools out there that can help. Recently at Elevate we began using Officevibe to ensure we had a space where employees could regularly provide feedback, and it’s up to them if it’s delivered anonymously or not.
Sometimes celebrating success is easy, like when your team wins a big pitch or is recognized for an award. But the small moments are just as important. Day after day, it can be easy to point out problems and dissect issues, prompting a lot of “why did this happen?” and “what can we learn?” But there is elegance in the everyday successes – launching a new process or reaching a benchmark. When you recognise your team for their smaller accomplishments they will feel seen – and soon you’ll have even more reasons to celebrate.
Give the task at hand your full attention. Multi-tasking is so often highly praised, but when you give your focus to one task at a time the results can be dramatic. It also is worth mentioning that even when we think we’re multi-tasking, we’re not. We’re doing several things in rapid succession. The fact is that we’re hard-wired to perform one task at a time – a study found that only 2.5% of people multi-task effectively. When we chose to focus on one thing at a time, we perform better.
You hired this person for a reason, so let them get on with it. It can be easy to jump in – whether delivering on a client request or solving a tactical issue. Stay out of the weeds and empower your team to stretch themselves, to make mistakes that they’ll learn from, and to deliver amazing work. And you’ll have more time for points 1 and 2!
Everyone knows that great culture is important – that’s obvious. But don’t let “culture” only be a monthly boozy night out with the team or an unused ping pong table in the corner of the office. These won’t deliver against your culture objectives. Take examples from companies such as Netflix, Zappos and Facebook. Create a culture manifesto that makes a difference to your team in particular, and watch their performance improve.
As leaders, we’re incredibly passionate. Couple this with the fast-paced nature of most businesses and there’s ample opportunity for us to make emotional, rather than rational, decisions. I’m not saying don’t listen to your gut, but I am suggesting that it’s beneficial to give yourself time to process. There are times when we need to make choices in an instant, but if you’re presented with both a decision to make and some time, choose to sleep on it.
Ask questions and don’t make assumptions. By asking questions, you’ll lead the way and encourage your team to replicate this behaviour. By exploring answers together, you’ll learn more as a collective and support their ability to create ideas that are, by nature, joint in design. Just because we’re in a leadership position doesn’t mean our idea is the idea we need to convince everyone to agree with.
Whilst you may be a “natural leader” or a nurtured one, there are complementary skills that can help you be more effective. Find a coach or a mentor you align with, identify areas you can improve on, and dedicate time to work on yourself (see point 2). Communication styles and coaching skills most often need improvement. Considering those in leadership spend 70 – 90% of their time communicating with their teams and others at work, this is a skill that should be pursued to mastery.
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