As one year winds down and another begins soon it’s helpful to fine-tune your leadership skills to prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead. After all, your personal levels of focus, hunger, and sense of urgency will set the pace for your team. Perhaps nothing goes as far to either elevate or degrade your leadership credibility than does your responses to the various situations, problems, and “little” people issues you encounter each day. Following are fourteen everyday realities you face as a leader. Your proper response to them will shape your culture, your team, your reputation, and ultimately, your results.
1. The appropriate response to winning is:
Give credit to the team and then spend 20% of your time acknowledging, reinforcing, and learning from what you did right and 80% of your time facing where you still fell short and have opportunities to improve.
2. The appropriate response to losing is:
Accept responsibility for the failure and then spend 20% of your time studying, discussing and correcting task failure, and 80% of your time incorporating those adjustments into your future plans and preparation for what’s ahead.
3. The appropriate response to making a mistake is:
Admit it quickly, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.
4. The appropriate response to a subordinate’s mistake is:
Point it out and in your critique separate the performer from the performance. Use the error as a teaching tool and not as a battering ram. Then redefine your expectation and show what good performance looks like. When all is done encourage the team member to take another shot and to learn that when they hit a wall the best response is to bounce and not splatter.
5. The appropriate response to feedback, positive or negative, is:
“Thank you.” Don’t allow praise to inflate your ego, nor permit your ego to dismiss valid observations about how you can improve your leadership and performance.
6. The appropriate response to a customer problem is:
Treat it as a gift and seize the opportunity to turn a disappointed customer into part of your unpaid sales force by wowing him or her with your eagerness and ability to make things right without the hoops, blame game or delays.
7. The appropriate response to relational conflict between you and another team member.
Humbly make the first move to address the issue, admit any wrong doing, flush out and deal with hard feelings, gain closure and move forward in unity. Throughout the process remember that in most cases it’s far more productive that your need to be “right” is subordinate to the long-term vitality of the relationship’s health.
8. The appropriate response to a strategic plan that you determine is not working:
Change it. Remain locked like a laser on your desired outcome without becoming attached to how you will get there. Remain focused on results, yet flexible in your approach to securing them.
9. The appropriate response to feeling stuck, burned out, or void of passion for your work:
Read a book, attend a course, engage and pick the brains of those more successful than you in a given area. Learning is energizing and has a catalytic ability to dislodge you from ruts. The better you get on the job, the less time you have to spend there, and more time you can spend away from it pursuing balance in other areas of your life that contribute to your overall well-being.
10. The appropriate response to realizing that your culture has become weak with accountability:
Destroy gray areas by redefining performance and behavioral expectations for both daily activities and monthly results. Put them in writing, offer fast feedback on performance to keep people on the right track, and apply consequences for failure when necessary.
11. The appropriate response to a growing sense of entitlement from my employees concerning their jobs and rewards:
Establish standards so that team members must qualify to receive perks they currently take for granted: lunches provided on busy Saturdays, the right to participate in contests or monthly spiffs, basing all promotions on performance rather than tenure, and the like. By holding others more accountable, and attaching a qualifying performance metric as a prerequisite for the extras they now take for granted, you strengthen your culture by creating a meritocracy and eliminating your welfare state.
12. The appropriate response to an employee who blames and fails to take responsibility for his or her results:
Turn their head away from the window and into the mirror. Help them to face and focus on the aspects of their job that they can control. This includes but is not limited to: attitude, discipline, character choices, where they spend their time, with whom they spend it, the choice to grow, follow up, hold others accountable, follow prescribed processes, deciding who joins the team, who must leave it, etc. A human being becomes powerless when they give their energy to things they can do nothing about: the economy, weather, stock market, unemployment rate, advertising, what the competition’s doing and more.
13. The appropriate response to an employee who offers excuses for task failure.
Teach him or her that you will accept explanations for task failure, but not excuses. Explanations relate what went wrong, or didn’t get done, along with the acceptance of personal responsibility for the failure and a plan for how to succeed next time. Excuses simply blame. Special note: Lest you become a hypocrite, if you’re going to stop accepting excuses you must first renounce them personally.
14. The appropriate response to realizing that your team is in more of a maintenance than a growth mode:
Acknowledge your role in allowing this mindset to grip the culture during your leadership watch. Increase your daily impact by investing more time on the front line and spending less time in your office. Apply the other eleven appropriate responses listed as necessary to shift away from your own maintainer or administrator tendencies and begin leading again.