So you’ve been in your leadership role for a while now. You think you’re ready for the next step. You even dream about your next promotion. You find yourself sometimes thinking, “Why did that decision get made? I would do things differently.”
Here’s a challenge – put yourself in the TOP role at your company. What would YOU do if you were the CEO? Yeah, dream a little! Actually, take out a piece of paper and start jotting down notes what you would do if you were in charge. Take 5 minutes right now and bullet point some thoughts down.
Let me ask some questions now that you’ve made some initial “decisions”:
* How would your dream decisions move your company forward?
* How does what you wrote down positively impact the bottom line?
* How much of what you wrote was a personal commentary on your boss or your boss’s boss?
* How does what you wrote align with your company’s mission?
* How would you convince other leaders to follow you and your vision?
* How would you communicate your vision to the Board of Directors and/or shareholders?
I’ve heard the lunch conversations. I’ve been involved in a few myself over the years. A lot of employees SAY they know what THEY would do if they were in charge. But when truly faced with that responsibility, it becomes far more daunting, doesn’t it? Why?
– We typically see life and work through our own experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that we haven’t had the experiences, training, or exposure necessary. What we learn and apply at work is critical to demonstrate that we are ready for the next step.
– We see other people work and think it’s easy. The good ones make it look easy (i.e. Michael Jordan). But when faced with new responsibilities, that work becomes a bit more scary. It takes hard work to be an effective CEO. It takes a lot of hard work to get to that point in your career.
– CEO’s have to work well with others. They are surrounded by leaders of leaders. Many senior manager meetings are ego-fests. Those can be treacherous waters to navigate. Effective CEO’s have to know when to step in, when to keep quiet, when to allow a decision to be discovered by another, and when to say, “this is the direction we’re going.”
But I still think this little exercise is worth the time. It will show you how much you truly understand about your company, how it makes money, how it spends money, and how your customer-base likes doing business with you. You may expose some of your own weaknesses – and that’s very valuable!
And hopefully along the way, you’ll gain a better appreciation of your CEO and what she/he faces on a daily basis. Determine you will be a team member who will make their job just a bit easier.
Own your results. Own your attitude. Own your commitment. Start by being the CEO of YOU.
Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For example, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question. Many people wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure. The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures. More so, the decision making process is an acute understanding of being familiar with the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns; knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes.
The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers. Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions. This is why most senior executives will tell you they depend strongly upon their “gut-feel” when making difficult decisions at a moment’s notice.
Beyond decision making, successful leadership across all areas becomes learned and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, serving the people they lead and overcoming hardships. No wonder the best CEOs are paid so much money. In 2011, salaries for the 200 top-paid CEOs rose 5 percent to a median $14.5 million per year, according to a study by compensation-data company Equilar for The New York Times.
If you are looking to advance your career into a leadership capacity and / or already assume leadership responsibilities – here are 15 things you must do automatically, every day, to be a successful leader in the workplace:
1. Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up
Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room. Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions. They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view. They use their executive presence to create an approachable environment.
2. Make Decisions
Successful leaders are expert decision makers. They either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress. Successful leaders have mastered the art of politicking and thus don’t waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum. They know how to make 30 decisions in 30 minutes.
3. Communicate Expectations
Successful leaders are great communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to “performance expectations.” In doing so, they remind their colleagues of the organization’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed.
I had a boss that managed the team by reminding us of the expectations that she had of the group. She made it easy for the team to stay focused and on track. The protocol she implemented – by clearly communicating expectations – increased performance and helped to identify those on the team that could not keep up with the standards she expected from us.
4. Challenge People to Think
The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow.
If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work.
5. Be Accountable to Others
Successful leaders allow their colleagues to manage them. This doesn’t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs.
Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just their own.
6. Lead by Example
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.
7. Measure & Reward Performance
Great leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding them.
When a group needs to make a decision, it is a common practice to seek consensus. We do this by asking people to vote. Building consensus is after all key in a democratic process. When you have a vote, in essence you “have a say” in the outcome. Even if the vote doesn’t go your way, you still had the privilege of having a voice.
Voting may be an effective way to elect someone into office. After all, you will rarely, if ever, get 100% of people voting to agree on any one candidate, or anything else for that matter. Besides, if everyone agreed there would be no need to even have a vote.
However, contrary to popular belief, voting is a terrible way to make decision by a team.
In fact, achieving consensus does not help teamwork or foster collaboration, but rather impedes it.
There are two fundamental reasons why…
1. Because the only people who own a decision made by a vote are those who voted with the majority opinion.
Everyone else gets to say I didn’t agree, which all too often results in behavior that undermines what needs to happen after the decision is made; and
2. Because the process of building consensus more often than not becomes about winning the debate at hand so you can get enough votes to prove you are right or your idea is the best one.
Unfortunately this tends to polarize people creating a camp of winners and a camp of losers, rather creating the sense that you are one team. Furthermore, when you are focused on winning, you are not inclined to learn from the opposing viewpoint. This is a big reason why an intelligent group of individuals does not necessarily function as an intelligent team.
It’s not that consensus is all bad. It has it’s place and purpose, but it isn’t enough if you want to function like a high performing team. Nor is pursuing agreement likely to help you leverage the collective intelligence of the individuals in any group.
So go ahead and use a consensus building process to get the opinions and issues on the table.
Use it to ensure everyone’s view is represented and help people understand the different points of views and options available.
Take a vote so you can “take the pulse” on where people stand.
Yet that is where the value in consensus building ends when it comes to making a decision that must be owned by every member of a team to succeed.
If you want everyone on the team to actually own a decision, you must shift the conversation from achieving consensus to building alignment. This requires that you shift your context and process from one of voting to gather agreement to one of choosing to align behind a shared commitment.
When you vote you simply declare your opinion. If the vote doesn’t go your way, you don’t have to pretend you agreed. If things don’t work out, you can reserve the right to blame “them” or say “I told you so”. Choosing, on the other hand, requires you to do the work necessary to be able to stand behind a decision as if you made that decision yourself. If things don’t work out the only place to look is in the mirror.
It is admittedly much harder to build alignment than it is to build consensus. In fact, It can be hard work for everyone involved, but it pays dividends when it comes to doing the hard work.
Want to strengthen your team with every decision?
Stop calling for a vote and start asking for a committed response by requesting of each and every team member to do the hard work of choosing the best possible decision together.