I love this cartoon… and anyone who has ever browsed the business section at a bookstore probably understands. There are countless books on Leadership, and I personally own quite a few.
I think that the huge amount of available resources on the topic of leadership is very telling.
1: There is a leadership crisis, many companies are losing brilliant baby-boom leaders to a younger and less experienced generation of leaders.
2: Something isn't working.
One of the issues with leadership positions is that often people get thrust into positions of leading due to success in previous ventures for our respective companies. Often, there isn't much support to get them into that leadership role, so now more companies are investing in leadership training in order to facilitate smoother transitions.
The second point (in my opinion) has more to do with how leadership is often quantified. Are you leading or managing? How do you motivate your staff? How do you use their strengths? Engagement at work, EQ… etc. All of this is great information and I do believe it is very important… But in the end, no matter what the principles, it is the bottom line that is vital. That is what we as leaders will be judged by... were we successful or not?
Again, I want to be clear on how important I think connecting with your staff, engaging them, motivating by company vision, and having great communication skills is, in fact, it is the thrust of what we teach at Inrol. But I think we have to keep clear WHY those things are important to the company bottom line in order for us to apply that information effectively.
We have to talk about the objectives of leading and managing in order to do that.
• Demonstrates relentless pursuit of vision and results
• Demonstrates unyielding commitment to the business
• Faces tough realities and avoids excuses and rationalizations
• Recognizes the important distinction between profit and cash flow vs. revenue and growth
• Surrounds him or herself with experts
• Knows how to find the truth
• Develops an early warning system to identify problem areas
• Acts quickly to overcome problems as they arise
• Knows the details
• Is decisive
• Is ethical, fair and consistent
• Runs leaner then the management team would prefer
• Raises more money than the management team needs
• Is always learning
• Has a support group
In teaching soft-skills, it is vital to keep these characteristics front and center. You can provide examples and scenarios for for real world application of those skills towards these concrete objectives.
I would also supplement his list with a couple of thoughts.
Vision: This is mentioned in the above list, but it is so vital it needs to be mentioned again. No one works well without an overreaching objective. We work towards goals, what we do has to have some point or we won't do it. It is hard-wired into our system, humans move to goals. The ones that didn't had their genes removed from the pool. Even some of the most horrible people throughout history managed to convince other people to join them to achieve their goals. The way they did that was that they had a clear vision of what they wanted, belief in the ability to get it, and a plan. Don't be a horrible person, but it is vision that will get people to join you. Know what you are going for and communicate it as often as possible. Everything you do for your company is done to serve that vision. Communicate work and objectives in terms of that vision, in terms of the goals.
Standards: If you haven't set the standard, you don't have a standard. I just went to a talk in Calgary called 'Brands we Love' put on by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce with owners from three Calgary retail brands (espy, Cococo, Crave) which have truly taken off. If there is one thing that they all had in common it was Quality with a capital Q. Each one of them talked about standards they believed in and how those standards set them apart from the competition, and it's true. Each of those Brands already stood out in my mind because of those standards. I know what I am getting from each of them and it is high quality. Make your standards as high as possible, people work far better when they know that the work they do is way above average.
Accountability: Great to have standards, but if you want to lead you have to have accountability. No one wants to be the bad guy… well, maybe some people do, but that isn't okay either. You have to set up a system of accountability that is clear from the moment you ask someone to do something. You also have to demonstrate that you are accountable as well. No excuses. Be ethical, fair and consistent. Make clear objectives with time-lines that people have committed to, and follow up to make sure that things have been done. If they haven't, you need to do something about that.
Ownership: Give people as much ownership as possible when they have shown that they can be accountable. Align the company goals with their personal goals and make things happen that benefit everyone. With ownership comes pride, and with pride comes effort. Self-worth is based on the pride we have in what we do.
Rewards: Reward your winners. I cannot stress this enough, reward your winners. If it is praiseworthy, make sure you use praise that is specific to the actions they took. If they went over and above and added value for the customer, recognize them with something of real value. If they made you money, make them money. Pay your sales team well, you are dead without them. Incentivize, be thankful, be generous in ways that you can, and whatever you do RECOGNIZE achievement.
So yes, by all means get better at how you deal with people, they are judging you in every moment and it is vital to your success, but make sure you know what you want to achieve with your soft-skills. Hold yourself to high standards in how you communicate with others, but make sure you are also holding yourself to the commitments you are making to the company in each of those interactions, so that everyone can attain the results which will benefit you all.