Leadership will pull you in a thousand different directions. It’s not like when you become a director or a vice president or a chief something that you suddenly have creative domain over everything you are responsible for.
It doesn’t work that way.
You have other people’s dreams and ideas to chase and make happen, you have the organization’s needs, which take precedence over everything. You could find yourself marching in a different direction than your passion and you must be passionate about it for the good of the team or the productivity of the group.
Five of the things I do, at least once daily, to earn my leadership include:
- I try to connect with someone in the team I lead or in a group of people I’m working with on projects. Maybe you have someone you don’t know very well yet, maybe there’s someone who’s struggling with something, maybe you just haven’t caught up in a while. Regardless, there’s a lot of value that comes from people knowing each other – trust is one of them. I make the time to connect because it's important both for now and the future. People need to know they're important, and it’s even better if you tell them that.
- I work to promote a democratized environment that puts the team's importance first. I also work to promote the idea that the goal is the objective; how we do it is up to the team. It doesn’t have to be my way and there is no highway. That means I give credit where credit is due, whether people are there to see me do it or not. People get value in knowing what their contribution is and deserve to have it said. Years ago, I sat in a meeting and watched my slideshow presentation on strategic planning being presented by an executive I had never met who went on to talk about the long hours he put in researching everything. I still had the original slides, I’d done all the work, and although it was within his responsibilities to own my work, his failure to give credit where credit was due always stayed with me.
- Be willing to change your mind at any moment. That means we could turn around on a decision we’ve already made, or that means we could pivot and shift in a heartbeat, but to me that also means we stay agile in our thinking. I do everything I can to make sure we stay focused on long-term objectives and see them though, but if what we’re doing isn’t working, then I as a leader need to be open to hearing that and changing. It can’t be perfect because it was my idea, that kind of thinking promotes people who just agree with you. Instead, embrace the contrary person. In the right environment, they make the team and the leader think.
- I try to connect with someone from leadership. That could mean a director out in the field, another executive, a business leader in the corporate office, or anything in between. Why? A few reasons. Primarily, the leaders typically hear the complaints and if you can build a good relationship with them you can hear what’s going wrong before it eats you. Beyond that, this is important because relationships drive business almost to the same degree that data and strategy does. Ignoring that influence is to both your and your team’s detriment.
- I strive to insert fun. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s a quick game or trivia challenge, or maybe it’s the team going out to do something just different from the norm. Whatever it is, I know the team is working hard, I know we achieve all the time, but there’s got to be celebration or there’s no reward.
I know it’s hard with conflicting meetings and priorities always driving your day, with projects creeping up that you didn’t plan for, and trying to reach objectives critical to the business while also paying attention to the in-the-moment things that come your way.
Don’t lose yourself in the work made by the mission by forgetting the people are the mission. Invest a little time in the team, they deserve it.