Three Key Behaviors that Will Get You Further, Faster
Companies spend billions on leadership development because leaders create a huge competitive advantage. They’re more productive and so are the people around them. Great leaders inspire people to consistently achieve extraordinary performance. They motivate and align their teams. They adapt quickly. They provide guidance and support to help their teams succeed.
A recent survey of top leadership thinkers identified three key behaviors all successful leaders exhibit — behaviors you can start applying today.
- Be a coach, not a manager
- Recognize accomplishments
- Listen actively
“If the organization can teach the leader to reach out to co-workers, to listen and learn, and to focus on continuous development, both the leader and the organization will benefit.” Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan
1. Be a coach, not a manager
Just like great sports coaches, top corporate leaders are continuously engaged, offering guidance and support, and publicly recognizing great performance. They know when to engage and how to interact with each personality on the team to get the most out of them. The best coaches are disciplined, sticking to a routine that helps them drive constant improvement.
Top workplace leaders, like great sports coaches, interact regularly with their teams in a focused and meaningful way ensure they’ve got a direct pulse on activity: What’s working? Where are the gaps? Are they on track to achieve their objectives?
“Taking the time to develop people is an important behavior of a leader.” John Zenger and Joseph Folkman
One of the most easily ignored aspects of good leadership is the one-on-one meeting. Just as easy as these meetings are to schedule, they’re pushed aside or deferred in favor of immediate issues or priorities. That’s a mistake.
Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer advises leaders to “encourage managers to have frequent, ongoing conversations with their staff about performance.” Managers who engage in this way are able to provide focused coaching, tailored to the needs of each individual at a particular moment in time.
Having quick conversations more frequently – such as every week or two – increases relevance and timeliness of advice. If you wait months between conversations you risk of forgetting important advice, giving it too late, or identifying issues after they’ve already had a negative impact.
Frequent, meaningful one-on-one meetings create an advantage because they help you:
- Focus on the right activities
- Course correct more quickly
- Stay on the same page
Another important benefit is that frequent conversations get employees used to receiving constructive feedback and they help managers improve as coaches. As you continue with the routine, the process becomes more efficient. The long-term effect on team morale, output and leader effectiveness can be huge.
Silicon Valley management guru Michael Lopp shares valuable tips for conducting 1:1s here:
2. Recognize accomplishments — even the small ones
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple ‘Thanks.” Have you ever been surprised to hear that your manager knew of something you recently did well? How many times in our careers have we waited for praise on a job we thought we completed effectively? How many times have we been disappointed?
Great leaders recognize achievements, big and small. They’re proactive about acknowledging the day-to-day things we’re expected to do, such as finishing a report on time or running an effective client meeting. They don’t leave their people wasting time thinking about how they’re doing – time at work that otherwise could have been focused on what they’re supposed to be working on.
Leading thinkers from Drucker to Zenger and Folkman tell us that the key to developing great leadership is to build strengths.
While it may seem obvious to you as a manager that people know when they’ve done good work, your team members thrive on knowing that you noticed their accomplishments. This is particularly important for those just entering the workforce. Forget the annual review. If that is how often you plan to give Gen Y feedback, chances are they won’t stick around long enough to find out.
Even if sharing a quick “Thanks” seems unnecessary or mundane, it can go a long way in improving performance and making your top performers happy. That’s why the most successful leaders do it.
3. Listen actively — and act on what you hear
You’ve got to be in the know if you want to get ahead. Actively ask for feedback, listen to constructive feedback and act on it. This is a critical trait of high performers, and one that will help you grow faster as a leader.
Actively seek feedback from peers, employees, managers and mentors. Ask difficult questions and be prepared for occasionally difficult answers. You’ll increase your momentum upwards and your team and organization will benefit. By having the discipline to ask regularly, and being open to input, you will:
- Continuously build on your strengths.
- Quickly uncover areas for improvement.
- Consistently help your team deliver better results
Top leaders adapt quickly based on the input they receive. By being open to feedback and regularly asking for it, you’ll be able to course-correct sooner. You’ll get more done, faster, and it will be better quality. That’s the power of taking the initiative to ask for feedback.
Many individuals may not be comfortable sharing important feedback in person, but they will discuss as a group once the issue is raised. Giving your team a way to share their insights with you anonymously makes the feedback channel more effective.
Anonymity lets people be more direct and honest.
Giving your people a safe way to air concerns will help prevent bigger issues down the road. If you demonstrate responsiveness by taking action based on the feedback you’ll motivate your team to participate. Everyone will improve.
Leadership is your advantage
The best leaders regularly engage with their teams: for advice on how they can improve; to award praise when it’s due; and to provide timely guidance to help each of their teammates succeed.
“The effective executive makes strength productive,” writes management guru Peter Drucker. With ongoing, focused engagement – listening, acknowledging and coaching – the best workplace leaders, like the best athletic coaches, identify issues early and act on them quickly, so they can spend the majority of their time building strengths to increase their advantage.
Employing these techniques will help you make a bigger impact at work — aligning, engaging, and motivating your team to consistently deliver results.