7 Steps to Tone & Hone Your Leadership Skills
If your employees charge off in fear like Icabod Crane relentlessly pursued by the Headless Horseman, it’s long since time to review and refine your leadership skills. Leadership takes finesse; it’s a fine balance between directing and observing with a scoop of empathy heaped on top. At some point or other, everyone has had a scary boss. You know the boss that everyone talks about afterhours, the one that everyone refers to as “Attila,”and the boss that makes even former employees look over their shoulders while reflexively shrinking in fear.
Keep in mind that just earning the title “boss” creates an imbalance. Especially in at-will employment states, the implication is there that you hold someone else’s career and financial livelihood in your hands. Respect is one thing; fear is another. Your employees should show respect, especially when you have earned it, but they should not fear you. Unless your bucket list includes becoming the Scary Boss, you can tone and hone your leadership skills with these not-so-scary tips.
1. Create and Adhere to the Plan
Nothing creates fear like the boss who changes horses midstream. If you tell your employee to create a Powerpoint presentation for Wednesday, don’t stop by on Tuesday to see if it is completed. Bosses that bait and switch create fearful employees who mistrust their leader. Create a plan with the employee and stick to it unless both of you decide the plan needs revision.
2. Be Consistent
Inconsistency creates fear. Your employees want to do what is required, however, when you change the requirements frequently you disrupt their ability to execute. Employees at one law office were afraid to begin an assigned project because they were reasonably certain the managing partner would change how he wanted the project done by the next morning. Unpredictability makes you scary.
Consistency is also important in how you manage employees. It is impossible to treat all employees exactly the same way, but don’t show favoritism to one employee over another. As much as possible, be consistent and fair. If a huge project requires “all hands on deck,” then do not allow anyone to bow out.
3. Speak Softly
You don’t have to whisper, but neither should you screech like a banshee. Instead of shouting your employee’s name out your office door, pick up the receiver on that high-tech telephone system and quietly use the intercom to summon him. Even if you lost the biggest client your company has ever had, bellowing through the office will lose you far more than a client. You might lose the respect and support of your employees in the process.
4. Teach don’t Terrorize
Mistake happen. Turn those mistakes into learning situations. You did not always know what you do today, but look where you are now. If your administrative assistant booked you on the wrong flight to Denver for the mid-year conference, did she have enough information? Did you make it clear when you needed to arrive? If not, how can you change your communication to prevent this in the future? Your employee probably already knows that she failed you in this task. You will not make it better by making her afraid for her job or of some other form of retribution. Did you, as a leader, arm her with all the information or training she needed to do the job correctly?
If a project took longer than anticipated, are there tricks of the trade that you could have shared with your employee to help them do their job better? Again, think back to before your were “the boss.” Your employee might not know what he doesn’t know.
5. Answer “Why” Questions
When your employees do not understand your methodology, two things can occur. First, the result will not be what you expected because some employees need to see the big picture and understand the “why” before they can execute the “how” of any project. They need your help envisioning what needs to be accomplished and how it will be used. Second, you will not be growing future leaders. Who better to create new leaders than the leader herself? When you share “why” something needs to be done, you empower the employee to buy in to your vision while also teaching that employee to see things from a leadership perspective.
6. Encourage Creativity
General George S. Patton once said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” If you foist your method of doing things onto your employees, you may win the battle today, but you might lose the war tomorrow. Define what you want and when you want it, leave the rest to the employee unless she or he asks for guidance. Both of you might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome when creativity flows freely.
7. Listen to Employee Concerns
If an employee comes to you to address a complaint or a concern, listen to them. Show the employee that you are concerned about them as a valuable part of the team. When an employee brings to light a situation that needs resolution, and you do not take steps to address the conflict, not only will you send a message to the employee that you don’t care, but you might also face legal issues depending upon the conflict that needs resolution.
Fear should never be a factor in employment. You do not have to be all “sugar and spice and everything nice,” but you will achieve more with your staff if they aren’t shaking in their shoes every time you walk past their cubicles.12
TAGS: leadership management