If everything is about AI and technology, then why worry about people? It makes no sense right? well we all know than an organisation is made up of people and happy people work better, smarter, more creatively and give more – that means higher performance.
It sounds simple and it is. simple doesn’t mean easy though. That’s why we work with leaders who have all the systems and processes in place, yet performance isn’t rising at the levels they need. Now they need to focus on the people.
Here are five leadership principles that will help you build a people focused business that wins.
Any high performance business with multiple layers needs to measure. It’s common practice to review the data and performance indicators. Data gives you information but it doesn’t give you the full story. Only having conversations will do that and that’s what you need to focus on – the people and their stories.
I can’t tell you how many times I have asked a senior leadership team to share their vision and mission and they reply with a revenue or growth target. I then ask who set that target, for what purpose and does it really motivate anyone in the business. I mean, are you really motivated to make someone else, namely shareholders, richer? Of course not. But if you can articulate why the target matters then you might start sparking some interest in others.
Perhaps hitting the target will mean more investment, more stability, opportunities for development or promotion. Perhaps it means that you are reaching more customers, solving more problems, righting a wrong in the world or in someones world. Helping people to see the bigger vision will help your people to connect their own why with the companies why.
As a leader your job is to frame the business goals in the big picture, long term bigger vision. When you get into the day to day detail you lose that focus. Of course this long term view comes with age and experience. You raise your EQ levels and shift from simply existing in the moment of fear, stress, pressure, anger and excitement. You can make choices from a more self-aware state, regulate your instant reactions to problems and make strategic decisions. This in itself helps your people to see the bigger picture and you lead by example.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your style fitted all – but you aren’t leading clones. You really don’t want clones in your business either, they all think and act the same way, coming up with the same solutions to the same problems. You need a team of unique individuals with different strengths and experiences to support you in delivering your goals. What you do want is a group of individuals who buy into your company values, behaviours and vision.
You need to meet the needs of the people you lead and to do this you need to adapt to each person. One size doesn’t fit all and especially in a multi-generational workforce. Even within generations, we are all different. Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation yet, so assuming you style is hitting the mark is a big mistake.
So adapt your leadership style to the individual. Clones shape themselves to meet the needs of the leader. Leaders shape their behaviours to meet the needs of their unique followers. If someone is low key, introverted or calmer, mirror their energy and communicate with them, listen to them and give them the space to find answers. If they are direct, high energy, results orientated, set them stretching targets that will energise. We offer Everything DiSC personality profiles to help your teams understand each others styles, but have a conversation and actively listen. That will give you all the clues you need to find out how you can get them most out of them.
It’s not just the millennial generation that needs instant feedback. we all use social media and smart phones now. They give us instant feedback on whether someone likes a status by the number of likes. We are all drawn into the immediacy of our actions and consequences.
We have always promoted the concept of positive performance management. Move away from the annual performance review and shift towards on time, specific, project based goals, coaching and specific feedback. If you spend 15-20 minutes talking to an employee each week, even a quick check in call, it improves performance immediately.
Be specific, what did you see in them, experience, hear or observe. Sometimes the result wasn’t what you expected, but you can recognise the courage, perseverance or resilience they demonstrated., There is something to recognise and something to improve. Constant, specific, real time feedback will create a winning people focused business.
You can learn from anyone or any situation if you have a growth mindset. If you portray yourself as the font of all knowledge and the key decision maker, you miss out on all of the brilliant ideas and perspectives of others. When you encourage others to speak up, fail forward and fail fast, and find solutions for themselves, they not only develop faster, but they also become more motivated to see the solution through to the end.
Every client I work with teaches me something and makes me better at my work. Even if you disagree with someone, or perhaps don’t even like them, with a growth mindset you can get curious to learn about their views. Listen to understand your people, not to simply respond. To feel truly listened to creates trust and in turn commitment.
Often the leaders I work with come to me frustrated that their people are unwilling to step up, find solutions or fall into group think. So I observe them with their teams and notice something very common. They speak first. By speaking first about the problem, it is very easy to read your body language and tone about the solutions or directions you want to take. They will then, subconsciously, offer solutions that will please you, not what is the solution that is best. You are more influential than you realise.
Instead, empower others to find solutions. If someone comes to you with a problem, rather than speaking first, ask them what solutions have they come up with and which do they think is best and why? Then just listen.
Then ask permission to brainstorm or simply ask them what they need from you right now. Often they just need your support or championing. They assume ownership and accountability and grow a little taller when you support their solution.It takes self-discipline to stand back and not jump in to fix mode. You are not there to be the hero, you are there to build heroes.
Know your place and always speak last.