It’s clearly management’s responsibility to lead, but what is genuine and effective leadership? Ask 20 managers and you get 20 different opinions. (I’ve done this many times.)
In my view, setting goals and objectives is a key leadership responsibility for owners and managers. This is not a collective responsibility. Five people can rarely agree on where to have lunch, so relegating important goals and direction to “everyone together” is folly.
It is the leader’s job to establish clear goals and direction, and then to enlist others’ willing cooperation. The operative word here is “willing.” I’m a freedom guy, so my roots are deeply entrenched in individual freedom to choose our life’s work and direction. Gather around you those with similar values and aspirations and invest your time and effort in creating an organization that expresses those aspirations.
Focus on Behaviors, Written Objectives, Metrics
In working with others, focus on behaviors, not emotions or attitudes. This is the most common pitfall for many managers. We typically see behaviors and draw conclusions, mostly based on our own worldview and values, and then we relegate our perceptions to others as their “attitude.” Avoid this. Instead, engage in conversations to hear others’ values and commitments. This requires dialogue, not one-way conversations or PowerPoint presentations.
Put clearly articulated objectives in writing. Ensure they are specific, measureable, and time-sensitive. “By what date?” is my favorite question to managers when they show me written objectives.
The second most repeated mistake managers make in goal setting is failing to clearly spell out metrics by which others can ensure they are on the right track. Sports are different in that the objective of every team and team member is to “go and win the Grey Cup or Super Bowl,” whereas business objectives are not so easily stated.
Leading Versus Following
A retailer once told me he wanted to be number one in his region. “How many competitors do you have?” I asked. “Sixty-two,” he replied. “Then 62 people are establishing your objectives. Is that what you intend? You just want to be a little better than them? That sounds like following to me, not leadership.”
The retailer pondered that for a week and came back with a resolve to genuinely lead—by establishing the kind of store he wanted to create, defined by the kind of customer relationships, shopping experience, margins, team, etc. he had in mind. He was visibly enthused and relished the freedom to create the business of his dreams.
Within days, he had a team of similarly enthused and committed employees gathered together. He was well on his way to turning his (and their) dream into reality.
This is the beginning of a step-by-step approach to creating an effective team or organization.
Listen and Act
Read what others who have achieved success in your field say. What is their focus? What competencies do they require in each job position? How does your current training initiative support your requirements? Do you hire competencies or can they be developed?
Don’t stay within your field for ideas. You may fall into the trap of replicating others’ failures and insulating yourself from excellent ideas. Visit successful organizations, ask questions, and listen, listen, listen.
Don’t stick with “best practices.” Go beyond and listen for principles and competency-development ideas that fit your established objectives. And don’t just talk about it—implement appropriate ideas immediately.
Part 1 of 2.
Dave Mather is a 40-year veteran Dale Carnegie business coach.