Great leaders are great because of their actions. Intentions are important. Words are important. But results are everything.
But maybe not the types of results you might have in mind.
Consistently accomplish these five missions and your company — and most importantly your employees — will reap the benefits. Fail at these five missions and no matter how hard you work, you and your company will eventually fall short.
1. Rescue a failing employee.
Every team has an employee who has fallen out of grace. Maybe he failed to complete a task, lost his cool in a meeting, or is simply slow to catch on. Regardless of the reason, over time a failing employee comes to be seen by his peers, and by you, as a weak link.
When that happens it’s nearly impossible for that person to turn the corner on his own. The weight of team disapproval is almost always too heavy for one person to move.
But that weight is not too heavy for you to move.
Before you remove a weak link from your chain, put your full effort into trying to rehabilitate that employee instead. Address the situation in a positive way. Say, “John, I know you’ve been struggling. I also can tell you’re trying. Let’s find ways we can get you where you need to be.” Express confidence, be reassuring, and most of all tell him you’ll be there every step of the way.
Don’t relax your standards; just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.
Granted it sometimes won’t work out. That’s okay; see the effort, and the example you set, as its own reward.
2. Develop every single employee.
If your sole focus is on hitting targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals your leadership focus is misdirected. If you don’t have great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will pay off. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it’s your job to help every employee become capable of achieving more.
Plus even the most self-starting employees can only do so much to improve their skills.
As a leader your most important function is to provide your employees with the training, mentoring and opportunities they need and deserve. In the process you get to listen, guide, and develop loyalty and commitment. That way reviewing results and tracking performance shifts from enforcement to personal progress and improvement – both for the employee and for your company.
Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of employees; when you do, goal achievement is a natural and long-term result.
3. Deal with problems immediately.
Nothing kills team morale quicker than issues that aren’t addressed. Interpersonal quarrels, performance problems, inter-departmental feuds… they all negatively impact employee motivation, enthusiasm, and even individual work ethic.
Small problems never go away. They always fester and grow into bigger problems.
And almost as bad, when you ignore an issue your employees lose respect for you.
Without respect you can’t lead.
Never hope a problem will magically disappear or that someone else will deal with it. No matter how small, deal with every issue head-on.
4. Serve others… not yourself.
Never intentionally say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did. If it should go without saying, don’t say it.
Make sure your glory is always reflected, never direct. Why? When employees excel, you excel. When your team succeeds, you succeed. When a failing employee you work to rescue turns becomes a superstar, remember he or she deserves the praise, not you.
You were just doing your job the way a great leader should.
Consistently act as if you are less important than your employees… and everyone will know how important you really are.
5. Remain humble.
As a leader you have reached a level many of your employees hope to someday reach. They admire what you have accomplished. They respect you for your hard work and achievements.
So sometimes an employee will just want to talk or to spend a little time with you.
When that happens you can blow that individual off because you’re too busy… or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, motivate, reassure, or give someone hope for greater things in their life.
The higher you rise the greater the impact you can make on the people around you… and the greater your responsibility to make that impact.