October 31, 2012
What To Do Every Day Before You Get To Work

When you’re in charge, it can be tough to get feedback from the people you most need to hear from: Your employees.

So while you can keep your door open, constantly ask for ideas, hold lots of meetings, be accessible and approachable — basically do everything you possibly can to get feedback — sometimes there’s only person you can count on to tell the unvarnished truth: You.

So start doing that. Every day, before you get to work, look in the mirror and repeat after me:

“I am not the difference.” Even the best leaders can’t solve every problem — and sometimes even the biggest problems get solved even when the leader is terrible.

While you certainly are important, your employees are more important. Focus less on what you do well and a lot more on what you could do better. Work hard to overcome your weaknesses.

Not only will you slowly become a better leader, you’ll also set a great example for your employees.

“I don’t have every answer.” Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean all your views and opinions are valid… and it definitely doesn’t mean all your views and opinions should be shared with employees.

I once worked at a plant where a sinkhole formed in the parking lot. We brought in a geologist to test for sub-surface issues under the building. At the reporting meeting our CEO jumped up, drew a few lines on the map of the facility and grounds, and said to the geologist, “That’s all you need to do. Settled. Now: Next topic?”

Titles don’t automatically confer wisdom. Always assume you don’t have all the information you need to make a great decision; that way you’ll listen more than you speak.

“I’m not that entertaining. In fact, far from it.” Being a boss is a little like being famous in that employees will treat you differently simply because of your position.

Keep in mind they may treat you like a rock star, but inside they may not feel the same way. If going to work gives you a charge because you get to channel your inner Chris Rock or (name your political pundit) – and you don’t feel that way when you’re at home or with friends – it’s time to reevaluate how you behave.

Never force your opinions, jokes, or point of view on employees just because you can.

“My employees aren’t one big happy family.” Your job is to win customers, increase efficiency, reduce waste, and basically make things happen. Creating a pseudo-family isn’t part of the job.

You should absolutely be friendly, but you should not be friends with your employees.

And don’t say you have the interpersonal and professional skills to strike the right balance because you don’t — no one has that blend of abilities. Don’t make employees feel they need to do things with you outside of work — or make others somehow feel left out because you don’t.

Instead make other friends or better yet spend more time with your family. Great leaders keep their relationships separate.

Should you be caring, warm, and supportive? Yes. Should you try to create a family?

“I will not expect my employees to care as much as I do.” Many CEOs get frustrated because they feel employees aren’t as invested in the success of the company as they should be.

If that’s you, you’re wrong. The company is yours. The team is yours. You should care more. Inspire your employees by setting goals and helping them achieve those goals. Set high standards, expect great performance, and reward outstanding employees.

But expecting the same level of dedication and sacrifice will only leave you frustrated — and negatively impact your ability to lead.