After I recently guest lectured to MBA students at a local university, one of the students asked me a question about alignment. I explained that one of the most important things for a leader to do is to be able to connect long-term goals to short-term actions. And leaders can do that best when they can share the big picture.
As a leader, it is imperative that you always remind your team why they are there. Help them to understand the purpose behind your company. Give them a reason to see that the little actions they do every day are important to accomplishing a bigger goal. Help them to see that they are many artists contributing to one masterpiece.
No job is exciting all the time. There are times that every job will have its drudgery. You can either inspire your people to put in their best efforts in even the drudgery, or you can let them trudge on their own just for their paycheck. It’s your choice whether you will help your people see only the little areas they are contributing, or if you will help them see how they are contributing to the big picture.
Here are three ways you can remind your team of the big picture when they are trudging through their daily grind.
When I was a new manager, I had the hardest time giving constructive feedback to my assistant. When it was time to share with her what she needed to know to help her improve, I couldn’t even get the words out. It was so difficult for me to say, that I had to try multiple times just to be able to tell her—because I was too concerned about saying what she might have thought was bad news.
My early days as a manager showed one extreme of improper communication in giving performance reviews. Other managers think that yelling the hard truth is the best way to give bad news. They think that it’s OK to say whatever they think needs to be said, without thinking about what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of what they said. Clearly both extremes are not helpful.
So how should we give bad news? What’s the best way to help employees improve? Here are four tips for how to say what needs to be said, even if it’s bad news.
I once heard a story about a young, aspiring actor in Hollywood who was invited to go to one of the local parties. It was in effect a Hollywood networking function where famous actors and actresses attended. One of the movie actors there was Walter Matthau. Walter Matthau during his lifetime appeared in more than 60 movies, and won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and two Tony Awards. Reportedly, Matthau asked the young actor how it was going. The aspiring actor replied, “I’m just looking for that one big break!” Matthau laughed, and said, “Kid, it’s not the one big break. It’s the fifty big breaks.”
Just like the aspiring actor, you won’t achieve overnight success. One big break will not help you. Unless it is supported by other breaks, that one big break will fade. You will attain success through incremental progress—by gaining one big break after another.
You can achieve the success you want if you will focus on these practices.
When you think of the difficult people on your team, what do you think of? How do you perceive the problem employees on your team? Could it be that you are looking at them the wrong way?
I’m not saying that everyone is fixable. It may ultimately be better for everyone if certain people don’t work at your organization any more. I think it Abraham Lincoln got it right when he said that people are usually as happy as they make up their minds to be. Nonetheless, you may be the one to help those certain people change their minds.
Difficult people have been through difficult stuff. And hurt people hurt people. If you just pass them off as problem employees then you may be missing a huge opportunity—for them and for you.
I realize that you may not be the pastor-in-chief at your workplace, but you can develop a pastor’s heart for your team. Spiritual insight into their situation can help your team become more positive, more innovative, and more productive.
Here’s how you can get the most out of your team by training yourself in how you look at your problem employees.
You can learn something for your professional career from the Oreo Mystery Flavor. Last fall Oreo announced a contest where the cookie brand offered everyone who submitted the correct flavor on their website could earn a chance to win $50,000. But in order to win the prize, you had to be willing to try a cookie where you didn’t know what the cream filling tasted like. You had to be comfortable with not knowing what was in between.
So much of professional life is spent in between. There is the beginning—the entry into the workplace, the start at a new job, the launch of a new business. And there is the end—the person you want to become, the successful outcome of a new venture, the retirement from working. But there is so much uncertainty between the start and the finish. And the only way you can win the prize is if you are willing to embrace that uncertainty. It is important to get used to being comfortable with not knowing what’s in between.
Here is the process to implement if you are to embrace uncertainty and become comfortable with not knowing what’s in between.
To improve your company, it’s important to focus on continuous improvement. That’s obvious, isn’t it? But how much do you focus on helping your people improve—and not just in how they do their job?
If you help your people grow in one area of their lives, it will spill over into the other areas of their lives as well. They will reap the benefit, but you will too.
Here’s why it makes sense (and dollars) to make your team improve.
Assembling the right team is essential to having a thriving workplace. It is important to know what you need when hiring your key positions. Unless you are extremely self-aware, you might not know what you need to balance out your strengths. That’s why diversity is a key component of any human resources strategy.
Diversity doesn’t just have to be limited to what people look like on the outside. While that is helpful to assembling a strong team, it’s important to go deeper than that. It’s essential to know how to hire based on what your team looks like on the inside.
Here are three things to think through when applying diversity to hiring your key team members.
Curiosity is a good thing to develop in your life—especially your professional life. But curiosity requires that you have your eyes wide open. You have to be observant to notice what’s going on around you. That’s why you must be intentionally curious.
You will not notice what you don’t focus on. It’s important to be actively watching what’s going on so that you can then capitalize on what you take notice of.
Here are three disciplines to develop so you can stay intentionally curious and maintain your intellectual edge.
Most people hate conflict. Especially at work. They don’t want to be seen as someone who rocks the boat or causes problems. They don’t think there’s such a thing as good conflict. But conflict can be a very good thing when used constructively.
Conflict will happen. Where there’s contact between people, there’s conflict between people. Let’s face it: conflict makes meetings interesting. And conflict is what makes stories worth reading.
As a leader, you don’t need to stop conflict at your workplace. In fact, if done correctly, conflict should be encouraged. As long as you do it within certain parameters.
Here’s what good conflict can look like in your workplace.
Many have debated the importance of hard skills and soft skills. When I went to school, everyone seemed to believe that hard skills were most important. Students had to focus on mastering the specific skills required for their particular profession. But today people change not just jobs, but professions—many times over—during their career. As a result, hard skills have been dethroned from their place of prominence. Now soft skills reign supreme.
Don’t misunderstand me: hard skills are still important. A surgeon must know how to operate on someone without them bleeding to death. People must know what they’re talking about as a practitioner in their field. But becoming proficient in the soft skills of people relations will serve you well as you change professions during your career.
Here are three soft skills that are important for you to master as a leader, regardless of the profession you choose.