What is a distinguishing characteristic of a great leader?
Great leaders make sure that team members have the tools and skills necessary to get their jobs done. Being a phenomenal leader is a lot easier when you’ve got great team members. An exemplary employee is one who communicates their goals and what they need from the leader to maximize their success.
These employees are:
Thinkers: They are constantly thinking about ways they can improve their work, the business, help their leader become even stronger or improve the service they provide to customers.
Confident: They go into the job motivated because they deeply believe they can make a positive difference.
Empowered: Many people believe that empowerment starts with the boss. Great employees tend to make good decisions, take action and keep their boss in the loop each step of the way so there are no surprises.
Trustworthy: The best employees don’t take actions which break the bonds of trust between them and the leader.
Risk Takers: Any time a decision is made, there is a risk that the desired outcome will not come to fruition. Great employees know that if the risks they take do not turn out to be successful, they are confident they have the skills and solutions to rectify the situation.
With this set of characteristics in mind, it becomes clear that, to be the best they can be, great employees need great leaders. Now, what exactly do great leaders provide?
Leaders that enable their employees to be the best they can be:
Ask the Right Questions: As our quote this week states so well, one of the best questions a leader can ask is, “What do you need from me?” A great goal for a great leader is to never be the person who is holding up a project or someone else’s work. For twenty years I have been asking what team members need from me two or three times a day: when I arrive in the morning; when I leave at night and when I call in from the road. Ninety percent of the time team members answer “no” or “nothing right now” to my question. It is the ten percent of the time when they say they need my help, and I am able to help team members get something significant done, that builds the relationships where people are more motivated to follow.
Collaboratively Communicate Vision and Goals: Rather than merely dictating vision and goals, discuss them, gain the input from your direct reports and then collaborate to provide perfect clarity. While employees like reading mysteries, they prefer not to work in one. When the vision and goals are crystal clear, it makes it much easier for employees to make decisions.
Trust Team Members: When you hire the right people, you have brought people onto the team who work hard and want to make the right decisions to improve your department and the company. Assume positive intent about your people’s decisions.
Set Times to Follow Up: Any relationship, even personal relationships, will turn south when there is not good consistent communication and follow up. Set up a weekly time to meet and review what is being worked on or accomplished.
Coach When Necessary: Even great employees will get off-track and will need good coaching and possibly even counseling. When you are meeting weekly, this should be easy to accomplish. Coaching is most difficult when long periods of time has gone by without communication.
For employees to shine, a leader must find out what the employee needs from them. Ask. Listen. Provide. Communicate.
Image via Wester, Flickr