It seems like there are some people who are naturally born leaders. They inspire but also command, and have an impact on everyone they're with.
Even if you're not one of these natural born leaders, there are many strategies you can try to improve your people-leading skills. Just like your employees get feedback each year in their annual reviews, your own performance as a leader can use an assessment. Talk to friends and peers about particular aspects of your personality relevant to people leading, and ask your team to provide feedback in a way they are comfortable.
engage your team
What do your employees need from you?
They need trust, built through honesty, clarity, and consistency.
They need compassion, developed through seeing them as more than their job responsibilities, but as people.
They need stability, by you creating a space where they feel like they can trust you to communicate with them what they need to know by being forthcoming and answering questions.
They need hope, by being able to visualize the future that you see, because you share that direction with them and communicate positively even amongst difficulty.
If morale seems low, look at the granular things you do day-to-day. What do your emails, conversation, and instructions communicate to your team? Do they build trust, communicate compassion, and provide a feeling of stability and hope? You may roll your eyes thinking that every single communication and interaction you have with an employee should address those needs, but it's true.
Your role as their leader is a privilege. By building this type of culture around your team, you can support your team to meet their goals while also contributing to the overall business goals.
walk in their shoes
If you feel disconnected from your team's responsibilities (or get the feedback that you don't understand the processes you're requesting from your employees), think of a way to take a walk in their shoes.
Particularly for managers who did not work up through the ranks of those they lead (such as a Director of Statistics who worked as a statistician under someone else before being promoted), it's even more important for you to get a feel for how difficult the tasks are that your employees undertake and a reasonable amount of time to expect them completed in.
For stressful positions out in the field, while you are directing and delegating from a central location, spend a day in the field so you can walk in their shoes. For example, an ambulance dispatcher should consider taking a Royal Ambulance ride-along to understand what a day in the life of an EMT is really like.
For a project manager function, consider shadowing someone from a similar team if it would be too distracting to shadow one of your own employees.
Before you head out into the field or your day of shadowing, review past performance evaluations and goals met/not met to see what things you should pay particular attention to.
You need to make sure that you are invested in their success as well as their growth. If you have someone above you, you are aware that you are judged by your team's performance. It can be challenging however, when you are the top of the food chain at your company, to hold yourself accountable for your team's performance when it may feel easier to place the blame down on individual employees.
But a leader that celebrates their team's wins as the win of the team, and not the win of the leader, helps to develop your employees.
A key way to develop your employees is to listen to their professional goals, make note of them and follow through when an opportunity arises for them to pursue that goal. This demonstrates to them that you listen, that you care, and that you consider yourself successful only when they are.
discuss, don't tell
Your team looks to you as the source of the information they need to know to get their jobs done. Your expectations should be clear and realistic, and communicated clearly. While presentation of a new project will start with you telling your team what the expectations are, open the floor to discussion on anticipated obstacles or ways to make the process go more efficiently. They are the ones doing the work, and who likely have worked on something similar. By listening to their contributions, you show that you value them and their ideas.
complaints go up
Leaders want their team to keep their operations running smoothly at all times. Whether it’s a mishap with communication or the way you handle a situation, it’s safe to say that the way you handle a poor situation says a lot about you as a leader.
One way you can help your team here would be for you to keep yourself accountable as much as possible. Part of honesty as a leader is acknowledging your mistakes and giving yourself the same compassion you would show to an employee.
You should also be a model for embracing change, particularly when that change comes from the top of the company. Model positive and professional responses to change, supporting your team extremely well through the difficult points, and never (ever) complain about the changes to your team.
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