First become obsessed with getting to know the receiving side of leadership and step into the everyday lives of the people you lead.
By exploring their needs and wants — the beliefs and behaviours associated with a rich and fulfilling employee experience — you can become a Leader worth following. A Leader who helps to define culture, and build an environment where people go to work happy and come home happier.
The biggest compliment a Leader can receive is for someone to share a positive story about what it’s like to work with you.
So ask yourself: would anyone in your team today say you are a leader worth following?
If the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’, then you already have aticket to the dance.
But if the answer is a little less forthcoming, that’s not a problem either. Here are seven ways to build your leadership backpack and become a leader worth following.
1. Understand how it feels
By seeing through others’ eyes, you gain a different perspective. In this case, it means considering what your leadership looks and feels like from the other side.
This can be as simple as asking: ‘what is your experience of my leadership?’ Just by asking this question, you earn yourself a leadership stripe.
Perspective is key to good leadership, and this is gained through conversations. Every Monday morning at Everyday Massive, we kick off our working week with a 30-minute discussion about what it means to be an EM’er — centred around our own experience and culture. Through different activities, we gain an understanding of how to work better together. We also share perspectives, thoughts and ideas around showing empathy, providing support and overcoming challenges.
Remember what it’s like to be led. Think back to the leaders you wanted to follow; the ones who showed you what great feels like. Remind yourself of their behaviours and actions, and use that as inspiration.
Your team should look forward to spending time with you, rather than being nervous, fearful or uncomfortable being themselves. Empathy and genuine consideration goes a long way to shaping the experience of what it’s like to be led by YOU.
2. Be uniquely you
A good leader is authentic, comfortable in their own skin and embraces their unique attributes. They bring their full selves to work.
We’ve seen first hand that when you’re real, share your story, be vulnerable, embrace your weirdness or quirks without hesitation, and be unapologetically yourself, it amplifies your leadership, increases connection, boosts performance, bolsters your comfort level and fuels happiness at work.
Being authentic is what will set you apart from other leaders. There is only one you, and that is your secret sauce.
Start by considering the following questions:
- What is your superpower?
- What do you get the most compliments about?
- What do people come to you for?
- What makes you unique?
- What are three adjectives that people would use to describe you?
- What energises you?
Your daily leadership actions should also connect with your way, and consider how you want to make a difference to peoples’ experience of work.
3. Create an environment of joint decision-making
Take time to look at your team’s knowledge, motivation and capabilities, and create an environment where they can be involved in decisions. The people you lead are resourceful; they have ideas and answers.
Do you make decisions together as a team, ask questions, seek suggestions and listen in order to better understand. Co-creation is fun, it involves people in the decision-making process, instilling pride in whatever it is we’re developing or designing.
People enjoy working in environments where their participation is respected. It’s a way to feel validated: to be shown their presence, opinions and contributions matter. Moreover, research shows that when we get this right, we lay the groundwork for a high-performing workplace.
4. Communicate to build relationships
The word ‘communication’ comes from Latin: ‘to own something together’.
Communication is everything. Every day we share information with colleagues, answer questions, explain decisions and empower them to do their best work. Communication can foster relationships and psychological safety — and the holy grail — engagement.
A clear message is fundamental to building these relationships and inspiring people to work together towards a common goal. Buy in isn’t achieved simply by getting people to go through the motions or ticking off tasks in a certain timeframe. When you clearly and passionately express your ideas and vision, others are far more likely to jump on board and stay with you for the long term.
Recently, we asked our team to tell us how the way we communicate with each other makes them feel. Words came back thick and fast, such as ‘open’, ‘honest’, ‘transparent’, ‘kind’, and ‘with head and heart’. So ask questions about how your communication feels. The answers will give you insight, a high five, or an opportunity to improve your leadership skills.
6. Go fishing for feedback
There’s often uncomfortable energy around feedback. But that’s ok! When we’re uncomfortable is when we grow.
So be brave, stop and have a conversation about what is and is not working for your people. A single piece of feedback can be the difference between nicenessand true kindness. Asking for feedback shows you care.
Just remember to create a safe space for sharing feedback. And be aware that people may need time to think about it and come back to you with their answer.
A few questions you can ask people about your leadership:
- What would they like more of?
- Why do your people want to be led by you?
- What is the experience like for them?
- What would they like less of?
Go fishing for the feedback and ask the difficult questions. This will be your pulse check; your inspiration as you develop as a leader.
7. Take time to understand people
People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
You play a fundamental role in fostering a sense of security and pride in the role people play in their organisation. So take time to find out how people are coping, show empathy, and show humanity — this will be what people recall and retell about your leadership.
One activity we use is the One Word game. We write down a word that expresses where we’re at emotionally with work, a project or task. Then we hold it up for all to see. It’s incredible how that single word can open the floodgates and instigate a meaningful conversation. It becomes massively obvious to everyone what support is needed at that moment for that person.
Remember to take the time to check in and understand where people are at. Finally, for those leaders already creating amazing, memorable experiences for their people — massive kudos. The past year hasn’t been easy, but a calm sea never made a skilled sailor. You’ve done an amazing job and your people will remember that for a lifetime.
Cover image: From source
This article first appeared on Everyday Massive on 9 February 2021.
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