How do you elevate your performance so you can add value to your team? How do you make a bigger difference?
It’s not about you, but it begins with you because we’ve already defined leadership as influence. Namely, your influence!
There are six components of effective leadership influence. Don’t look at these as a recipe. Instead, look at them as ingredients you can use…some perhaps more than others depending on how you’re wired. You must accurately understand your natural talents, those things that come more easily to you. Sometimes they’re your default behaviors. You shouldn’t work too hard to be something you’re not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to develop new skills, but it means you must not fail to leverage those things that come so naturally easy for you. Those strengths will make the biggest difference in your effectiveness.
All of these components are important, but they’re not equally weighted. Additionally, situations dictate which component may be most suitable. Your ability to properly read your team, individually and collectively, and to assess the circumstances you all face – it’s key to knowing how to deploy these components.
I’m intentionally putting each component in a verb form because I want to help you understand these are actions words. They’re not intellectual concepts aimed at high-brow thinking. They’re practical reality. Not scholarly ideas. I’m also intentionally starting with one specific one because from that one stems all the others.
How we relate to people and how we foster their ability to relate to us – it’s foundational to all we’re about as leaders.
Some connect with political prowess. They know how to work situations for their own end.
Some connect with candor. They don’t pull any punches. Ever.
Some connect with personality. They have a charisma that draws people in.
Some connect with compassion or a variety of other attributes others find engaging.
Connections can be made by deploying any number of behaviors, styles, or personalities. Even tyranny. I don’t advise it, but tyranny can work. History proves it. History also tends to prove it stops working. People connect to fear…until they decide to stop being afraid. Then the tyrant is in trouble. Or soon will be.
How can YOU best connect with people, especially your team? Don’t be shocked if you’re not able to fully discover that by yourself. Insights from others who know you are most helpful. Unfortunately, too few people take advantage of such insights. You should make sure you seek out help so you can identify the most positive way you can authentically connect with others. Then cross your fingers that tyranny isn’t your natural leaning. 😉
There are a few things everybody is capable of. Honesty. Integrity. Doing the right thing. Making things right. Fairness. Caring.
We can all decide to do those things. The strongest leaders commit themselves to those and other principles of high character.
It’s up to you to figure out how you can best connect with your team as a whole, and how you can best connect with the individual members of the team. Don’t be tempted to think it’s too hard. “Too much work.” This is the work. Ignore it and you’ll never influence higher performance.
Leaders who simply bark out orders or take care of daily business are a dime a dozen. And ineffective. Leadership isn’t about maintaining. It’s about growth and improvement. It’s about creating a high impact. Making a difference.
Leaders who train/educate address the big challenge of, “How?” Teams and individuals wonder how they’ll grow and improve. Leaders have to forge the way with some strategic answers.
Don’t confuse this training and education as addressing the specifics of all the work being done. Or the work that needs to be done. It may be more accurate to describe this as providing your team with the why, than the specific how. The why provides people with the how. Let me give you an example. A CEO may determine that customer service is paramount. He may train and educate his team that a key barometer of how he measures the team’s success will be how happy they can make customers.
The depth of the training – and the specific nature of it – is up to the leader. You may decide there are specific things you want to be done in more precise ways. It’s not a problem unless you stay in the “dirt on your boots” area (what others sometimes refer to as being “in the weeds”).
High-performing cultures instill proper training and education that ensures high accountability. That means processes and systems are the foundations of training and education. Things aren’t left to chance or legacy communication. You won’t hear high-performing cultures talk about conversations or emails from months or years past because that’s not where their learning comes from. It’s much more formalized than that, which is why every team member is held accountable for delivering predictable results time and time again. Everybody follows the process and system.
If you don’t have systems in place you cannot have a high-performance culture. And if you lack processes, you’ll never achieve high levels of accountability. Now you know why I listed this second, only behind connecting with the people who need to be educated so they can deliver superior performance.
Evidence-based leadership is based on data, facts, and observable truths. While there’s plenty of room for intuition (gut feel), that’s mostly useful to spark curiosity so those can be verified or nullified. Following the evidence to the best of our ability means we’re providing our team with compelling reasons to be persuaded. Evidence-based leaders aren’t attempting to get people to follow simply because “I said so.” We want people to learn and understand the reasons behind our actions. And those reasons are logical and persuasive.
Unpersuaded people do not high-performers make. Our team members must be the first ones we sell on what we’re doing and what we aim to do. Call it “buy-in” or whatever else you’d like, but it all boils down to the same thing. Leaders provide their teams with ample evidence to persuade them. We bear the responsibility to present the facts in a compelling way that is hard to refute. Even if our designed course is subjective in the sense that we could pursue multiple courses…but we’ve chosen one in particular. What are the reasons for our choice? Share those.
It involves another component I break out on its own – INFORM.
In some instances informing precedes persuading. But in most cases, it’s a context thing. It provides our teammates with a deeper understanding. Employees left in the dark are uninformed teammates. Ignorance is not bliss.
That’s not to say that we share every detail of every situation or circumstance. For starters, that’s not the best way to serve our team. It’s not helpful to burden them with information that won’t help them perform better. But keeping our team in the dark, thinking we must shield them from information that can help them avoid false assumptions, misinformation (or worse), is fully our responsibility.
Let’s make a distinction between motivation and inspiration. In the past few months, I’ve had a number of clients who have attended various conferences and seminars – in person – for the first time in over a year (due to the pandemic). These events often inspire attendees to do better. But by the time next Tuesday rolls around that inspiration is often long forgotten. Very rarely do such events produce lasting results. And maybe they’re not even designed to do that. However, many people go hoping to find some inspiration. The truth about inspiration is that it doesn’t often last very long. We continue to need to get an inspiration fix.
Motivation is the inner energy we generate. It’s the energy we have to get out of bed and do anything. It’s up to us to provide that and manage it. I’m not saying we can’t have help from people close to us…to better manage it, but our motivation is on us. Nobody can do it for us. It’s our personal energy to accomplish something. Anything.
We call them “motivational” speakers, but they’re really inspirational speakers. Leaders must inspire their team to higher performance. And like all the other components mentioned here, inspiring others is an ongoing effort. People don’t just stay connected without any effort to be connected. People don’t remain trained or educated unless there’s ongoing reinforcement. People don’t stay persuaded unless evidence is continually supplied to keep them persuaded. The same goes for information…things change and people have to continue to be informed of the changes. Leaders have to daily inspire people, too. But how?
That’s for each leader to figure out, but there are some basic principles to consider. People are inspired by systems and processes that work. So developing these and training them can serve to inspire.
People are inspired by being in the know so informing people can be inspirational, too. People are inspired when they’re persuaded that their work matters – and when they better understand how their work contributes to the outcome.
Inspiring your team isn’t a singular action. It’s wrapped up in many things that happen daily within your team.
It isn’t necessarily a rah-rah speech delivered regularly. It could be, but not every leader rolls that way.
A leader’s ability to inspire is directly linked to the ability to connect to every individual and to the team collectively. Like many other leadership components, the ability to inspire is largely based on candid truthfulness. Honesty.
Mostly, inspiration is about helping people better understand where they fit – how they make a positive difference. It’s about giving them a story – a true story. Leaders who fail to provide that story fail to inspire their team. Don’t minimize this verb. Inspire.
Leaders don’t have to be stand-up comics. But having a good sense of humor helps. It connects us.
Two words likely exemplify this component. Happy. Fun.
A sullen demeanor isn’t likely to foster a high-performing culture. Nor is a person who can’t or won’t show enjoyment or fun. Dour may work in the short term for some, but I would never bet on it for an intermediate or long-term leadership strategy.
Sometimes being entertaining is simply being interesting. And interested. It’s engaging. So don’t confuse entertaining with constant belly laughing at work. Think of it more as engaging, but I still stick with the term “entertain” because effective leaders need to be engaging in each of these activities. Boring is a tough row to hoe. Don’t be boring.
When a leader entertains he learns to pick moments where the team needs relief from tension. Or maybe she understands now would be a good time to openly acknowledge some embarrassing outcome. Situations dictate the appropriate use of humor or fun. Be congruent with what’s going on, but search for openings where you can entertain your team and show them your humanity.
Be human. Be a good human.
That’s likely a great place to end this conversation. We didn’t dive deeply into any of these, but let me encourage you to set aside some time to ponder each one. As you do, judge yourself as a leader. How well do you think you do at each of these? What might you be able to do to improve in these areas? If you’ll think about it enough, face the truth of where you currently are, and decide to improve — you’ll figure it out. I’m here to help.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!