11 Jan, 2012
10 ways to listen, lead and succeed by Ann Skidmore
As a corporate coach I have worked with many leaders, but the person who inspired me the most worked in the airport industry and took a “back to the floor” approach.
From time to time he would roll up his sleeves to get stuck in, in every department: washing dishes in the cafes, handling baggage and so on. In finding time to show people that he appreciated them, and to find their concerns, he was saying: “I want to understand what you do – because what you do counts.”
No matter how big or how junior the role, everyone on the team should feel they share a vision and should know that they are valued. A strong leader does more than motivate; he or she drives the team culture, while also encouraging the team to be fully accountable and responsible for achieving their common goal.
A good leader knows they can’t achieve everything on their own. Fabulous teams have a sense of purpose and understand their objectives.
Managing and leading people is highly rewarding when you have the tools to do it well, but most people learn as they go along, and some fall by the wayside, losing confidence in the process. So much about leadership is about managing team dynamics – and power dynamics.
When you have several people in the same room, each representing the interests of their own department – marketing, finance, etc – there will be times when there are clashes and unhelpful behaviour. Instead of the leader, someone else within the team holds the power, and is diverting attention to dampening the energy.
If something happens in a meeting to prevent co-operation, it must also be happening on a daily basis.
An effective leader will listen and help individuals to respect each other and work together as a fully functioning team. The leader (perhaps with the help of a coach) needs to ensure there is a strategy of action put in place so that he or she and the team commit to changing unhelpful behaviour.
We are all leaders in some aspect of our lives – the key is to get help in acquiring the key skills that enable us to lead effectively.
A team becomes successful when the business leader:
1. Has a sense of purpose and encourages a common vision. A team takes its cue from the attitude and behaviour of the person who leads them.
2. Communicates openly and honestly – and is authentic in approach. This is the boss who says: “Good morning, how are you today?” and means it, rather tahn rushing through the office with a curt “Morning” on the way to a meeting.
3. Makes sure body language echoes their intentions. There is no point in saying to a team member: “I can give you all the time you need”, if you signal the opposite message by constantly checking your watch.
4. Clearly defines roles and responsibilities and encourages support and trust within the team.
5. Conducts effective meetings, where everyone can contribute - by taking clear decisions but making time to listen to others’ points of view.
6. Encourages tolerance of others’ differences and constructive resolution of conflict – by encouraging a culture of personal responsibility rather than a culture of blame.
7. Reviews results and working practices, while encouraging a sense of pride in personal achievements. Take time to celebrate scaling the first mountain before climbing the next one.
8. Remains self-aware. Being mindful of the impact he or she has on others and maintaining a flexible approach.
9. Respects and co-operates with others inside and outside the organisation. In a small business, every relationship within the network counts. You are only ever as strong as your weakest link.
10. Leads by example. Where the leader leads, others will follow.
Ann Skidmore is the EBA Image Expert.