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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Focus on Leadership in 2010

2009 has definitely been a tough year. We suggest that 2010 is the year you focus on leadership.

Solid business results that stand the test of time do so for one reason and one reason only: consistently excellent leadership. Products and services change with the demands of the market. Individual leaders come and go. The key is to create an organisational culture that ensures great leadership today and tomorrow.

We recommend that you institute proven across-the-board behaviours that don’t depend on particular individuals. These five leadership tactics will help you see significant changes by the end of 2010:

1. Move low performers. Despite the layoff ax so many companies have wielded during the past year, low performers still work inside many organisations and they are causing big problems. Turning a blind eye to these individuals in your organisation squelches profitability. Why? Because middle performers get pulled down to the low-performer level, while high performers either a) disengage or b) leave.

2. Accentuate the positive. The next time you’re having lunch in a restaurant, listen in on the conversations at nearby tables. Chances are, you’ll hear people griping about their workloads, difficult clients, annoying colleagues, or the ridiculousness of corporate policy. Everyone does it, but if they realised how harmful it is to their company, perhaps they’d think twice. The solution is to hone the fine art of managing up.

3. Make a real connection with employees. Think of a doctor making her daily rounds to check on patients. Well, 'rounding' helps you communicate openly with your employees, allowing you to regularly find out what is going well and what isn’t going well for them at the company. But remember it’s not just empty “face time”—it’s rounding for outcomes, which means the process has a serious purpose.

4. Say thanks. In fact, put it in writing.  Send thank you notes to employees who do an excellent job. But that doesn’t mean just sending the occasional note when someone goes far above the call of duty. It means literally mandating a specific number of thank you notes for leaders to send to the people they supervise. People love receiving thank you notes. They cherish them.

5. Don’t just recruit great employees. Re-recruit them. If you plan to hire in 2010—and as the recovery (hopefully) picks up steam, many will—here’s a relatively easy step you can take that will pay off in a big way. We all know employee turnover is expensive. But did you know that more than 25% of employees who leave positions do so in the first 90 days of employment? To retain a new team member, the leader needs to build a relationship. Scheduling two one-on-one meetings, the first at 30 days and the second at 90 days, has an enormous impact on retention that directly turns into savings for your organisation.

Once you start implementing these tactics, results quickly follow. Your employees will see that you care about them, which boosts morale, improves performance, leads to happier customers and higher profits. Creating satisfied employees is of critical importance, especially right now.

From the Court to the Boardroom

When asked for his advice on business, Coach John Wooden guides entrepreneurs to the top of the pyramid, where "patience" and "faith" flank the top block -"competitive greatness." Wooden explains, "As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you must have patience, and you must believe. But, you must also have skills, and you have to realise you're going to have to work at whatever it is you're hoping to attain."

Judging from his relationships with former players, perhaps the greatest business lesson to be learned from Wooden is how leaders should treat the people around them. "Make those under your supervision understand that you really care for them, not just for what they're doing in the corporation but that you really care for them," Wooden says. "I think anyone in a supervisor position has to do that." For him, that meant letting his players know they weren't playing for him, but with him as they worked toward a common goal. "My success was largely dependent on the type of youngsters I had under my supervision," he adds.

The mark of a great leader is someone who's successful over time, and that's just what Coach Wooden has proven to be.

Coaching: How the Best Leaders Teach

Its not easy to teach people how to think, yet this skill is a must for effective leadership. It requires patience and foresight...and time. Yet if we don't teach others how to think on their own, we waste time in the long run because our team will be forever dependent upon our knowledge base for answers. 

A leader who doesn't teach stunts his own personal growth and destines himself to the "same old, same old". This type of leader "teaches" people how to be forever followers.
Often, the best leaders teach people to think by following a coaching model, whether they realise it or not. Coaching and leadership go hand in hand. Interestingly enough, coaching is a learning model.
The primary competencies of professional coaching, grouped into the four main categories of listening, creating awareness, planning and managing progress mirror the skills necessary for leaders to get things done through people.  Let's take a look at how each core area enhances a leader's ability to teach.
  1. Listening  - Through the gift of listening, leaders demonstrate humility and respect.  Additionally, new ideas often emerge when people process out loud.
  2. Creating Awareness - Great questions create learning because they encourage thinking. The process of answering a question creates more learning than a "lecture".
  3. Planning and Goal Setting - A good action plan teaches us to stretch beyond what we might ordinarily think possible.
  4. Managing progress and accountability - Done well, accountability teaches us to celebrate our success and to reflect and course correct if necessary.
When we teach others to think through a coaching model, we free ourselves up to blaze new trails and we build trust in those we lead in the process. As leaders, teaching the way a coach teaches is a win-win for everyone concerned!