Look across the world today, and it is astounding to see what humanity has built. All humans have amazing creative capabilities that can be tapped into to take yourself and your business to the next level. Tapping into that potential requires good leadership and can seem intimidating, but I would like to challenge that preconceived notion with a few simple principles that you can utilize today to level up your people.
It is all about your people.
Your people are your most important asset. Without people your company will not achieve much, therefore before you are a company that does XYZ you need to be a people-building company. What does it take to be a people-building company? While salary and work benefits are important, you might be surprised to learn that they are not the most important. A sense of purpose, belonging, and a feeling of effectiveness in an organization are the primary drivers that will keep people engaged and growing in your business.
Get to know your team.
Creating time to meet with and listen to your people in a relaxed one-on-one environment will build their trust and establish feelings of self worth. During these one-on-one sessions, it is important to listen often and speak little. The purpose is to hear the dreams and passions of your people. Validate their feelings and encourage their ideas and creativity, especially in areas that may challenge you, as that will encourage bonding and create growth within the company. Find out why they are working at your company and what they envision their role looking like over the next one, five, and more years. Help them achieve their dreams, and build them up as leaders in their own right.
Learn the strengths of your people and play to those strengths. Everyone at some point will need to perform tasks in skill sets they are weak in. If they are consistently asked to work in areas of weakness, they will not last long on your team. Find ways to build on your team’s strengths to take them to the next level.
Allow and encourage people to become subject matter experts in their areas of interest and encourage the rest of the team to learn from them. Allowing them to share their knowledge with the team will provide the recognition all humans crave and create great team collaboration opportunities. Additional side effects of this are increased confidence and leadership skills building. Both of which provide immeasurable benefits to your company and the individual.
Trust your people.
Trust is another critical component and it must go both ways, but it starts from the top. Good relationships require implicit trust; and as the leader, it is your job to step up and provide the first offering of trust. Trust is not given if feelings of respect and safety are not also present. Both require time and consistency to build, but it will happen.
As a leader, if you are in a situation where you do not trust or feel safe with your own people or there is a lack of trust among the team, it is a prime opportunity to step up and lead. Noted leadership and business coach Simon Sinek says, “If the leader does not feel safe from their own people, it is because the leader is not taking care of their people.” Change yourself first, and your people will follow.
Failure does not exist.
Humans are humans, and humans are not perfect. If we were perfect, there would be no innovation and the word “sorry” would not exist in our language. No matter how good your people are, at some point, they will come up short. How you react as their leader in this time will define the relationship far into the future. Speak positive, encouraging words, and your people will follow you anywhere. Speak negatively, and you will cause damage that will take significant time and energy to repair.
In my own personal life, I have adopted a motto, “If I am not winning, I am learning.” What do you notice about that statement? I replaced a negative word, failing, with a positive action: learning. Negativity shuts down the brain and brings out defensive instincts. Eliminating the negative aspect and replacing it with a positive causes the brain to open up and think about new possibilities and ways to overcome the issue at hand.
Negativity breeds negativity. If you have a negative attitude towards your people, that negative attitude will be reflected back at you. Luckily, positivity also breeds positivity. By staying positive as the leader, your people will be positive with you.
Overcoming negativity is possible and will require you to change and become the positive person first. At first, people will be suspicious; but with time and consistency, the trust and respect will be earned back.
Celebrate success and partner in weakness.
One of the very best ways to create a positive atmosphere of trust and respect is to celebrate your people’s successes and partner with them in weakness (remember, there is no failure!). The human ego constantly wants stroking. It is very natural that when a project goes off successfully, you want recognition for the success. This applies to your people, too.
Good leaders become transparent during success. Instead of taking glory for yourself, a good leader will elevate and brag about the people responsible for helping create success. This simple action releases feel-good chemicals in your people’s brains that will drive them to more success in the future. Any ego-stroking or glorification you may think you lose in the process will be made up for and magnified in the form of goodwill that you will receive from your team. Your people will strive for even better results in the future, which will increase your team’s standing in your organization and elevate your status as a leader among your own leadership.
On the flip side, in times of weakness, the presence of the leader is most visibly seen. These are the times when your people will be looking to you for your reaction and guidance through the storm. Instead of reacting negatively, a good leader will join the person or persons struggling as a partner alongside them, helping them through the situation and back to success. These times should be seen as times of learning, both for the person and the leader.
At the end of it, the person will have learned new problem-solving skills and gain insight into how to quickly resolve the matter in the future, should it happen again. The leader will have earned greater trust and respect from their person and acquire powerful insight into how to prevent such issues from evolving before they even start. Celebrating the person’s success after one of theses times may be more important than during a completely successful time. Be sure not to skip it at this juncture.
Stay positive in tough times.
In the midst of a tough time, it is easy to lose focus on the big picture and only focus on the negative happening now. A good leader will not get sucked into this mindset and will instead focus on staying positive. Tough times are temporary and should be treated as such. Keeping that in mind and finding the silver lining will do much to boost the morale of your people and will teach them how to react in other tough times. Your people will look to you more than ever during moments of challenge. Stay steady, do not despair, and your team will become a source of inspiration for you just as much as you are for them. By keeping a positive attitude, your team will win together and have some great learning opportunities along the way.
Give lots of compliments.
The final thought I will leave you with promotes not only leadership, but good will in general. That is to give lots of compliments. People love hearing positive things about themselves. A quick compliment here and there can do a lot for morale. It does not even have to be business-related. Maybe they have a cool new pair of shoes or did something helpful for a coworker. Compliments are the bread and butter of happy people!
Wrapping it up.
I hope the above has helped you see that being a good leader is not difficult. Following these few principles will level up both you and your team and you will become a powerhouse in any organization you are part of:
- People are of primary importance
- Get to know your team
- Trust your people
- If you are not winning, you are learning. Failure does not exist
- Celebrate success and partner in weakness
- Stay positive in tough times
- Give lots of compliments
Now go forth, and lead the world to greatness!
Also published on Medium.