The 5 Secrets to Being a Great Leader
1. Be Creative: This is a hell of a lot easier said than done because some people just aren’t creative people. They probably excel highly in other areas but creativity isn’t their forte. But for those who are creative, SHOW IT! Don’t be afraid to be bold and make suggestions for the company. Always think of innovative ways to improve communications or products and then ask for criticism. Your troops on the ground will most likely have a finger on the market’s pulse and will be able to give some good feedback. If you’re a troop on the ground and have a creative idea, take it to your leader, especially if he’s a creative mind and open to idea’s. Which leads into the next point.
2. Be Open to Ideas: I have worked for companies where the employees have ideas that would fix a problem, increase efficiency, increase customer satisfaction, etc etc etc. They have these ideas because they see the root of the problems everyday and have everyday to think of solutions. The problem is that management wouldn’t want to listen, or worse, said they were listening and never took action. This made the employees feel like their opinions didn’t matter and were worthless. But I’ve seen leaders accept and implement ideas from employees and in return received a boost in respect, confidence, and satisfaction. Even if it was only one employee’s idea everyone else thinks “Wow, they actually took Bill’s idea and fixed our packaging problem. That’s cool, they care about what we all think!”
3. Be Empathetic: Leaders sometimes forget that they are there to lead people, not the company. They get this idea in their head that they need to lead the company and forget that the people ARE the company. Be open to your employees, get to know them personally, and be interested in what they have to say. One of the first companies I worked with, the CEO took me out for lunch the first week I was there. I started to talk about work and he said, “Stop, I didn’t invite you for lunch to talk about work. I want to know about you.” And the whole lunch was spent talking about our hobbies and personal lives. I felt like the CEO’s best friend afterwards, and it was a big morale boost. After that he made an effort to talk to me, and everyone else in the office, at least once or twice a week. He would walk into your office and sit down and ask “How’s life treatin’ ya?” And you’d spend 15 or 20 minutes bullshitting with him and he felt like a friend, not your boss. He also helped a lot of employees through personal struggles. Death, addiction, health troubles, and even in one case a financial trouble. Everyone felt like he had our back so in return, we had his. We were motivated to make the company successful because we felt invested in it, which is the next point
4. Be Inclusive: Make sure you include everyone! If you employees feel invested in the company they’ll work hard for the company. They’ll be proud about it’s success and want to tell others about it. This means including EVERYONE. From the mailroom to the execs, you need to make sure people feel connected and valued. For instance, giving a mail clerk a small task to do that requires a little more responsibility will make them feel more important. If you then later praise them and thank them for a job well done they’ll feel awesome. Do this a few times a month and you now have a mail clerk that feels good about their job and proud about the company they’re with. They’ll probably tell people about “the side jobs the CEO gets me to do because he trusts me.” You’re taking only minutes out of your day and making an impact in their day. The typical company gives responsibility only to people in higher positions, making others feel less valuable. This means they’re less likely to give their opinion, share ideas, or be proud about their company. This is why our last point is so important.
5. Share the Responsibility: Here’s a challenge, make sure EVERY employee has at least 1 important task to do each month. If they have a few, even better. I’ve talked to CEO’s or management that have laughed at this idea. They say something along the lines of “I can’t give Sally that kind or responsibility, she won’t be able to do it.” And I always respond with “How the hell do you know? Did you ask Sally? Has she ever tried before?” and they always get pissed off and tell me something like “I just know she couldn’t.” I say let Sally try and if she actually can’t do it take some time to invest in her and teach her. Sally would feel 3x as good about herself if she was given an important task and someone ALSO took the time to teach her about this new role. Employees see this as a mini-promotion. They think “Wow, I’m good enough to start doing more important things!”. It’s a simple and effective strategy to include everyone.
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Next week’s article is about Creating a Good Business Plan! I’ll layout a step-by-step guide I use that’ll allow you to set your goals and create pathways to reach them.
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