If you are in a leadership position, then chances are you’ve struggled at some point. The chances are also pretty good that you’ve read a fair amount of material on how to become a better leader.
The reason for both is the difficulty that entails being a good leader. It’s also a fair hypothesis that’s why executive pay has increased so much. Being a great leader is an incredibly difficult thing to master, and those who mastered it tend to be paid extremely well as CEOs.
With leadership being so difficult to master, one article won’t unlock the secrets of leadership for you. So instead, let's talk about a simple exercise that can hopefully unlock a trick that will make you a better leader.
Step #1: Block 10 minutes to sit down for this
You need to focus for this exercise. Shut off your technology, leave your phone outside, and close the door to an office or conference room.
Make sure to bring a piece of paper or notebook with you
Step #2: Divide your paper into thirds
Step #3: Write down everyone who reports to you
In the first column, write down everyone who reports to you. Right now, all you need to do is record their name. For example:
Step #4: Write each person’s typical demeanor towards work
In the second column, you want to describe each of your employees and what the single over-arching theme is with their work. You’re looking for a few words that describe how they typically function in the office. For example:
Bob. Typically late, not engaged during work
Kelly: Diligent, punctual, very engaged.
Stefano: Argues with the team anytime asked for something
Cece: Working hard, makes lots of small mistakes
Step #5: Ask yourself why each person acts the way you just wrote down.
In the third column, take everything you’ve written down about each employee. Your job here is to turn that information into a sentence that describes “why” each employee acts the way you described. For example:
Bob is not engaged because he has a lot going on right now in his personal life.
Kelly is working hard because there is a possible promotion coming and she appears to want it.
Stefano argues with the team because he believes he was passed over for promotion.
Cece makes a lot of small mistakes because she’s doing a lot of quantitive analysis.
Step #6: Tweak your leadership style for each individual based on what you just wrote down
The key message of leadership is that there is no “one size fits all.” You need a different approach to each person to most effectively lead them moving forward.
But the key thing to base your leadership approach on is not how your team acts. The key thing to base your leadership approach on is why your team acts the way they do.
Then, you can tweak your approach in different people. For example:
You could help Bob by taking work off his plate and allowing to spend more time at home.
You could tell Kelly what skills are most important to develop for the promotion and give her opportunities to work on those skills.
You could tell Stefano what skills he needed for the promotion, explain why he wasn’t there yet, but give him opportunities to work on those skills as well.
You could retask Cece on work that is a better fit for her skills, rather than defaulting towards quantitative work.
By this logic, all of your team member should theoretically be more engaged and excited about work. In this case, all of your team is getting to do exactly what they want to do.
All it took for you was to sit down for ten minutes and ask why each employee acts the way they do in the office.
About the author
Dean Woods is currently a Marketer by day and an entrepreneur by night. Prior to his current job, Dean was a top performer at a top management consulting firm. Dean graduated with honors from The Wharton Schoo