The Moment You Realize You Are A Leader

I was involved in an interesting conversation the other day. A newly hired manager was complaining about the people they had inherited as part of their team.

“People have zero work ethic these days,” he complained. “I have to micro-manage everyone on my team to make sure stuff gets done, and when I do — it is often completed half-heartedly, so I end up stepping in and doing it myself.”

Other people involved in the conversation, nodded their heads in agreement -adding their employee “horror stories” in support of his point.

My viewpoint was very different. “That’s because you are managing your people, not leading them,” I said.

This may be a hard pill to swallow but if you believe the vast majority (or all) of the people on your team are lazy, unmotivated, poor contributors, dispassionate — it is more a reflection on you, as their leader, than them.

At the end of the day, your role as a leader is to enroll and inspire. If your team is not motivated — how are you motivating them? If your team is not passionate about their work, do you tend to take notice more when they do things wrong, rather than what they are doing things right? If they tend not to contribute, do they understand how their role is important to the company’s and their success?

Do you really understand you?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Even the most enlightened human beings on the planet admit they are not perfect.

Do you really know what your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader? When you really understand yourself, you can begin to understand others.

As a leader of people you need to develop and grow your people … and the first person you need to develop and grow is: YOU. If you are not developing or growing yourself, you are not being congruent and frankly cannot expect others to follow your lead.

Do you really understand your people?

Jim Morrison from The Doors had it right; People are Strange. But it is their strangeness that makes them fascinating. If you are going to lead people, you need be fascinated by what makes people tick.

Do you understand common behavioral traits of your people, how their preferred method of communication may be different to yours? Do you understand how they like to learn and what motivates them? What values are important to them and how does this differ from your own?

There are many profiling tools on the market that will help you get to really understand your team and yourself like DiSC or Myer Briggs. They provide great insight into how people like to communicate (and be communicated with). When you truly understand these differences, you can adapt accordingly.

Your way or the highway

Your way of doing things is often A way to get things done, not necessarily THE way to get things done.

If you give a team member a task or project — is the goal to get it completed within the timeframe allocated, or get the job done exactly the same way you would do it yourself?

If you want your people to get passionate about what they do — give them the freedom to get it done, with some guidelines. If the job gets completed, before you pick the project to pieces, you need to ask yourself honestly; is criticizing a job done well but not to your lofty standards worth demoralizing a team member?

Alternatively, when you review a project with a team member — complement what you like about how they handled the project before you give your feedback for improvement.

The hand you were dealt

No one takes a job with the hope they will not find it enjoyable. A big percentage of our day is filled with work — getting ready for work, driving to work, being at work. People want to feel significant and acknowledged in their careers; they want to grow in their roles and be recognized for their contributions.

There will be many times as a leader when you will inherit a team or have new team members that you will need to enroll and inspire.

A good question to ask your team members is “Do you know why your job is important to the company?” I have found most people do not know how their role is valued by the organization, or how performing their job well positively impacts the company, its customers and their colleagues. As a leader you need to know how each member of your team contributes and why they are important to you and the company.

It is always tempting to build a new team from the ground up, or to let go of people who you feel are below par. But being able to take the hand you have been dealt and to engage and develop those people into a high performing team will be one of the most challenging and rewarding milestone’s in your leadership development.

Do you remember the moment when you moved from being a manager of people, to being a leader of people?