I have been discussing the topic of leadership a lot lately with members of my team and others managers who are thoughtful around it. I have come up with a few concepts that I wanted to share about the balance of being true to whom you are as a person, making sure things get done at a high level, and treating your employees or direct reports properly (or anyone that you are leading/managing).
I’d like to begin by explaining my perspective around treating your employees/direct reports properly. When I say this I don’t mean not being rude or treating them poorly; hopefully you are a decent human being and understand how to treat people appropriately.
What I mean is how do you become the leader that is able to positively impact your team members in ways that truly allow them to grow. Now, one thing that I have also realized is that not everyone is the ultra emotional person that I am, and that everyone has his or her own unique personality. I do however believe that if you are trying to build a great company or team within a company or any organization for that matter, it will require a very certain profile of individual; especially within sales organizations. This type of person is intelligent, driven, has something to prove, always strives to do better, and wants be great; really, they want to be the best. Ultimately this is someone who is driven to get things done. In my opinion, these are a few of the key attributes required when seeking to build a team of great people.
Now it is important to know that these same people will not be receptive to micromanagement or being told what to do. I like to say that if I have to babysit or micromanage I have hired the wrong people. This is of course always easier said then done, but it’s important to keep in mind while you are recruiting.
I believe that it is our duty as leaders to help guide our team to excellence. They should be figuring out the solutions to problems on their own or together as a group as opposed to being told what they should do, feel, or want. It is your duty to provide recommendations based on your own experiences and your opinions around what is in their best interest; however it is ultimately up them to make the personal decision to be great and execute with true conviction. I believe that greatness must be summoned from within and that there is no way that this is achieved through micromanagement or using fear. Although fear tactics are effectively used all the time, I don’t believe that they scale and that they ultimately create a toxic atmosphere. I believe that great leaders inspire others and help them understand the leader’s point of view; however again, ultimately it is up to that individual to get to a place where they are able to summon greatness from within.
The brutal reality is that greatness requires discipline and reaching that proverbial “extra inch” on a regular basis. And the fact of the matter is that the person or people that you are requiring greatness from may not want to be great at the effort that you are leading; and you must accept that and let them go immediately. I don’t believe they they will not be great, just not on your team. For whatever reason your effort and/or you were not able to get them to the mental/emotional place that they needed to be. Allow them to find the effort and people that inspire them to be great.
So, how do you do this effectively?
Well, it is very much a process and takes time. There are multiple layers to finding great team members. But I think that it all begins with developing open and honest relationships with members of your team, showing them that you are in their corner, that you are their #1 fan, and ultimately truly care about them. This is actually a great segway into how to get getting the best out of others, while being true to yourself.
Doing great things is not a destination it is a long and difficult journey. This is true in business, sports, and even life. It will require challenging yourself and others all the time, for a very long time. You will be constantly working together with you team to reach you goals and breaking barriers.
I believe that this all begins with helping your team understand the vision behind your particular effort and what that means for them both in the short and longer term. In sales, this is not about selling a lot of widgets; its about challenging yourselves to be the best and achieve heights that you have never reached before. I like to say that this is all about breaking belief barriers. Great leaders can bring their team to the realization that the great effort they are behind is totally achievable. These great leaders also spend an equal amount of energy explaining the honest truth around how difficult pursuing the effort will be most of the time. — If you do this you will naturally lose a few or a lot of people, however this is how you build a team consisting of only the great.
Great people understand how to hold themselves accountable for whatever it is that they have set out to achieve. And as in anything in life, achieving greatness is a step-by-step process. It is up to you as the leader to collaboratively create a set of objectives that you and your team agree make sense to pursue. Once this is set, it is your duty as their leader to work with them to hold themselves accountable for their effort around achieving these goals. I know that great people are not happy with mediocrity, excuses, and not giving their all when pursuing a goal. And although everyone has to sleep at night knowing the truth around their individual efforts, your duty is to point out when you identify something that is not consistent with what they are holding themselves accountable for. This is your duty as their leader. And I must point out that this is very different versus telling them what to do or scolding them for not hitting their numbers. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is completely disrespectful and out of line for anyone to treat any of their colleagues this way; especially people that you are leading.
You see, it is ok to have a difficult conversation with your team or a teammate if they know you are in their corner. When they know that their success is your success and that you are going to merely hold them accountable for the objectives that you have set out to achieve yourself.
Hold yourself and your team accountable always, be honest with others about who you are, and exerting more energy showing them honest, transparent love than anything else. These are a few of the keys to great leadership.