Leaderisticality

How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Archive for the tag “building trust”

Building Relationships… What Exactly Does That Mean?

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 9 of a series…

So let’s try to finish up our series on hiring for, and developing our team from average to great.  You’ll remember (I hope) that we’re talking about hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leader level… you can find part 1 here.  At this level, which includes almost all retail/restaurant jobs (almost anyone paid hourly) we are hiring for qualities rather than skills, as we can teach anyone most any skill needed, however we cannot teach anyone the qualities we need…  And as an added bonus, if we hire exclusively for Leadership qualities, we need never look elsewhere for our future Leaders.

We also talked about how to hire for customer service, as well as the importance of indoctrinating our new hires.  For the last few posts we’ve discussed moving those few people who don’t belong on our team off of our team; moving our current team members from average to great by introducing new expectations (while owning our part in allowing the old behaviors); and the beginning steps to changing the culture of our team.

So let’s pick up by talking about developing relationships… what exactly does that mean?  A long time ago, when I was new to being responsible for the behavior of other people, I kind of thought that meant figuring out how to manipulate them into doing what needed to be done.  I was not very self-aware, and looking back; I was a pretty selfish young man.  So… what I wanted, and what I was responsible for making happen, was much more important than what the people working for me wanted or needed.

Needless to say, I found my work to be a constant struggle, moving between attempting to befriend my workers, attempting to coerce them through fear or intimidation, and following up after them, often doing the work that still needed to be done myself.  It was exhausting!

Through SO MANY mistakes, some huge and painful life lessons, reading some great books, and with some great advice and mentoring by a few good Leaders I was lucky enough to work with/for, I was able to start to understand that it’s not all about me and what I want or need.  I remember my mother, as well as the nuns in Catholic school, telling me that doing for others is it’s own reward; and that working for the good of the group will almost guarantee that you will get what you want (perhaps by changing what we want!?).  It was many years before I understood these lessons, and could start putting them into practice.

So where am I going with all of this?

Building relationships is not about getting what you want.  In order to have our team members want to do what needs to be done, they have to trust us, believe in, and care about the goals of the team, and know that helping them achieve their goals is genuinely important to us.

So… building a relationship with another person starts with getting to know that person.  It’s about them… not you!  I have come to believe that most people can tell in pretty short order when the person speaking to them is genuinely interested in them, or if they are trying to manipulate them.  The only reason to proceed from here is because you are genuinely interested in learning about the other, and in helping them achieve their goals.  If you move forward with any other intentions, I believe it won’t be long before you are found out, and you will have blown your chances of developing a trusting relationship.

Let’s move forward believing that we are all on the same page… that we are not saints, so we have our own goals, wants, and needs (sometimes we act selfishly, and sometimes we are self-absorbed).  And… more often than not, we are genuinely interested in helping other people achieve their goals, and helping other people makes us feel good.  We good?

Building relationships takes time.  We have to make a real commitment to this effort, as it will take many months (at least) depending on the size of your team, and how you have acted in the past, to get to know your team members, and start to build trust between you.  You will have to meet with each team member (or at least your department team Leaders) a couple of times/month at first in order to get to know them; show them you are really committed to them and this process; and to be able to take some action towards helping them achieve their goals.

If you try to rush this process, you will not achieve the results you want.  Your team members will see that you simply want to get to some end where they do your bidding, and you will have wasted all of your time.  Please either commit to this fully, or do not start the process until you are ready to fully commit.

Do not fool yourself into believing that you already have the relationships you need.  If you did, you would not need to change the culture of your team.  You would just need to alter your expectations, and perhaps get your team together to come up with some aggressive new goals.  And if you are reading this, that is not where you are.  If you actually have great relationships with your team members, you probably don’t need my help, and you most likely already have a great team.  So let’s get realistic, and commit to doing this right.

Wow!  1000 words, and my posts are already much longer than people tell me they should be.  So… we’ll stop here, and perhaps part 10 will be the last of the series.  Next time we’ll talk about purposefully developing a culture where feedback is expected, and where it is “heard” as an attempt to help us constantly and incrementally improve.

Remember that this Blog Leaderisticality.wordpress.com will be going away, so if you want to continue reading (and I suggest you do!) you’ll want to go to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow there.  Thank you!

Changing The Culture Of Our Team…

Japanese wave posterWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 8 of a series…

We’re winding down in our series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.   We’ve talked about hiring our hourly team members (from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leader level) for qualities rather than skills, indoctrinating those new hires, and changing the expectations of our ‘old’ team members to begin the transformation from average to great.

Hiring only the best is a mandatory starting point.  I believe indoctrinating them is also mandatory to have a truly great team.  Introducing the needed changes to our ‘old’ team members must be done carefully and intelligently in order to avoid the pushback that comes so naturally.

Now we must introduce and maintain some behaviors and relationship habits without which I don’t believe great can be achieved.

3.  Changing the culture of our team.  This part will take some time, and can only be changed by building relationships with your team members… each and every one of them.

Changing the way our team members interact with each other is perhaps the hardest part.  Since our actions and choices allowed the current culture to form, the only way to change it is to change our actions, and make different choices.  Yes… you are to blame for the culture on your team.  You are to blame for the average performance of your team.  Blaming your team members is like parents blaming their kids for playing video games all day.  You allow the behavior…  If you don’t like it, don’t allow it.   And the change must begin and end with you!

As Leaders, we can break our teams all by ourselves.  Our actions (or lack thereof), our selfishness, arrogance, and any number of other behaviors can easily crush the spirits of our team members, and destroy any positive efforts on their part.

We cannot however make our team Great by ourselves.  For most of us it takes concentrated effort, more energy than we thought we could muster, and the investment of an insane amount of time in order to bring together the people around us and form an actual team.

The crazy part is that most of us are capable of achieving this goal as long as we are in it for the right reasons.  Our team members do not expect us to be perfect; have all of the answers; or always say the right things.  They do expect us to genuinely care about them; to try our best; to admit our faults and failures; to freely give credit where it is due; to accept the blame when things go sideways; and to put the goals of the team ahead of our own.

We must all be willing to admit and talk about our faults/failures.  As the Leader it is our job to show everyone how this is done.  We must be the example, and talk openly and honestly about our faults and failures.  I believe that the only way to get our team members to admit to, speak honestly about, and ‘hear’ feedback about their mistakes is seeing their team Leader do the same.

We must never punish failure, or allow other’s failures to become fodder for jokes.  If we are not failing, we are not trying enough new ways to achieve great!  Many of you are/will be hesitant to really open up and share your mistakes/failures with those who work for you.  I would suggest that anything like this, that is difficult for us, is necessarily the very work we need to do in order to improve ourselves as Leaders.

We must install a culture of almost constant feedback.  At first it may be difficult to get the rest of the team on board with giving and accepting feedback.  It is human nature to take a defensive stance when we believe we are being attacked.  Feedback is rarely used to foster positive change in most workplaces, so accepting this as a long-term process will serve you well.  This topic needs a lot more time, so we’ll talk about this more next time.

We must align our rewards systems with innovation, risk taking, and Leadership development.  If the bottom line (or any other measure) is given the highest reward, everything else is guaranteed to fall by the wayside to be forgotten.

Profitability and the bottom line can and should be rewarded, and… unless all of the steps needed to move our team towards Great are recognized and rewarded, and the process itself is given the importance and attention it deserves, all of our efforts will be reduced to yet another failed attempt to create positive change… just another flavor of the month come and gone.

We must build strong, trusting relationships with our team members.  Sometimes this will mean developing relationships with all of our team members.  On larger teams, we will only be able to develop deep relationships with our team Leaders.  We then teach them how to develop those relationships with their team members.

Since team member happiness and engagement is really a measure of our relationship with the person to whom we report, this relationship chain is vital to achieving Great.  We cannot fathom moving past average without getting the vast majority of our team members actively engaged in their work.  And this can only be achieved through strong, trusting relationships!  We’ll talk more about relationship building next time too.

I think one additional post; to more fully describe the behaviors and habits needed to move our culture to one that values Great is in order.  More specifics on building relationships, as well as how to develop a culture of feedback will help.  I’m sure that in my haste to wrap this up I’ve left out many steps that you will recognize by their absence, so please don’t hesitate to speak to them in the comments.

Remember that this blog will be going away soon, and all content will be available on http://www.leaderisticality.com   If you are interested in continuing to read my posts, please head over to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow that blog.

Thank you!

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Changing expectations

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 6 of a series…

Welcome to part 6 of this series on hiring and developing a great team, specifically with an hourly workforce.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities, correctly welcoming (indoctrinating) your new hires, and now we are moving to the next steps necessary to keep your great new hires great, as well as changing expectations for your current team members.  In part 5 we talked about helping people who do not belong on your team find their happiness elsewhere, and deciding if they really have to go, or are we acting out of fear.

Today we will focus on:

2. Changing expectations for our existing team members.

We will likely have a large number of our team members happy to be getting great new people on the team (finally!), and happy to see the worst go (what have you been waiting for?).  The rest will be swept along by the strongest force (whether it be good or evil), and while they are not the yet the great team members we’d like to have on the team, I’ve found that the ‘window’ for great team members is wider that most people think.  Many more people would be great additions to the team if they are properly trained, trusted, allowed to take chances, and if they really believe that we, their team Leaders, have their best interest at heart.

Our current team members are not yet acting like Great team members for several reasons.  As Leaders, I believe our first job is to assume that our team members are fully capable of greatness, and our job is to remove the roadblocks that are holding them back.

Some of them have had the creativity and willingness to speak up beaten out of them by past bosses.  They are now doing average work because in the past it has not been in their best interest to speak up, make suggestions, maintain high work standards, or exceed expectations.

For these people the process will include brainstorming sessions, allowing them to move forward with their ideas with little or no input from you, and rewarding and celebrating each and every time one of them speaks up, offers an idea, or provides even the smallest bit of constructive criticism.

You should expect the process of encouraging people to speak up to take some time… months at least, if not longer.  At first they will not trust you to listen to, or care about what they have to say.  The need for patience and understanding is paramount, and your ability to ride out this process will be tested.  If you are able to stick with it, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Some of them have always had each and every step of their jobs spelled out for them, and have not had the freedom to innovate, or make any decisions for themselves.  These people have been taught to follow orders, rules, and job descriptions to the letter, and the thought of changing this learned behavior could be very scary.

These people do not expect to be trusted (in fact they will likely expect just the opposite), so you must be not just willing, but eager to extend trust to everyone on your team.  People don’t need to ‘earn’ your trust… people deserve trust simply because they are people.  And as Leaders it is our job to extend trust.

Here again, we get more of what we reward and celebrate.  So… if we want our team members to take chances, try new methods, and innovate, we should celebrate and reward each and every instance.

I have found that it helps to suggest ways in which people might step out of their rigid confines (whether they are self defined, or have been defined for them by others).  We are often able to see the right answers and best course of action for others, and yet unable to see any path at all for ourselves.

Literally making suggestions about how to approach their work differently may not work, since too many people will hear our suggestions as yet more direction.  So… I’ve had success simply relating my experiences…  “When I was… I tried this…” or “I had this great team Leader who suggested that I try… I failed miserably, but because of that failure I thought of trying… which worked out great” or “I’ve seen this… or this… work in the past, and I bet you can come up with an even better way to…”

This is where celebrating every attempt will help you, because many of your team members will be hesitant to try something new for fear of failure… or more specifically, the consequences of failure.  So… having their team Leader celebrate and reward every attempt at innovation will go a long way toward helping your people break out of their old habits.

Some people have ideas or pictures of themselves that are not true, or not supported by fact.  You know the stories we tell ourselves… like: I’m not good at math… I could do everything about the next job but the financials.  For whatever reason, many of us tell ourselves, convince ourselves that we are not capable, or not able to do certain jobs or tasks … we can help people break out of these limiting molds and thought patterns.

As we develop relationships with our team members, we will begin to understand what thought patterns are getting in the way, and over time we can work on helping our team members see that these beliefs are not only false, but often the opposite is true!  They will only listen to us however, once we show them that we have their best interest at heart.

Some people have attitudes that stand in their way.  We can be too idealistic, feel that everything we do must be perfect, or that we cannot compromise at all without compromising who we are.  Attitudes like this can easily keep us from building on our strengths, getting enough tasks accomplished, or working well as part of a team.

We can help these people by showing them how this belief or behavior is getting in the way of achieving their goals.  Our first job, as usual, is to develop strong, trusting relationships.  Then, when they realize that our goals for them are the same as their goals for themselves, they will actually hear us when we talk to them about how these attitudes (which then affect their behaviors) are keeping them from achieving their goals.

To sum up… to move our current team members from average to great, our first steps are to build strong, trusting relationships; assume there are obstacles keeping them from being great; removing the obstacles and roadblocks we can remove; helping our team members develop new habits and overcome old patterns; and rewarding and celebrating every attempt towards the behaviors we need to see more of.

Next time we will discuss how our expectations for performance and behavior need to change in order to achieve great, as well as how to relate these changes to our team.  As the past behavior of the team is exactly what we allowed it to be, we need to fully own our responsibility in order for the team to accept the needed changes.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Helping People Find Happiness Elsewhere

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 5 of a series…

Welcome back!  Here we are, working on building a great team of hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leader.  We’ve talked about hiring the best people by hiring for qualities rather than skills, because we can teach pretty much anyone almost any skill, however we cannot teach qualities.

Last time we talked about the need to indoctrinate (or whatever you choose to call it) your new hire just as soon as you make the decision to hire them.  The importance of this cannot be overstated… you simply cannot leave this to anyone else.  Only you, the team Leader, can imbue your new hire with the team’s values and goals, the work ethic you expect, and make sure they know that you not only value and appreciate what they bring to the team, but also your commitment to helping them achieve their goals.

I have found that stating these things without the passion, belief, and energy that we would imagine someone who is ‘indoctrinating’ another person would use, will end with us failing to achieve the desired results.  The process, and how the message is delivered are as important as the actual message.  At least this is what I’ve found in my experience.

It is most important that you begin developing that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to add them to the team.

Now that we are hiring the best people, we need to keep these great new hires from joining the ranks and adopting the current culture, and change the culture and of the team.  Without changing the culture, as well as the expectations of our current team members, those great new people will either become mediocre, or leave.  We cannot allow that to happen!

To keep that from happening, we need to be doing several things at once…

  1. 1.    Get the people who do not belong on a great team off the team as quickly as possible.  Even if that means we run short handed for a while, the risk of allowing them to poison our new hires far out weighs the short term effects of being short handed.  All of our time and effort spent finding the best people and getting them excited about working on this great team will be for naught if we do not get those who are not interested in being part of a great team off of our team.

If we are not willing to follow through on this critical step, we will never be able to develop that great team.  People who do not belong on a team are like poison, and no amount of coaching, or relationship building can mitigate the damage they will do.  The percentage of people who cannot be won over, and will need to be removed from the team is small.  If you are feeling that a large number, 10%, 15% or more of the current team members need to leave the team, perhaps we should take a hard look at our reasons for wanting them off the team.

When turning a team around, it is easy to feel that everyone we did not hire, everyone we don’t immediately see as a great addition to the team, or everyone who might be loyal to the previous leader needs to go.  In fact, what most likely needs to happen is we need to spend the time to develop relationships with the majority of these team members.

I have found that the range of people who can be great team members is much wider that many people think.   People who are not currently great, and who can become great team members have usually been mistrusted, and mistreated by their past team Leaders.  If we make sure they are trained, extend trust, and develop strong relationships with them, we will find that many of our current team members can move with us from average or mediocre to great.  It’s up to us as Leaders to do everything we can to engage with, and get the best out of each and everyone of our people.

For those very few who are always negative; do not wish to do the work it takes to be part of a great team; or will not be honest and genuine enough to allow a relationship to be built, we must be decisive and move them off the team as quickly as we can.

I didn’t mean to spend so much time on this one sub-topic, and I feel that its importance can’t be overstated.  Feeling that more than a few people need to leave the team is probably a clue that we are allowing ourselves to be driven by our fears, which will make it impossible to achieve great.  And at the same time, failing to take action with the few who do need to go will also keep us from achieving great.  Working with our coach or mentor can help us determine where the truth/balance lies, and keep us from getting derailed.

Next time we’ll talk about changing the expectations of our current team members…

Oh… one more thing.  Somehow, through my inexperience and experimenting with blogs, I ended up with 2 blogs.  So… soon I will be dropping this one and keeping http://www.leaderisticality.com  If you are interested in continuing to follow my posts, please head on over to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow that one.  Thank you so much for your support!

Leadership Or Manipulation?

Big doors

If We Are Developing Relationships For The Express Purpose Of Influencing Others, Is That Leadership Or Manipulation?

I started to write a post on developing relationships, and the connection between my thoughts on what Leadership is and is not, and how and why we develop relationships burst into my mind.

I have come to believe that we, people, can only consistently act like great Leaders if we have developed “Leadership qualities”. That is to say Leadership is not a list of behaviors or actions… it is rather how we see ourselves and the world, and this understanding, this way of being, determines the actions and behaviors by which we define Leadership.

So… we can learn the ‘skills’ needed to develop relationships. We can learn how to talk to our team members, get to know them, and do what we can to help them achieve their goals. We can try to share something of ourselves in order to build a level of trust or openness between us, and through this we will probably achieve some level of influence over these people.

And unless we are doing it because we actually care about those people; because we sincerely want to know them and help them; and we care less about the outcome than we do about the relationship, then I would call that manipulation.

I have witnessed an amazing amount of this kind of behavior. I have been manipulating end when I was younger and didn’t know any better, and on the receiving end working for people who were acting out of fear rather than caring.

In my experience this behavior can achieve some results, and only for a limited amount of time.

If we don’t truly care about the people around us we will not be able to carry on investing in them when things go sideways and the pressure is on.

If we care more about the outcome than we do about the people we will eventually have to toss aside those we don’t believe are moving us towards our own goals quickly enough.

If we don’t believe that the world is a safe place, and we are acting out of fear, we will not be able to extend trust for very long, and our need to be in control will take over.

Building relationships can give us influence, and only if we are building those relationships for the right reasons. If you are not getting the results you want; find your team members do not really trust you; or you just don’t really get the whole ‘relationship’ thing… you might think about your motivation for trying to build those relationships in the first place.

Should Each And Every Effort Raise The Bar?

Cadets marching

Do you permanently raise the bar when someone puts in extra effort?

“Sad but true. When you over deliver, that raises the bar. That’s your new standard and you are constantly measured against that. Even dropping to, say, a high-average level means your performance has deteriorated and you’re possible termination material while anyone else who rises to that same level is considered hot property”.

I read this in a comment to another post not to long ago (unfortunately I can’t find it now to give credit), and I understood it immediately because I’ve been on both sides of it.

Should each and every effort raise the bar?

No of course not… what are you thinking?

I can see it from the side of the person who put in extra hours (perhaps even hours off the clock) and pulled resources and team members from other projects to make my boss look good when the president of the company came for a visit. It was a lot of juggling, showing up early and working late, as well as asking a lot from each and every one of my team members. We pushed pretty much everything to the limit, losing sleep and time with our families to make this go off without a hitch.

We didn’t do it expecting a bonus or a parade. We did it because we are part of a team, and we wanted to have our department and store look as well as it could, and support our boss by making him look good.

The next day I’m asked why we can’t do that all of the time… thank you… and why can’t do you that every day?

Did my boss simply not care about how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss simply not understand how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss not care how stressful the whole process was, and how we were all at our limits?

How do you think I felt when I got a perfunctory ‘thank you’ and then was asked why I couldn’t do that every day?

Do you think I felt appreciated? Valued?

Did I feel like something… something that should be used up and tossed aside when it can no longer function as needed? A consumable…

Or…

Was my boss under so much pressure that he felt his job was constantly on the line?

Did he fully understand what it took, and still felt the need to ask us to make that the new normal because he was afraid that one of these days he might have to have to go home and tell his wife that he got fired?

Did he simply not know any better… was he promoted past his level of competence, and he is struggling to keep his head above water?

What should we assume?

Of course you should raise the bar.

In this economy, this is the new normal. If we are not able to do more with less; keep improving each and every day, we might not have jobs to complain about tomorrow.

Good enough isn’t good enough, and with the competition we have, we must constantly struggle to improve our quality/service/products/bottom line every day.

My bonus is based mostly on ‘improvement’, and if we don’t continue to find ways to achieve more while using less, I lose money. So…

Where do you stand?

I can’t state what is right or wrong here, and what I can do is tell you what would have made a difference for me.

Build relationships:

If you are a team Leader, show that you are interested in creating a strong, trusting relationship with those who work for you. People will work tirelessly for us when we first develop relationships with them. They need to know that we care about them and their goals; that we value and appreciate them and their hard work; and that we have their best interest at heart.

Appreciate:

Show your team that you appreciate the effort they put in. Make sure you are giving more positives than you thought possible… between 5 and 9 positives for every negative or constructive piece of feedback.

Communicate openly:

Speak honestly about what is needed, and how the team can help achieve it. Make sure that each and every team member knows that they are an important part of the team, and integral to the success of the team.

Support Constant improvement:

We can all get behind constant improvement. I’ve found that everyone who feels like an important part of the team will have ideas on how to improve things. Supporting constant improvement means listening to everyone… showing humility and knowing that you don’t have all of the answers. Make sure your people have everything they need to do their best work.

Redefine job descriptions:

Talk to every team member about redefining their jobs. By helping each team member see the overarching reason for their work we allow them to find new ways to do great things. Defining roles by their job description puts limits on what people can do and what they see as possible.

Help your team members achieve their goals:

Whether it means teaching people skills, helping them develop Leadership qualities, or doing their best work for you while trying to get their own business off the ground… helping other’s achieve their goals builds trust and loyalty.

Help everyone get an A:

Read Helping People Win At Work by Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge. It’s our responsibility as Leaders to help every one of our team members find success at work. If our team members fail, we should first look to ourselves for the fault.

People who fee that they are a valued part of the team will work very, very hard for us. However we have to understand that we can only push them so hard before they feel abused… Once this happens it’s very difficult to reverse. When people no longer feel valued, and feel more like pawns that can be sacrificed, the quality of their work will drop, turnover will increase, and it will become more and more difficult to maintain that level of productivity. Do not fall into this trap, as it’s a tough one to get out of.

Why The Best Idea Isn’t Always The Best Idea

doors with foliage

I have come to believe that the best decision isn’t necessarily the best decision; rather it’s the one the most people can genuinely get behind.

I was engaged in a discussion with Dan Forbes and a few other Leaders in the “Lead With Giants” Google Plus Community, talking about the importance of consensus.. My comments in the discussion led me to think that perhaps my thinking needed more explanation.

What happens when we go with the ‘best decision’ whether or not we achieve consensus, or buy in for this decision?

  • One person can make a decision, however it takes a team of people working together for successful implementation.
  • Expecting, wanting, or demanding support for a decision does not mean people will actually support the decision.
  • Opinions and feelings about the decision, as well as all of the actions and changes that will happen implementing the decision, are not heard.
  • People who do not feel heard do not feel valued, important, or engaged.
  • People do not like change… in particular change that is imposed upon them.
  • Unhappy, disengaged, and undervalued workers may not support the changes; or may go so far as to undermine the implementation of the changes.
  • Time and money are wasted working to overcome worker pushback.
  • The implementation of our decision falls far short of our expectations, and we wonder why.

Even though this was the ‘best idea’, when we fail to hear the opinions, and more importantly the feelings of those involved, we fail to achieve the level of success we expected.   The benefits, and ROI are much less that we thought we would realize, and what could have been a great thing becomes just another in a long line of failed initiatives.

 

What happens when we work towards consensus?

  • Group members are engaged and empowered by inclusion
  • Concerns and feelings can be expressed and heard, building stronger, trusting relationships
  • Those involved have more ownership and commitment to the decision as well as the implementation.
  • When practiced on a regular basis, the open and honest discussion and debate involved in consensus building allows us benefit from the experience of the entire group.
  • We create a shared understanding of the goal, and agreement on actions.
  • People are more willing to accept and participate in changes when they have had a chance to share their concerns and fears, as well as participate in determining changes to be made.
  • People who feel heard are much more likely to fully support the changes, and even help bridge gaps with other teams and departments.

So… the best idea is the one the most people can get behind.  It’s the one that gets supported throughout the process, so the results realized are much closer to our expectations. More people on all levels are willing to accept the changes because the people responsible for implementing the changes felt ownership, and showed honest, personal support.

Although the idea that the most people can get behind may not get us as far as our hopes for ‘the best idea’, it moves us closer to our big goals, while at the same time forming a team where most people feel heard, trusted, valued, and supported.  That second goal is the much more important goal… Leadership through relationship building is what will enable us to reach our larger goals, and keep us agile and competitive in the long run.

Developing Your Future Leaders Part 4… How to Spot Leadership Qualities in Your Team Members

How to Spot Leadership Qualities in Your Team Members

We’ve talked a lot about what to do when we see Leadership potential in our team members, however I don’t know that we’ve really spent any time on just how to spot that potential… or what exactly we are looking for. So…

In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader he listed many of the qualities we will be looking for. We talked all about them here. I also talked about his 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player. If you haven’t read either book, you should, as he gives a much better description of each, as well as examples to make each one understandable to most anyone.

You’ll remember that when hiring, we are looking for how our applicant sees himself or herself, the world, and how they fit into their world. We are not very worried about skills or qualifications when we are hiring for hourly jobs. If you need specific skills, qualifications, or certifications for your job, use that list to weed out the applicants without the needed skills, and then use the method described starting here. You still need to hire people based on how they see the world if you are going to build a high functioning team.

Hiring in this manner has a second benefit, in that it helps us identify Leadership qualities in our applicants. Those qualities may be something that our applicant is aware of and trying to develop, or they may be lying dormant, waiting to be recognized. So let’s talk about exactly what that means…

Whether we are interviewing an applicant, or developing relationships with current team members, we are asking the same types of questions. If we have specific skills or qualifications that we need, we have already weeded out those without them. So we are only asking questions that allow us to assess how this person sees themselves and the world. Do they posses the qualities of a Leader?

Let’s use “trust” as an example. Can you train someone to trust? Do you think that you can find someone who does not instinctively trust others, and find a way to get them to start extending trust? You cannot! None of us can do that. And yet trust is perhaps the most powerful influencer there is. You cannot name one successful Leader who has not been able to extend trust. We simply cannot do anything alone… we must trust others if we are to achieve our goals.

You can take almost any team member you have, and start building a relationship with them. Get to know them, show them that you are human by sharing your faults and mistakes. Find out about their lives, and what goals they have for themselves. Over the course of these conversations you will build a relationship, which will gain you some level of influence over your team member. If you then actively help them achieve their goals, so that they really understand that you care about them, you will achieve a higher level of influence. If however, at the very beginning, you state that you care about them, value them, are happy to have them on the team, and extend trust, you will gain so much more influence almost immediately.

You can extend trust by allowing them the freedom to decide how to achieve the results you desire; by giving them responsibility for ordering something; or by asking them to be responsible for some other task. You are responsible for providing them with the tools and training needed. You can, and should follow-up to be sure that they are achieving the desired outcome, and you should be there to help them when they need help.

Our job as Leaders is to gain influence over others in order to achieve the team goals. There is no quicker way to gain influence, or a stronger bond than by extending trust. And we cannot train someone to trust. Either it is there, inside them, or it is not. They can develop that quality if they choose, and it is no easy task.

As we talked about in the hiring series, we need to understand that it’s pretty normal for applicants to think they should tell us what we want to hear. However that doesn’t do either of us any good at all. If we fail to see that this is what they are doing, we will end up putting them into a role under false pretenses, and where they are likely to fail. Not a good outcome for anyone. So… it’s up to us to spend some time getting the applicant or team member relaxed and comfortable. You are the Leader, so this is up to you. You are in charge of speaking in a manner that will allow the person you are communicating with to let go of any ‘script’ or prepared thoughts, and just talk to you honestly.

As I’ve stated before, there is absolutely no need for any of this to be adversarial. You should not be showing anyone who is boss, or exerting your authority. Speak to them as if you just met them at a family picnic, and you are interested in getting to know all about them. We need them to talk to us honestly and openly. We can use our own faults and mistakes to show our humanity, and help them to talk about their own. We aren’t necessarily looking for their faults… we all have plenty of them. We are looking for actions, and attitudes that describe qualities. That might be a little confusing…

This time, let’s use self-responsible as an example of a quality we are looking for. We can probably agree that this is a quality we find in almost every Leader, right?! OK, so we will look for this quality in our team members. So how would we define ‘self-responsible’? We might state that self-responsibility is acknowledging that you, through your thinking, feeling, and behaving, are in control of how you experience life.  That’s fine, and how would you tell a team member how they might act, if they wanted to show that they were self-responsible? That first definition doesn’t work anymore, does it?

Now we have to come up with some actions that show ‘self-responsibility’, so we can look for them. Literally, self-responsible means not blaming other people or circumstances for anything. So when we have team members who accept, or better yet, volunteer responsibility when something goes sideways, we are witnessing self-responsibility. We also look for people who reach out to others to build relationships… they take responsibility for those relationships. We see it when people accept responsibility for their feelings. We see it when people ask for help when they need it, and before they get in too deep. My own personal take will also add people who fully accept a job, role, or task as if they owned the company. Those people will do their best without having to be told to; they will find new, more efficient ways to get things done; they will ask if they can change how things are done to save money or time; and they will keep you in the loop, because they are responsible for your relationship.

Does that make more sense? Those are the actions we are looking for when we talk to our applicants and team members. For each quality, we look for actions that describe that quality.

I don’t think it’s rocket science, and it does take some practice. Most of us have been trained to look for skills and qualifications, and it can be tough to stop doing what we’ve been doing for so long. And yet these qualities are the only things that are of any real importance. So… with practice, we can look for, and see the actions, and the traits that show the beginnings of Leadership in each of our team members.

Next time we can look at qualities other than self-responsibility, and see if we can come up with some actions or traits for each of them.

Oh… and if you like my blog, please ‘like’ my Facebook page. The button is just up there at the top right. I dare you to click it!

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