I have had one of the hardest weeks of work in my career this week. It has caused me to look internally, and to evaluate myself in earnest as a leader. I don’t know what it is about the work issue that made this self evaluation come in, but it made for a few nights of little sleep, a strong need to get my workouts in, and now a need to write a blog about it. What I have been spending time evaluating is my strength as a leader. I am good at some things, and not so good at others.
So, here are my top five leadership commitments for 2015:
- As a leader, give your time to developing the strengths in others. As we grow in our career, we are often valued for the individual contributions that we make. In the transition to a leader, the value you create has less to do with your personal contributions and more to do with your team and what they can deliver. This shift from an individual contributor to a leader takes time to learn, and forces purposeful reallocation of your time. Instead of your time being about you and your work, it is about your people. If you are taking up the majority of your time, or the limelight, your team isn’t, so change it. Allocate your time to the development of others and you will succeed.
- When helping a team member develop, keep the end goal in mind. Sometimes when you are actively coaching an employee to help them improve, it is easy to get so granular in your coaching that it feels to them like you are unsatisfied with their every move. Often, you see “your way” as the only way to do something, and your coaching is working to shape their behavior to “your way”. As the leader, if you focus on the end goal for the individuals development, instead of the specific gaps you see in their daily work, you will bring your feedback in effectively as versus on every small thing that they may be doing differently than “your way”. And, in the process, you may find new ways.
- Listen to truly understand. Allow your point of view to be molded. Just because you got to your position of leadership, doesn’t mean that you know everything. To get the best out of your team, spend your time truly listening to the perspective of your people. Their practical experiences and creative thinking may bring out a better solution than you ever could have determined on your own.
- Focus on alignment. Being misaligned, particularly on some of the most fundamental things in your business, is a poison. When I say alignment, I mean alignment upward within your organization, sideways, and downward to your direct reports. Your job as a leader is to bring things into alignment to drive the most effective results.
- Recognize when you are in over your head. Every leader, and every employee in an organization, gets in over their head at some point. It is inevitable in a changing workplace and helps us to grow and stretch. The key is to recognize it, accept it, and deal with it by building capability around you. You show strength by giving in to this, and partnering with people around you to develop a solution.
My commitment for the week has less to do with this week, and more to do with the next year and beyond. Based on what I learned in my hard week at work, it is even more important. I commit to continue to grow as an individual and as a leader in the hopes that it helps those around me.