Let’s talk about leadership for a minute. All of us are leaders in one way or another. We all have others who look to us for guidance.
And here’s the thing: leadership is INCREDIBLY important. Without effective leadership, NOTHING gets done. But leadership isn’t easy, and I don’t know a single leader who doesn’t want to strengthen their leadership skills.
All of us, myself included, have SIGNIFICANT room to grow in our leadership abilities. With that in mind, let’s dive into 10 tips for better leaderships.
#1 – Clarify Your Personal Mission
Reflection: Leadership is about more than just managing human resources. If you want to be successful at leading others, you have to first master the art of leading yourself – Phil Owens, corporate behaviorist
Creating an environment of success and communicating purpose to others requires first understanding yourself and what motivates you.
When you know what YOU want to accomplish, and why, you can communicate purpose and values to those you lead, so they embrace team goals.
To gain insight into what you want to achieve, ponder what your life might look like 10 or 20 years down the road. The desire for significance in life is universal – and critical to achieving your goals over the long term.
Defining what brings significance to your life will help you focus on ways you can achieve your life purpose. Answer a few questions to help you determine your personal mission as the first step toward cultivating effective leadership.
#2 – Clarify Your Personal Goals
Now let’s look at crafting goals that flow out of that personal mission.
Reflection: Now that you’ve crafted and refined your personal mission, you can begin to create goals that will help you fulfill that mission. Again, you can be working on both work and personal areas.
What do you want to accomplish this month toward your personal mission?
Start by doing a mind dump. Make a list of whatever it is that keeps you up at night – those situations or tasks that if changed or completed would make life more peaceful.
- Is it a stack of unfiled but important papers on your desk?
- Unanswered email?
- The need to research and implement new software?
- An unresolved or uncomfortable relationship issue that has the potential to reach a crisis?
For example, using the mission statement: “I want to use my skills and position to be a source of emotional, social, and financial good in this company,” …
…a simple goal this month could be to have lunch once a week with an employee you don’t know well or aren’t comfortable with.
This one simple goal moves you toward fulfilling your mission. This would fall under being a source of emotional good – fostering a warm and friendly environment.
Plus, you’ll be amazed at what one good interaction can do for building a positive relationship!
For the parenting example we used yesterday, you could schedule one hour one Saturday each month with a specific child to teach them a particular skill from a predetermined list.
For young kids, it could be how to sort or fold laundry.
For older kids, how to safely use a weed eater or the best way to clean out and organize a closet – not exciting stuff, but you get the idea. They grow in responsibility, and you spend time with them.
Over the long haul, you’ll both benefit.
These planned activities might seem small, but they fit your mission with long-term payoffs when they’re put on the calendar and followed through.
#3 – Identify Your Personal Roadblocks
Reflection: If you’re going to achieve your personal mission by meeting the goals you’re setting, you need to identify potential roadblocks. These are simply the interests, demands, people, situations, or habits that will keep you from achieving what you’re really after.
Some things that might sound like good things might not fit into your mission. Volunteering as treasurer of your homeowners’ association sounds like a noble undertaking, but it’s probably not going to help you achieve your goals – and it will take up quite a bit of valuable time. When you look back at your mission statement and goals, what could possibly hold you back from achieving your goals this month, this quarter, or this year?
🤷♂️ Your goals might be too vague (“I want to be a good person”).
📱 You’ve developed poor habits like procrastination, checking social media throughout the day, or watching TV
🤯 You may have chosen goals that are too big and that need to be broken down into increments which are more realistic to accomplish monthly.
😨 Perhaps you just have WAY too much on your plate and need a trusted friend, co-worker, or mentor help you to pare it down, learn to say no, and point out which things are important, and which are time wasters.
👨💼 Do you need accountability to someone who’s not afraid to confront laziness, lack of follow-through, or poor planning? Perhaps even a mentor or life coach?
😡 People can be roadblocks too. Is there someone keeping you from getting things done, or being a negative influence? This can be a bit trickier and you would benefit from getting help or wise counsel.
#4 – Determine Your Personal ONE Thing
Reflection: Now that you’ve clarified your mission, set some goals, and defined real or potential roadblocks to avoid or conquer, it’s time to determine the ONE thing you’re going to focus on that will move the needle most for you.
Being a “starter” or an “ideas person” is great but having too many things going at once is self-defeating.
You’ll miss out on the satisfaction of finishing a project well and won’t focus clearly on anything, since you’re always aware of everything else you haven’t gotten to yet.
Determine one thing that, if you do it, will have a positive effect of making everything else begin to fall into place. You’ll feel like you’re making forward progress once you’ve begun it.
Pushing that first domino that falls and knocks down all the succeeding dominoes is a huge stimulus for success. Determine that no matter what, this one item is what’s going to take precedence over any other project.
It can be a small thing. Sometimes getting something (anything!) off the list will energize you. Or it could be that one thing you’re dreading, and you know you want to get it over with. Think about how much better you’re going to feel when it’s finished!
One quick caveat – unexpected challenges and setbacks are common in any area of life. Avoid letting that derail your determination. We learn from these situations and grow stronger as a result. Look for the lesson, pick right back up where you left off, and keep moving.
#5 – Create A Personal Action Plan
Reflection: Now it’s time to create an action plan that will enable you to do your ONE thing.
Be specific. Ensure that it’s attainable, not frustrating or unrealistic. Break it down into steps to take. Have an end date for each specific step.
Let’s go back to the example of having lunch/getting to know an employee once a week. (You’ll recall that this originated from one aspect of your mission – to use your skills or position for the emotional good of the company.)
Specific steps would be something like this:
- Choose 4 people.
- Contact each one to choose a date, time, and location. Assure them that there’s no underlying agenda!
- Confirm and add each date to your calendar.
- Enjoy your lunch and conversation with them.
This is a very simple example, but you can see how each step is do-able and you know when it’s been completed.
Your ONE thing may be a little more complex. Or a lot more complex! Take the time to break it into manageable components, each of which will be completed before moving to the next.
The goal is focusing on your ONE thing to the exclusion of other projects, but let’s be realistic – there are often urgent situations, sudden demands, unexpected phone calls and more that will interfere with even the best of plans.
Knowing where you are in the sequence of steps helps you to recover and get right back to what you were doing before an interruption came along. You’ll find you can accept those interruptions a lot more peacefully.
Once you completed your ONE thing, prioritize what you’ll be tackling next. Getting one item done leads to achieving your next one thing and starts a healthy chain reaction.
#6 – Clarify Your Team Mission
Reflection: Each team has a unique mission and place within the whole organization. Now that you have clarity about your own personal mission and you’ve set measurable, realistic goals, it’s time to clarify the primary mission for your team.
To get the discussion started with your team, you could share briefly how you’ve created a personal mission statement, used that mission to create realistic goals, and how you’re implementing your plan.
Your team mission may have already been established by a superior, or by you, or by the team as a whole. If it hasn’t been established yet, it’s crucial to get this foundational step in place.
Without a clear purpose behind what they’re doing, it’s difficult for team members to “own” or feel a connection to the larger picture.
When every team member supports the mission, you end up with a team that places a high value on each individual’s contribution, including their own.
If your team’s mission hasn’t been clearly determined yet or needs to be clarified, below are questions that help to clarify it.
As a team leader, you can answer these questions yourself, but discussion with the whole team serves to get everyone on board, build camaraderie, and reveal weak areas.
#7 – Identify Your Team Goals
Reflection: You have clarity on your team’s overall mission and how each team member fits into making the team a success. Now it’s time to determine the real and measurable goals of your team. These may be assigned to you by someone else, like a superior, or you may be the one who comes up with these. Either way, it’s important to be clear on what your goals are for your team.
What is your team trying to accomplish this month? This quarter? This year?
If you need to get clarity on these from a supervisor, do that first.
If you need to take some time to set goals for your team, when exactly will you do that? Get it on the calendar ASAP. Many successful team leaders meet with their team once a week for continuity and accountability.
If setting goals involves team members, get them to clear their schedule and join you for goal setting. Do something to make it fun!
Your action for today is simply identifying goals for the team. No implementation of these is necessary yet until further planning is in place.
#8 – Determine Your Team One Thing
Reflection: Yesterday you and your team determined 3 monthly team goals, as well as looked ahead at longer range goals. Now, it’s time to pick the one BIG goal that will move the needle the most for your team currently.
This goal is going to be your primary focus and your team’s primary focus. By centering the attention of your team on this particular goal with everyone working to that end, you make it much more likely that the team is going to achieve it.
This ensures that your team is getting high-value work done, not just busy work or putting out fires, since this ONE goal has been determined to be a high priority.
There are two approaches to selecting this ONE thing out of the list of 3:
- You choose the ONE thing to focus on and simply tell the team. Sometimes that’s necessary to avoid long discussions or wasting time.
- Or, choose the ONE thing along with your team members. It doesn’t have to be unanimous but listen closely if there are dissenting voices. Assure all team members that the other goals will be implemented before long.
Your primary job once the team’s ONE thing is decided, and responsibilities are divided up, is to become the overseer and progress checker – in other words – to ensure the “doing” is happening.
You’ll be checking in regularly, not waiting until the deadline is just around the corner!
#9 – Identify Current Team Roadblocks
Reflection: Let’s try to identify some roadblocks that could keep your team from achieving their ONE thing (and that could be derailing other goals too).
As the team leader, there’s a degree to which you should look in the mirror first. Just by virtue of their position and skill level, leaders can sometimes intimidate.
Team members who are intimidated can be fearful to share problems they’re running into or feel dumb asking questions. If they get stuck and can’t move forward with their portion, it’s going to affect the whole team’s progress.
What’s your personal leadership style like?
- Do you ever share freely about mistakes you’ve made, bad decisions, or failures? This openness won’t cause your team to lose respect – they’ll know you’re human too and love you for that.
- Do you ever make a point of walking around to chat and see how everyone on the team is doing, aside from their work?
- Are you trustworthy? If you say that you’re going to do something or will get back to them on a question, ensure that you do.
What about the overall work culture? Are there aspects of the work culture in general that keep your team from feeling like a unit?
Too many interruptions, no opportunities for fun or relaxation as a team, one or two people carrying the bulk of the work while others have a much lighter load – these can all keep a team from feeling cohesive.
#10 – Create A Team Action Plan
Reflection: It’s time to create an action plan to enable your team to accomplish that ONE thing you are all focusing on.
It’s a good practice to plan backward. That’s where yearly or quarterly goals are useful, and why we keep bringing up long-term goals in these exercises.
If your team has a project due 12 months from now, for example, use that end date to figure out where the project has to be 6 months from now.
- How does that 6-month deadline inform what has to be completed in 3 months?
- What must happen this month to stay on track?
- What about this week?
Each member of the team needs to see the increments and understand how their part fits into this ONE goal.
Individuals can then break their personal portion into manageable tasks. Each member knows what they’re responsible for achieving, and when it’s due.
As the team leader, determine how often to check on the progress of each team member. Add reminders to your calendar so you don’t forget!
What Does It Take To Be A Better Leader?
If you’re asking yourself this question, you’re already a better leader than most! The best thing you can do as a leader is try to be a better leader. Your effort will mean a lot to your team and they will respond to your growth.