Experience is clearly the best teacher when it comes to learning to lead. However, there are a few items that I wish someone would have pointed out before I tripped all over myself earlier in my career. Forewarned is forearmed!
At Least 10 Things I Discovered the Hard Way about Leading
- This job would be easy if it weren’t for the people. People are all that we have. You need to truly like working and helping others to develop as a leader. If you don’t, stick to your role as individual contributor.
- It’s easy to spend too much time with the wrong people. The high potentials merit the bulk of our time, yet the ratio often gets flipped as we spend much of our time chasing the poor performers.
- Hire slow, promote fast and fire fair and fast. When it’s your turn to select talent, you can’t afford to misfire. (Everyone does at some point.) When you do make a bad selection, fix the problem. Fast. And when you get it right, run, don’t walk to put good people into growth roles.
- People fundamentally don’t change. Regardless of your leadership magic, you can’t change a person’s core values, beliefs and behaviors. You might gain momentary compliance, but long-term, sustainable change must come from within an individual. Don’t count on it happening at the speed you need.
- Feedback is the most powerful performance tool in your toolkit. Too few of us are trained on how to get it right. Invest in yourself and cultivate your feedback skills early in your career.
- Recognize that everyone on your team is watching and judging you. If “the do doesn’t match the tell,” you’ll lose credibility. Credibility is key when it comes to leading, and it’s incredibly hard to build and nearly impossible to regain once it’s lost.
- Clear expectations matched with accountability equals high performance rocket fuel. It’s your job to set clear and challenging expectations and promote accountability on your team. Fairly, equitably and always.
- Paying attention to a person…showing interest in their work and their activities is a high form of showing respect. You’re never too busy to stop and talk and listen. People thrive when they are respected.
- For too many leaders, the tendency is to talk, when it should be to listen. When you’re talking, you’re not really communicating … you’re just making noise.
- Questions are more powerful than commands. Skilled leaders wield questions like a surgeon wields a scalpel. Learn to use questions as teaching tools instead of offering answers or barking commands.
The Bottom-Line for Now
No list, book or course will serve as a substitute for good old-fashioned tripping all over yourself. However, a few pointers along the way might just minimize your time spent digging out from some of these character building experiences! Happy leading!
This blog originally appeared at artpetty.com.
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