Great leadership is undeniably hard to come by. Whether it’s leading a sports team or an organization, leadership is responsible for molding raw talent into effective and powerful instruments of action. In business, that translates into motivating employees to achieve your company’s goals and mission. Instilling this motivation in employees, however, is one hundred times harder than anyone thinks.
Running my own business, I’ve realized that leading is much more than just letting people know their responsibilities. Whether you’re leading an entire company or even just one department, strong leadership is critical to maximizing human talent.
To get the most out of people, I’ve discovered that you need to work on four C’s:
Everyone talks about the need to paint the big picture to help employees visualize how they fit in and how they help contribute to the overall mission. Yes, this is all true, but it all comes down to clarity. How clear is this picture to every single person on your team? Do they know exactly what purpose and goal you’re trying to achieve? If the answer is no, then whatever vision or goals you have set up will be hardly effective. But clarity doesn’t stop there. Clarity is critical in all aspects.
In my experience, clarity is important to effectively engage and hold employees accountable. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of assuming responsibilities and expectations were clear only to find out later that the employee had a completely different idea of what I expected. Take something as simple as “regular client communication.” To me, this means proactive outreach to clients on a weekly basis, if not more often. To an employee, however, this can mean monthly communication.
Lesson learned. Clarity is just as important in the little things as the big things. But how do you know that your goals and expectations are clearly communicated? Regardless of the message, it’s important to have the employee provide their own version of the task, expectation or goal to ensure there is no miscommunication. This simple exercise of repeating and rehashing is key to making sure everyone is on the same page.
Just like clarity is crucial to seeing eye-to-eye, commitment is crucial to living out the promise you set out during the job interview or that big company speech. It’s not just about being a good role model, but showing commitment to the team itself. It means showing each and every one of your employees that you are committed to their success and have their best interest in mind.
As a leader, being committed often equates to being sacrificial. Yes, that means you’re willing to give up your time to coach your employees, to answer their questions and give them a hand when they need it. It also means teaching them new things and helping them achieve more.
Running a small company that’s still what I consider a startup, it’s hard to find time to really coach and mentor employees. However, I’ve also learned that not taking the time to build up your talent can be detrimental in the long term.
When I first started my company, I was looking for capable people to do their jobs but didn’t take the time to build them up to be the next leaders. This resulted in a lack of leadership when I needed it most, leaving me to carry the burden of always being the leader, ultimately limiting the growth of our company.
While committing yourself to the success of your employees can be difficult, it’s important that you dedicate the time and resources to help your employees succeed.
It may seem odd that compassion should be a characteristic of great leaders. After all, great leaders are supposed to be bold, fearless and indifferent, right? Being too soft can often be seen as a weakness.
However, when I talk about compassion I am referring to empathy shown to employees during your daily interactions. This means genuinely caring when they’re having a bad day, or they’ve had a car accident or a pet die. It also means not being critical and accusatory when something doesn’t go exactly as you had expected.
Over my years working with a wide range of talent, I’ve learned that more is accomplished by showing genuine care and concern rather than by blaming or criticizing. I remember a time when a client meeting did not go as I had expected, and we ended up losing a client. My initial reaction was one of blame. Why was that report not done sooner? Why didn’t we show more results? Why did we wait so long? Turns out, this was the wrong approach. Yes, while it hurt to lose a client, there were lessons to be learned that would have made a bigger impact in the long run.
Next time when you’re ready to blame, criticize or disregard, remember that we’re all human and a little compassion goes a long way.
The last C of great leadership is courage. Courage is fundamental to propelling change and motivating people to do what sometimes sounds crazy. Think of Benjamin Franklin chasing after thunderstorms and lightning. Crazy — but that’s courage. If you want to inspire and see others achieve what sometimes seems unattainable, you have to have the courage to do something crazy. Today’s newest, most innovative companies, like Uber and Airbnb, were not developed after tested-and-tried models. What might have been a crazy idea is now something hundreds and thousands are rallying behind.
I know I’ve had to dig deep into my pocket to find courage sometimes. Recently, our company moved to a comprehensive all-in-one marketing platform. While the original idea was risky, I had to show courage and faith that this one big change was going to improve the way we serviced our clients. And it has!
While being courageous is not always easy, it’s important to always show courage and faith if you want a team, small or big, to believe and follow.
Clarity, commitment, compassion and courage are all unique characteristics leaders have to demonstrate. While these are not always natural or easy to develop, it’s important for leaders of any age to grow in these areas to see future success.