I recently finished a Leadership class at the University of Victoria with Professor John Kyle. It was a great class - I will take a lot of what I learned from John througout my career. On the last day of class back in April, he gave us a handout with some practical guidelines for people taking on a new leadership role. This applies equally to private, public and not-for-profit sector leadership roles.
John has given me permission to share this useful guide with you. There's some good stuff in here, I hope you enjoy it:
A GUIDE TO TAKE CHARGE LEADERSHIP
On appointment to a supervisory position which involves leading subordinates, ask the HR Department to review with you the personnel file of each of your employees.
Ensure that you know the names of your subordinates ASAP, and become familiar with their backgrounds and experience.
Call a short meeting of your new staff as soon as it is practical. Begin the meeting by telling them about yourself, and explain that you will be asking many questions to become thoroughly familiar with departmental operations. Explain that you also will be meeting with each of them individually to learn about their jobs, any problems that they may have, and to find out how best that you can help them. Point out that this will be the first of regular meetings, both individually and as a group. Explain, it is important that they have the opportunity to participate with you in the management and decision making of the department.
Your Communications Program…..
Monthly individual and group meetings will become the medium through which you will lead rather than manage your subordinates. Through actions rather than words, your people will soon realize that you have taken charge of the work group and have assumed the accountability for the unit’s operations and results.
Whenever possible visit your people at their work sites. Lead by walking around, not by laptop sending them a barrage of unnecessary emails. Your role is to support their efforts and help them. Do not micro manage. Do not pester them with unnecessary telephone calls or emails. Let them manage their jobs without constant interference, but ensure they understand that you are available for assistance or counsel whenever you are needed.
Is your organization structure dysfunctional?.....
After your first few individual meetings with each of your subordinates, it may be apparent that your organization (the allocation of tasks in each position and their interaction with other positions in your department or others in the organization) needs some realignment or clarification. For example, there may be several people who are performing the same tasks, or there may be a misunderstanding as to who is responsible for what task, and to whom. When these or other organizational problems come to light, use the medium of your group meetings to make the organizational changes to fix the problems.
There must be a clear sense of direction for your department…..
Early in your tenure, discuss with all your subordinates at a group meeting what they believe the direction of the department should be. This should be firmed up with some degree of consensus before you discuss it at the “one on one” meetings with your subordinates.
At the individual meetings with subordinates, ensure that each person understands not only the direction of your department, but also has an appreciation of the goals and objectives of the overall organization.
The direction formulated for your department should support the overall vision for the organization. If there is no vision statement, find out what the overall direction and thrust for the organization is from the point of view of senior management. You need to know where the organization is going before finalizing your departmental direction.
Delegation is an essential skill, not only for leadership, but also for management. It is the first step toward empowering your people. Some people are uncomfortable to delegate. These people will never be leaders, and will become only mediocre managers. Managers who are constantly on the telephone to subordinates, barraging them with flurries of emails and constantly hovering in the background monitoring the task at hand, are unlikely to become leaders. Nor will this kind of manager ever develop future leaders because he or she will never give their subordinates an opportunity to make their own decisions and own mistakes.
It is easy to assign a task to a subordinate, but more time consuming to delegate one. Delegation requires a different approach. The following is suggested:
First, discuss, preferably face to face, what you want done. Encourage your subordinate to ask questions. Ensure that he or she has a clear understanding of what is needed.
Second, discuss with your subordinate how the task is to be monitored by you. The frequency of “check points” to keep the project on track will vary depending on the experience and track record of the individual.
Third, follow up with a written memo incorporating the main points of your “delegation” meeting. Once you have gone through this delegation process, get the hell out of the way and let your subordinate do his or her job. Do not develop into that management bird known as a “white shirted hoverer”.
Do not procrastinate. Seek input and advice, especially from your subordinates. But, remember that the buck stops with you and that once you make the decision, everyone after their input must support that decision, regardless of whether or not they agreed with it.
In certain circumstances, consensus decision making may be appropriate. But often this process ends up with the quality of the decision being pulled down to the lowest common denominator, and valuable time being lost.
Do not postpone making a decision because you feel that you need more information. There are instances when this may be a legitimate excuse for delay. And, sometimes it may be appropriate for your decision to be “no decision”. But keep in mind the observation of the late Dean David of the Harvard Business School – “Business consists of making irreversible decisions made with inadequate information.”
Building a team….
Successful leaders are team builders. “Putting the right people on the bus, getting the wrong people off the bus, and getting the right people in the right seats” must be a top priority. It takes time to evaluate your people and make the tough people decisions – but it must done. Do not hesitate, indeed try, to surround yourself with people who are brighter than you. Properly led they will enhance the department’s performance as well as your own.
Teams require sound leadership. Your team members need to be monitored “loosely”. And you must learn to trust them. They need to know what you are thinking. Empathy for their trials and concerns is essential.
It is your job as team leader to ensure that they understand the “big picture”, and are clear about your objectives.
Do not hold back your praise. Always let them know when they have done a good job. Building a trusting team environment is vital, because only in an open and trusting environment can mistakes be corrected.
Teams require high quality leadership. Self directed teams are only effective in certain unique situations, such as in a university research center or a high tech environment. The danger of self directed teams is that they lose sight of their mandate or satisfy their own agenda, disregarding the task set by the organization.
The exercise of power and people relations…..
You must demonstrate by your personal actions that power must be used very carefully, and with a great deal of humility and compassion.
The development of your people skills is essential to your growth as a leader. There are three acts which constitute principled people leadership:
Firstly, honour and respect all people. Without a consistent respect for all persons, leaders cannot lead and managers cannot manage.
Secondly, encourage and support others. Give praise generously. Ensure that your criticism is just and constructive. Get to know your people – watch, coach and develop them. They are your most important asset. Remember - “praise in public, discipline and criticize in private”
You need to convey “I need you, I am proud of you, and I will always be there if you need me”.
The power of encouragement is great – ignore it at your own peril.
Thirdly, do not hesitate to challenge wrongs. Challenging wrongs is very demanding, but necessary. It involves discerning right from wrong, and acting for what is right regardless of risk. Stop wrongs in oneself, and challenge wrongs in others. Follow through so that wrongs are not repeated.
Peter Drucker, world renowned expert on leadership, maintained that leadership personality, leadership style, and leadership traits do not exist, but he insisted that integrity was the one absolute trait of leadership. He added that “without integrity, leadership disintegrates into a farce”.
No leader can exist in the long term without integrity which is a composite of several things. Of all the composites of integrity, trust stands in the fore. The key to establishing integrity is TRUST which translates into:
- complete honesty in dealing with your colleagues – both superiors and subordinates
- putting your beliefs into practice, that is lay everything out on the table, then be sure that you “walk the talk
- always be consistent, that is “do not move the goal posts”.
Do not forget that “Trust takes a long time to earn and is lost in a minute of thoughtlessness”.
Screw up trust, and your credibility is “toast”. Loyalty to you and the organization will become a historical footnote.
Lastly, you are always individually accountable…..
You are accountable for
- the operations of your unit, department or organization - regardless of whether you or your subordinates screwed up.
- the results expected of your operation - performance with inadequate results is not organizationally acceptable’
- the welfare and wellbeing of your workforce
- providing ethical and principled leadership. This is not an option, it is an absolute.
“LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY”. Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, 1945 – 1952.
John D. Kyle Ph.D.
Photo Credit: Lumaxart on Flickr