Is your team operating at its optimal level of performance? Are team members inspired? Motivated? Do they show up day to day in tune with a vision and purpose that they are excited about?
If the answer is yes, then keep up the great work – you’re a leader who knows how to bring out the highest levels of performance from your team. If the answer is no, you will need to make a few changes to become a leader who brings out the best in your team.
But first, what is a leader? There have probably been thousands of books written on leadership, with a variety of definitions.
One of the best ways to understand leadership is through comparing management and leadership. It brings to mind the old cliché of working ‘on’ a business or working ‘in’ a business.
Management versus leadership
The book, Management Basics for Information Professionals, cited a quote by Alan Thompson, now president of Toshiba Europe, that explains the difference between management and leadership.
“Management is not mechanical – it’s about resource allocation, efficiency, optimisation…and there are processes you can follow to help you manage effectively.
“Leadership is different – it’s about vision and fire and winning people’s hearts as well as their minds,” Thompson said.
Management can be defined as getting things done with, by, and through other people. The functions of management are concerned with planning, directing, controlling, and evaluating.
Leadership is the ability to inspire others to willingly do what needs to be done. This definition is based on the four cornerstones of leadership: strategically focussed; invested in producing extraordinary results; a passion for personal mastery; and being value-driven.
So, how do you inspire others to willingly do what needs to be done? Here are a few tips:
Unite your people around a common vision or purpose
If I asked each of your team members if they know the mission or vision statement of your organisation, would they be able to tell me? How about the mission or vision statement of your team?
How can you expect a team to rally around or support a vision if they don’t even know what it is? I don’t mean that they know you have one or have a vague idea of what it is. If you handed them a piece of paper and asked them to write it down, would they be able to do it? They need to know it to get excited by it, rally to support it and operate from it.
Link what’s important to them to the fulfilment of your company and/or team mission
You need to find out what motivates the members of your team. One of the best ways to do this is to simply ask them. Get to know what’s important to them and ‘connect the dots’ so they realise the more than help fulfil the company or team mission, the more fulfilled they will be in their work.
Give them autonomy and hold them to high standards
When you ask people about the best boss they ever worked for and why, the answer you will get is consistently along the lines of “we discussed what had to be done and then they let me go and get on with it.”
Your people need to know that you trust and have confidence in them; that you have faith in them and believe in them. Effective leadership is built on a foundation of trust and requires creating a loyal relationship between you and your team members.
Jointly set clear goals and expectations
High performance requires high buy-in. For this to occur, people need to feel like they were part of the planning. That they established the goal. That it is their goal; they own it!
Not that it was given to them or forced upon them. The more they are part of the planning and goal-setting process, the more accountability you will generate from them toward achieving it.
Evaluate performance based on goals and expectations, not personality
When it comes to evaluating performance, this must be done as a partnership with an intention to build and maintain the relationship. The most important factor in doing this is to evaluate performance based on the mutually agreed-upon goals and to leave personality out.
That is, “the goal was to produce X and what was produced was Y” as opposed to “you didn’t do X”. This helps to keep emotion out of the conversation and keep it moving forward in a constructive and productive manner.
Keep these tips in mind and start to implement them on a day to day basis and you will reap the rewards of a united, driven team that reaches its optimal level of performance.
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Lou is currently the Professional Development Specialist for DDLS.
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