There is a multitude of articles, books, blogs etc. on the topic of leadership with many tips on how to be a great leader. What I have discovered however in my 20 years of working with leaders of every age, gender, industry or qualification is that the foundations of leadership (leadership 101, if you like) are not consistently applied nor understood.
Some of the things that are common place across workplaces include:
– Employees that can be a bit ‘tricky’ to manage, have a different set of rules apply to them, particularly with regards their performance and behaviours – this is common!
– Managers have their influence and authority diminished by more senior managers pulling rank on them because the chain of command, which is an essential component of effective leadership, is not valued as a currency of team performance, engagement and communication – this is very common!
– Employees undermine their manager by going around them straight to the more senior manager. Employees do this as a consequence of point no. 2 above, and whilst an open-door policy is often used as a justification for this behaviour, when it negatively impacts the influence within the chain of command, it can inadvertently create a different set of issues within the business, e.g. lack of clarity, poor communication and mistrust.
– Managers get promoted due to their technical competence with minimal leadership skills OR they are deemed ‘high potential’, without the support of tangible guidance/mentoring, thus causing a myriad of challenges for the inexperienced manager, his/her team and missed opportunities for the business.
– Line managers hide issues from their managers because they feel they would be undermined or left out of the decision-making process should the boss become informed/involved in the matter resulting in fractured communication and mistrust.
I could go on…
The fix to these workplace challenges are simple if properly understood and applied with conviction. They are:
Clear lines of responsibility in your organisation must be established – even in very small businesses, the same rules apply. This is not to imply that the organisation’s structure needs to be rigid and overly formal, on the contrary. What this means is that there must be clarity regarding authority within your leadership ranks and this must be clearly communicated to the wider organisation. For order, clarity, communication, engagement etc. it is important to empower your leaders to take charge and own their area of responsibility, without overt interference.
Just like parenting, leadership is showing a united front to the kids, but debating the merits of what-is-what behind the scenes. Managers should be challenged, guided, mentored and trusted by their senior leaders whereby they can then, with confidence lead their respective teams and be responsible for their outcomes.
Leading people is challenging, there’s no doubt about that. Providing feedback and managing that ‘tricky’ employee is one of the greatest challenges. You know the employee who doesn’t quite do anything terribly wrong but is still a real test to your leadership skills. Consistency is key in this example. Consistency in how often feedback is given, with a healthy dose of positive reinforcement combined with clear expectations. Ensure these expectations are established via the chain of command and, over time, this will ensure better engagement, performance and behaviour. No longer will the ‘kids’ play one manager off against the other thus creating a greater sense of stability, communication and morale!