Leaders are responsible for many things; acquiring and shaping vision, personal and corporate communication, strategic planning, budgeting, training, supervision, executing the plan, and the plan’s results. These are basic functions that all leaders can identify with. But there’s a missing ingredient from this list. What is it? It’s the way leaders treat and relate with team members, a key indicator of one’s ability to lead effectively. This is why most people in leadership positions are not leaders; some are more focused on tasks but limited in people skills. Some in positions of leadership lead for selfish reasons, to achieve a personal goal or to advance themselves. Then there are those leaders who don’t know how to lead because they’ve never been trained properly. Leadership is not that complicated; it’s simply being a genuine person who connects well with others on a personal level, then leverages followers talents, skills and energy to achieve organizational goals.
Organizations today are in desperate need of good leaders who prioritize relationships. There are times when leaders get so busy in the daily grind of work schedules that they fail to build relational value with their followers. As a result relationships wane, even dissolve substantively because the mission becomes more important than developing community. Leaders cannot allow relationships to suffer; they must learn to be intentional and diligent to work on their people skills continuously. In the thirty years of my workplace experience I have personally seen leaders, default in many areas but these two stand out the most. This article addresses two significant gaffes leaders make. As leaders try not to make the mistake of being…
Long on Vision, Short on Relationship
A leader who has a lot of vision but lacks the skills or time to build solid relationships will eventually live alone in the future. Leaders need to have a vision for where they’re taking a project or organization, this much is true, but they also need relationships to bring the vision to fruition. Leaders who “drive” hard tend to make this mistake; they don’t take the time to value and build meaningful relationships, which empower the vision for the long haul. In turn, the vision suffers a dose of malnutrition because the synergy required to build and sustain momentum becomes sluggish, in some cases nonexistent. It is not good to toss out idea after idea without building meaningful relationships nor is it wise to hurry people to get things done quickly and miss what’s truly important; relationship.
Neglect: Love Gathers – Inattention Scatters
A second default is when leaders fall short in loving their followers unconditionally. When this happens people become disengaged and eventually “scatter.” Employees and followers will leave your organization, and find an alternate place where they can be nurtured, developed, appreciated and celebrated. People will tolerate a leader to a certain point, especially when the relationship never seems to advance from superficial to deeper levels.
There is nothing worse than a neglected employee who carries his or her workload everyday but is relationally deprived. You cannot neglect your team members for too long. In The Way of the Shepherd, authors Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak offer this advice:
You have to really care about your people. You can go through all the right mechanics but if you don’t genuinely care about the people who report to you, you’ll never be the kind of leader they’ll drop everything to follow. If they’re nothing but stinking sheep to you, they’ll never do their best work for you and they don’t stay in your fold for long.”
As a leader you have to take time for your people, and at times deal with their problems if you’re going to be respected and followed. Love is the relational tonic that soothes, heals and restores, at the same time, possesses the potency able to increase relational capacity. Neglect, on the other hand, causes relationships to become lean. In time people will look somewhere else for a leader who will lead them with love.
What can you do as a leader to avoid the two pitfalls mentioned in this blog?
As a leader do you have difficulty confronting your team members and bringing accountability to them? Many of us do. Just how can a leader get his point across without bruising the relationship he or she has spent so much time building? Allow me to recommend a three-point strategy:
1. Approach: First and foremost take the time to think about your approach, timing and outcome. Your timing is crucial so wait for the right moment to confront your team members by ensuring your temper is in check, then you will be better able to discern an appropriate time to confront. Timing is everything when confronting someone. Second, take your personal style into consideration. I recommend that you use tact and apply wisdom. For example, when you confront someone apply grace, which means that you are “for” them rather than “against” them. By doing so you put people at ease, knowing that you have their best interests in mind. You do this by hearing their side of the story first rather than “assuming” they did something wrong. Your can start by asking, “What happened…?” or “Help me understand why you made this decision”. Your communication style also comes into play, so take note of your non-verbal communication. Remember to lean forward like you are interested in the discussion, smile, listen attentively and show concern. The key to accountability is to get the right answers for an honorable “win-win” solution.
2. Answers: One of the purposes of holding your team members accountable is to gather information by seeking answers, which eliminate ambiguity. The right answers lead to clarity; accountability is incomplete without this component. You do this by asking probing questions and by cross examining all parties involved. Don’t assume anything nor take sides. Instead, gather the real facts before making a judgment call. Remember that your leadership image is at stake. Too many of the same mistakes over time will reduce your trust and ability to lead others.
3. Alignment: The purpose of accountability is to align people with the vision, mission, values and expectations of the organization. One-way to accomplish this is to ask, “Do you understand where we are going?”, “Are you with us?” Accountability is about aligning a person to the original design and purpose of the organization, it’s philosophy and standards. Once an employee is aligned then you can move into a spirit of unity and cooperation to accomplish tasks as a cohesive team. The ultimate goal of accountability is to help your team members complete their assigned responsibilities as to produce the best results possible, which will enhance personal, group and organizational effectiveness. Organizations that produce better results are usually organizations that have leaders who understand the importance of confronting poor performance. If accountability is administered correctly it builds a culture of excellence. As a leader you cannot avoid accountability; it’s a part of life but you can make it more palatable for both you and your team members.
Do these points make sense to you? If so, which ones have you applied when holding others accountable?