Author Brian Tracy advises us to “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” This is obviously worthwhile advice – after all, wouldn’t you rather work with a team of people who you don’t have to cajole into getting things done? Yet, in my experience, many leaders can get so caught up in the daily grind of juggling tasks and meeting deadlines, that they don’t take the time to step back to reflect on how they are leading.
If you find yourself focusing more on the day-to-day aspect of managing as opposed to a more global approach of leading and inspiring, then I encourage you to stop what you are doing, and put these five tips to work.
1. Maintain an upbeat and positive tone.
There is a wealth of research that highlights the importance of positive emotions for creating a more productive (and enjoyable) work environment. For example, studies show that as the boss, your moods have an inordinate influence on the people around you. Even without being conscious of it, employees often look to the boss to determine how to feel about a given issue in the business. Further, research also shows that people tend to do their best work when they are in a positive mood. Given that emotions are contagious, if you as a boss are intentional about creating a positive environment, you will be well on your way to maximizing productivity and engagement.
2. Communicate vision
All too often, leaders assign projects to employees without letting them know how their work fits into the bigger picture. Think about it, which instance would be more motivating to you:
- Knowing that you have to make 100 widgets today,
- Knowing that the 100 widgets you make will help your area meet budget,
- Knowing that the 100 widgets you make will eventually be used to build a park for children?
- Knowing that by building the 100 widgets you will develop skills that will help you to advance to the next desired step in your career?
Your answer depends on who you are and what motivates you. However, if as a leader, you never connect the dots with your employees to help them to see how the work they are doing aligns with values that are important to them, you are missing an opportunity. When people have a meaningful sense of purpose for their work, it increases their engagement and creates a greater sense of resilience when challenges arise.
Make sure to keep in mind that motivators differ depending on the individual. So, while hitting a numerical goal might be compelling to you, remember that others may be driven by other things (like making a positive impact on others, experiencing a sense of teamwork, having an opportunity to grow, or simply knowing how their actions contribute to some larger strategic initiative). Speak to peoples’ hearts as well as their heads, and see your ability to influence increase.
3. Know yourself
Like an orchestra conductor, as a boss you are the instrument that helps others to perform at their best. As a result, it is important to have a high degree of self-insight so you can ensure that the effect you are having on others is the one you are actually intending to have.
To make sure you have an accurate view of how you are coming across, deepen your understanding of your strengths and developmental opportunities. In this way, you can make sure you are leveraging your strengths in the best manner, and working on the areas in which you could stand to improve. Become aware of your triggers, so you can monitor them and ensure they don’t create unintended consequences for you. And, ask for feedback! Not only will this increase your own level of self-awareness, it will also model to your employees that professional development is a normal process.
4. Set Clear Expectations
This seems pretty straightforward and simple, but you would be surprised about the number of even very senior people who don’t do this consistently. Communicate what is to be done, by when, by whom, and why. Without clear expectations regarding deliverables and dates, you create unnecessary confusion and make it a lot harder to hold people accountable.
5. Engage in Self-Care
While a lot of people think that burning the candle at both ends is the road to success, research tells us that taking adequate time to take care of yourself leads to better results. And, although many leaders often express a desire to take good care of themselves, unfortunately, when work piles up, they often put themselves last. However, this is a short-sighted approach for several reasons.
First, exercise is associated with improved mood, creativity, and cognitive functioning. In addition, proper nutrition has been shown to contribute to enhanced mood and concentration. And, we all know that we function more effectively when we have had enough sleep.
While managing your time is important, it’s also important to make sure you actually have energy during the time you devote to work. By prioritizing a consistent self-care regimen, you can enable yourself to work at your peak, and lead by example so your employees do the same.
Now that you have been informed about these five strategies, go forth and use them! I guarantee they will make you a better, more effective, boss.
For a practical guide to becoming a better leader, make sure to check out my book “The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others…and in Yourself.”