What separates a confident leader from the rest of the pack? Why is it that some leaders make it look so easy and others struggle for every result?
Let’s look for the answer to these questions in the fears that many new managers experience. They fear that:
- They won’t have solutions for the problems their direct reports face.
- They fear that their direct reports won’t follow their lead…that they won’t do what’s expected of them.
- They fear that they’ll face a problem employee without a clue as to how to deal with the situation.
- They fear that their direct reports’ performance, or the lack thereof, is going to crash their career before it gets off the ground.
I’m sure there are others as well, but from my experience these are the most common. Let’s see whether or not these fears are legitimate.
Many new leaders in particular feel that they have to have the answers to their direct reports’ problems. They view their role as problem solver.
Let me ask you “Who do you know that has all the answers?” I’ll bet your answer is “No one.” And you’d be right. None of us comes with the complete package so why would you take on the heavy mantle of the unreasonable expectation of being able to solve everyone’s problem. It’s ludicrous, not to mention stressful.
Instead of viewing yourself as someone who has to have all the answers, think of yourself as someone who knows how to find the answer. There isn’t a problem that surfaces that hasn’t been dealt with effectively over the millennia of human existence. In today’s easy and quick internet access, finding potential solutions is a breeze compared to even a few decades ago.
You have leaders in your organization that you admire and respect. Tap into their experience; they’ll enjoy helping advance your career.
Don’t forget to tap into the collective wisdom of your direct reports. Managers underestimate the knowledge, experience and common sense that their direct reports possess. Leaders don not. When you ask your direct reports for their assistance in solving a problem you show them respect for their intelligence which endears you to them. They’ll be more likely to repay your kindness by working to help you achieve whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.
By the way, a good leader also becomes a good teacher. Teach your direct reports how to find solutions on their own. Their abilities will grow exponentially and you’ll have more time and energy to pursue new initiatives.
The fear that direct reports won’t follow your lead is easily overcome. Simply show your direct reports that you care about them, their success, them getting the lifestyle they want, and they’ll follow you through hell.
We only care about others when they’ve demonstrated that they care about us. Show that you care and this fear will evaporate into thin air.
One of the things new leaders fear is that they’ll inherit a difficult employee and won’t know how to deal with it. Of course, you have to be cognizant of your company’s policies in regard to dealing with difficult employees, but here are some things that have helped me in the past:
- Instead of being critical, let the person know that you want them to succeed and be happy in their job.
- Ask them what it is that has them upset with the company. Often their frustration isn’t with you, but with how they’ve been treated previously.
- Do what you can to alleviate the hurt. Ask them to give you a chance without judging you based on prior experience. If their anger and frustration persist…if they can’t get past the negative history…suggest to them that they find something that will satisfy them more and enable them to be more successful. Offer them time to interview on company hours to find that slot.
- Engage them in setting expectations for weekly performance and hold them accountable for the commitments they made. Let them know that these are expectations they created and you’re simply holding them accountable for their success as well as the department’s.
- Throughout this process make sure that your language is not judgmental. That you’re not making judgments about whether the person is a good person or bad, a good employee or not, intelligent and dedicated or not. For it’s with these judgments that we create divides when our goal is to establish a mutually-beneficial relationship.
You can eliminate the fear that your team won’t perform well by engaging them in helping you decide what needs to be done.
Outline the vision for them. Then ask them what they feel needs to be done to make that vision a reality. Ask what it is that they can do to accelerate the achievement of that vision. Don’t forget to ask what they need from you to make things happen.
Then in weekly meetings with your direct reports make sure that their goals and priorities for the coming week are aligned with that vision. Don’t forget to open each meeting with a celebration of their successes from the previous week. A sense of accomplishment opens their minds to new ideas and better ways of doing things…which will, in turn, continuously improve their performance and leadership’s admiration of you and your team for that performance.
There will be times in your life when you’ll be called upon to lead. It may not be in a corporate setting. It might be in your church, your children’s school, an association with which you’re involved or in potentially any problem situation a group faces.
The fears that normally arise in these situations are easily set aside when you remember the tips I outlined above. If you feel you can only remember one, then this is it. Genuinely care about the success of others in the group. When you demonstrate genuine concern for the welfare of others, they automatically want to help you succeed. It’s as simple as that.
For our kids
Continuously show concern for the welfare of others and the kids in your life will emulate your behaviors. And in doing so, develop into the kind of leaders the world so desperately needs. Teaching them to care for others will make their lives, and the lives of all whom they touch, healthier, happier and more productive.