Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?
If you’re in a management position, you’re probably thinking about how to make 2017 a better year for your business. Boosting your leadership effectiveness is a great way to accomplish that goal.
Here are my 7 resolutions for becoming a more effective leader and to help your organization Thrive — and not Just Survive — after the ball drops in Times Square.
#1: Know that you can become a more effective leader.
Don’t think you have what it takes to be a great leader? Think again!
Although some folks do seem to have a “natural aptitude” for leadership, anyone, no matter who you are, can improve on that natural skillset to become an effective leader.
- First, remember that leadership development is a long-term, incremental process.
- Go ahead and sign up for that leadership training class or conference. But it does you no good unless you use what you learn. If you just keep on doing the same old things, don’t expect much of a return on all that money you spent on leadership training.
Leadership is just like any other skill — it takes time to master it. You have to practice leadership skills every day, just like learning to ride a bike, use new technology, or read financial statements.
#2: Recruit the right people and support their development.
You may be the world’s best accountant, but you still need a qualified attorney to help with legal matters. Or you may be one of the top lawyers in your state, but do you know how to build a website?
- Assembling a team of passionate, smart individuals will go a long way towards building relationships, developing the right strategy, and executing it effectively.
- Once you’ve got the right people on your team, empower them to make decisions in their areas of expertise.
- Support their growth and development. Make sure they have the resources they need to keep improving their own skills as they advance in their careers.
- And don’t micro-manage. People make mistakes and sometimes it’s ok to let them make mistakes in order to learn, even though you could have prevented it.
#3: Earn their trust.
The Gallup organization studied more than 20,000 leaders in organizations around the world to identify what specific traits people look for in the leaders they respect. Not surprisingly, trust came out as one of the most important factors.
There are many things you can do to earn the trust of your team members:
- Be honest about your mistakes and never shift blame.
- Don’t gossip or spread rumors.
- Make ethical decisions, even when it would be more expedient — or more profitable — to do otherwise.
- You also earn trust by supporting your employees and helping them overcome challenges.
#4: Sharpen your decision making by seeking different perspectives.
Whether it’s human resources, finances, marketing, or any other domain, you have to juggle a dizzying array of competing agendas when making decisions.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in assembling your team is to look for people who think just like you.
Instead, you need to gather information from a variety of people. Here’s why:
- You’ll have a better understanding of trends affecting the macroenvironment.
- You’ll uncover a wider range of possible solutions for different problems.
- You’ll have a better sense of stakeholder concerns.
- You’ll reduce the influence of your own unconscious biases in making decisions.
- It’ll help you find win-win outcomes. Sometimes you have no choice but to disappoint somebody. What would it take for everyone to feel good about your decision, even if they don’t get everything they want?
#5: Build your emotional intelligence.
It’s okay if you’re not the touchy-feely type. This is not about holding hands and singing Kumbaya at the office.
But empathy is one of the most effective leadership skills you can learn. Every leader must understand that emotion influences motivation, decision making, and overall quality of life — for you and for your team.
- When making decisions, consider how it emotionally impacts other people, both professionally, and personally.
- When talking with other people, pay attention to nonverbal cues like facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice.
- Are you in tune with your own emotions? How well do you handle stressful or upsetting situations?
- Do you know how to express emotions appropriately? Can you stay calm in a crisis, or have you — or anyone on your team — been guilty of inappropriate outbursts?
#6: Have the courage to act.
It’s hard to be successful without taking risks. An inspiring vision and lofty objectives mean nothing without action.
- Are you communicating your vision and objectives clearly to your team?
- Are you following through on the actions needed to turn your vision into a reality?
- Do you emphasize efficiency and productivity for yourself and everyone else?
- Do you recognize the difference between high-value and low-value activities when setting priorities each day?
#7: Adopt a learning orientation.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the world we live in is constantly changing. Whatever your area of expertise, you must continue building on it for the duration of your career. You’ll also set a powerful example for the rest of your team to follow.
- Record the outcomes of your decisions. What went well and what didn’t? What can you do better next time?
- Read books and articles featuring the latest trends in your industry. Learn about topics you’re unfamiliar with. Look for ways to apply what you learn to what you do.
- Let your people teach you. Listen carefully when it’s their turn to show off their expertise. They’ll appreciate your confidence in them and their insights will make you better at what you do.
Are you ready to Thrive — and not Just Survive — in 2017 and beyond? I hope these 7 resolutions will help you on your leadership journey.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish you, and those you care about, a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year!