Leadership: Dealing with people 101

In my experience with coaching leadership teams for over 30 years, I continue to be surprised by how many leaders, both new and seasoned, put the cart before the horse when looking for results from their respective teams. This observation is based on the following definition of leadership: “Leadership is creating environments that influence others to achieve group goals. People support a world they help create.”

Rather than creating environments, many folks think that you just tell people what to do and they should do it. Why? Because I’m your boss, that’s why. And then they wonder why they don’t get the results they are looking for. They wonder why turnover is high. It can’t possibly be their problem — it’s those darn people! As an old boss of mine once said: “Leadership is simple. It’s all the people that screw things up.” So let’s look at the three parts of the above definition. You could be looking at a pyramid with three levels.

Creating environments

This is the base of the pyramid and it is all about building, nurturing, and maintaining solid relationships. This is where the competent leader really spends time getting to know their people, not only on a business platform but personally, as well. The more you know about the individuals on your team and show them that you really care about them as people — not just cogs in the process — the more connected they will be to you as their leader. When the going gets tough and people need to step up, absolutely do not expect them to do so on a committed basis if you do not have a solid relationship in place. The best you can expect would be compliance. That is not the path to positive, long-term results.

Influence others

The next level of the pyramid. Here is where the leader is looking to gain the willing cooperation of his or her people. At this level the leader consciously stays away from arguments and truly works on getting genuine buy-in — not just lip service — and lets his or her people do more of the talking. If you have ever been on the receiving end of a directive that made little sense and were told to just do it, you probably were not very comfortable with your leader. On the other hand, if your input was asked for about a new initiative beforehand, especially one that would be dealing with change and have a significant impact on your job, you at least know that your advice was considered.

Dale Carnegie’s principle of trying to see things from the other person’s point of view is the philosophy here. Think about it from the perspective of the team and the people. When their point of view is considered and given serious consideration, they somehow have their stamp on the new idea.

I really leaned this lesson the hard way early in my Dale Carnegie career. After several meetings with a local business owner, I put together a tailored leadership training program for his supervisors, without getting one ounce of feedback from the future participants. When he kicked off the first meeting and let his people know that they needed improvement and he and I had put the program together, you can use your imagination on how well it was received. Ugly! I can assure you that was the first and last time that I ever did this.



Achieve group goals

The top of the pyramid. To get 100 percent of a team aligned and going in the same direction is easy to talk about, but often very difficult to do. Only when a leader has success at the first two levels of the pyramid, can one expect positive results. Here is where the effective leader is in constant communication with everyone on the team: giving praise where it is earned, doing corrective actions and feedback when needed in a positive way, using encouragement, and coaching, coaching, coaching. Did I say coaching?

People support a world they help create!

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