A good way to think of leadership is the process of freeing your team members to do the best work they possibly can. Today’s business team members, say they want, more than anything else, the autonomy to do their jobs without the boss’s interference. In the new century, it’s already clear that the CEOs of our best-run companies believe that the more power leaders have, the less they should use. The job of the team leader is to set a mission, decide upon a strategic direction, achieve the necessary cooperation, delegate authority — and then let people innovate
The key to authentic leadership is to listen to your followers, and then open the door for them to lead themselves. The secret is empowerment. The main incentive is genuine caring and recognition. The five most important words a leader can speak are: “I am proud of you.”
The four most important are: “What is your opinion??
The three most important are: “If you please.”
The two most important are: “Thank You.”
And the most important single word of all is: “You!”
To motivate individuals over an extended period of time, it is important to understand the psychology of human motivation. Basically, motivation can be external or internal, as we have discussed before. External motivation pulls you forward by some tangible reward you’ll attain by taking action. Internal motivation means doing something because it inspires your own sense of inner self-worth and contribution to society. While both are important to achievement, intrinsic or internal motivation creates long-term commitment and loyalty more than simply the promise of external rewards. There are, of course, many successful entrepreneurs who are more “money motivated” than in changing the world. There are equally as many successful entrepreneurs who are predominantly interested in improving the quality of life for others and who reap great financial rewards as a by-product of this vision of service.
We all want financial security. We all want to determine our own destinies. Most of us are motivated by material or external accomplishments to measure our success. However, money alone, generally, will not sustain loyalty or motivation. There is a plateau or “burn out” point when money no longer motivates, because a certain comfort level has been reached. Loyalty requires an inner force that compels commitment after standard of living needs have been met. Far too many people have disconnected their personal mission in life from their business or profession.
The primary step in promoting loyalty is helping others define and pursue their own “magnificent obsessions.” A magnificent obsession is the way you want to live, not just the things you want to own. It is the person you want to be, not just the title you want after your name on your business card. A magnificent obsession is the mind-set that you have, not the degrees you earn. It is the worldview that you claim as your own, not the collection of stamps in your passport or photos in an album. Your magnificent obsession will cover all areas of your life including how you want to live, to think, to work, to play, to grow, to create, to worship and to spend your precious hours, days and years on this earth.
If it weren’t for money, time and personal responsibilities, what would you really love to do with your life? What do you really get excited about? Five years from now, what will your days be like? What will you be doing? Where will your focus be professionally? How will you be spending your time ? With whom will you be spending your time?
Great leaders create loyalty by aligning their own visions for the future with the specific life goals of their followers. This does not mean convincing others to follow the leader’s vision. It does mean helping others define and reach their own, individual magnificent obsessions via the same vehicle or business plan. Show a genuine interest in your team members personal goals and interests, as well as their professional performance evaluations. Convince them by your actions that you have their interests and successes in mind, not your own selfish motives which you are accomplishing through them. Keep your promises. All true loyalties and long-term relationships are based on mutual trust. Break the trust and you break the relationship. Integrity is the cement that solidifies loyalty, no matter what obstacles occur along the way.
Empowered teams require a new communication style. In the old, traditional work group, you want compliance. In an empowered team, you want initiative. Directional communication (announcing decisions, issuing orders) inhibits team input. If the team leader or supervisor is still using “boss” language, the team gets the message that they’re being told what to do. Managers of empowered teams need to learn to ask open-ended questions and develop the skill of truly listening to the answers.
Listening is a lost art, which must be rediscovered. Few people really listen to others, usually because they’re too busy thinking about what they want to say next. In business transactions, clear communication is often colored by power plays, one-upmanship, and attempts to impress rather than to express. In our work, as well as our personal lives, how we listen is at least as important as how we talk. Genuine listening to what others want would allow more sales to be made, more deals to be closed and greater productivity to be gained. Although it’s not always necessary or possible to satisfy those wants, understanding them is the glue of a relationship.
Not paying value by listening is a way of saying, “You’re not important to me.” The results are reduced productivity (I don’t count here, so why should I even try?), employee turnover (Who wants to work in a place where I don’t feel valued?), absenteeism (I’m just a cog in the wheel, only noticed when I make a mistake), retaliation (They only listen when the griping gets loud enough), lost sales (They don’t seem to understand what I need), and dangling deals (I can’t get through to them; it’s like talking to a brick wall). Genuine listening can cure a remarkable range of supposedly intractable problems.
Even if you have excellent presentation skills and have an authoritative and persuasive ability to speak to those you lead, make a conscious effort to convert your team meetings into creative dialogue where you ask open-ended questions and solicit feedback and input from all those present. Everyone can be a source of useful ideas. The people closest to the problem usually have the best ideas. Learning flows up as well as down in the organization. Nothing is sacred except the governing vision and values. The process of open dialogue improves performance. The more information people can access, the better.
Most importantly, don’t view any suggestion or comment from the group as inane, silly or irrelevant. Appearing foolish in front of one’s peers is a major embarrassment and stifles any future desires to offer ideas that might be considered “off the wall.” The most common mistake in communicating is saying what you want to say, rather than what they need to hear and then listening to what they have to offer. It’s rightly been said that you can get more people to vote for you in twenty minutes by showing interest in them, than you can in twenty weeks by showing how interesting you are.
When you think back in your life to the people you love and respect most, they have been the ones who have been there for you, in person, day in and day out, no matter what. By actually considering your team as your own “performance review” scorekeepers, you will spend the time and effort required to earn their respect by respecting them and keeping them informed of both the good and bad news ahead for the organization. Often those lowest on the pay or hierarchy scale are closest to the customer and therefore most aware of problems in delivering quality goods and services as advertised. Having an active suggestion system in place that pays attention to and rewards innovation in making the organization more effective and efficient is crucial to success in a volatile, competitive economy.
David Ogilvy, founder of the giant advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, used to give each new manager a Russian doll, which contained five progressively smaller dolls inside. A message inside the smallest one read: “If each of us hires people we consider smaller than ourselves, we shall become a company of dwarves. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we will become a company of giants.” Instead of a numbers game, business today is truly a “motivate the team” game. In a global marketplace where the playing field is anything but level and where there is no job security because of slimmer profit margins due to outsourcing of manufacturing and service functions, it is imperative to maximize the return on investment in the “human capital” already on your payroll.
Here are nine steps to empowering team members:
1. Document their accomplishments so they can’t pretend they don’t exist. Never allow team members to lose sight of their accomplishments, and with it their potential for success.
2. Show them how to find opportunity in adversity. Every outcome, no matter how negative, presents options that were not previously available.
3. Assign them tasks that will display their talents. By transferring important responsibility to team members, you demonstrate your confidence in them and give them the chance to succeed in increasingly challenging assignments.
4. Teach them how to get what they want from other people. Teach your people to be assertive rather than too aggressive or too passive.
5. Show them the awesome power of listening, an active strategy for achieving personal success. When your subordinates become better listeners and begin reaping the benefits, they will feel better about themselves.
6. Tell them exactly what you expect of them and find out what they expect of you. The reason most subordinates and team members give for not satisfying their management is not knowing what management expects.
7. Criticize performance but not people. The spirit of criticism should be, “I don’t like what you did in this case, but I do like you.”
8. Praise not only them but also their performance. You don’t want merely to keep your people happy; you want them to know what they did right so they can repeat it.
9. Keep them in ongoing training programs. This gives them a
vote of confidence, and carefully chosen training will further
contribute to their effectiveness..
As accomplishments mount, self-confidence and ability grow in other areas as well. The more we accomplish, the larger our view of our enormous capacity for creative growth. It has been said that there are no business problems that aren’t really “people” problems that impact business decisions and outcomes. Solicit feedback from the bottom up, rather than make edicts and policies from the top down. To become a giant in the eyes of others, and to succeed in the 21st , century, look up to those beneath you! Total success is the continuing involvement in the pursuit of a worthy ideal which is being realized for the benefit of others, rather than at their expense. And success is the process of learning and sharing and growing.
Learn how others feel, and consider where they’re coming from before criticizing or passing judgment. Even if you can’t feel for everyone you meet with sympathy, be certain that you feel with every living thing you encounter called empathy. The best leaders and managers in the world look for value and pay value often to members of their team. Their motto is: If you win then I win too. Develop that magic touch. Reach out today and tonight and tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life, and give someone the value of your attention. Remember, a touch is worth a thousand words or text messages. Text messages are the most impersonal forms of communication. They are the enemy of intimacy. Your personal, physical presence, being there with your employees, being there with your loved ones. The most important motivational message in the world is: I’m here for you because I care for you. You’re worth my full attention right now. Being there is person to encourage and support others is the ultimate expression of empowerment.