Getting a hot meal on time with a smile, an error-free report submitted to an auditor or a tear-free dental cleaning doesn’t happen by accident. Behind the people who provide us with goods and services are the leaders who make it possible for employees to do what they do best.
Workplace leadership is a pretty common topic. Head to the bookstore or go online, and you’ll likely encounter many books on the subject, including mine “The Square and the Triangle: The Power of Integrating Relationships and Results in Workplace Culture.” The fact of the matter is, there are many opinions on what constitutes a great leader as well as how leadership impacts team performance.
As complex as this subject can be, it’s really pretty simple. First, hire the right people. Hiring isn’t glamorous and can easily be shrugged away as a chore. But failing to hire the right people is the best way to lose customers.
There are lots of tips on how to hire, but the most important ones are:
- Know what you’re looking for
- Be patient
Once you’ve got the right people, the next step is training and setting expectations. Show them what you want and then teach them how to do it.
From there, it’s all about relationships and results. To lead people is to influence people to achieve an outcome. It’s just that simple.
To influence is to relate! Know your people, how they tick and what’s important to them, and build a connection with them rooted in professionalism and empathy. Don’t fall prey to “friendship-style” leadership. They don’t need your friendship. They need you to guide them, motivate them, and give them a mission.
To achieve an outcome is to be mission-focused. Why are you in business? Certainly it’s not to sell things or provide a service. It’s to solve your customer’s problem. Selling cleaning supplies isn’t about paper towels. It’s helping your customers feel the relief of a home that’s ready for guests. Cleaning teeth isn’t about, well, clean teeth. It’s about health and well-being.
Being a leader is understanding these two pressure points — relationships and results. If you build the right relationship, you can leverage it to achieve an outcome. Relationships aren’t for show — they’re raw material, just like buying the ingredients for your restaurant’s cuisine. Results are the output of a leveraged relationship. You can’t get one without the other. An unleveraged relationship won’t get your service or product to market. But push too hard and you won’t have employees.
Last tip. Get out of the way. You’ve hired well, you’ve trained well, you’ve set the tone and the direction. Now, let your superstars get it done. Let them enjoy the spotlight and the thrill of victory, converting your mission into meaning. No one likes a micro-manager.
Leading can be easy. It just takes a plan and the willingness to see it through.