Being a leader is hard.
More than a decade ago, at a very young age, I became a manager. I was used to getting great results as an individual contributor, by myself, through my own good work. So when I became a manager it was a major struggle for me, a Type A employee, to have to depend on others for my results.
Why can’t I get them to do the work and deliver results? Thanks to mentors, training, books, and on-the-job experiences, I was able to pick myself up and become a better manager, and a true leader.
Like I shared in another post, I’ve taken on different roles in leadership development as a recipient and learner being a manager myself, as an L&D manager sourcing and designing training programs and now as an external coach & consultant supporting other leaders
Through these different roles, I met good leaders, amazing ones, and some who were disliked by their teams. As I continue immersing myself in the world of career, leadership and coaching, I discovered 4 mindset shifts that make managers great leaders.
Shift #1: From “You need to know me well” to “How can I know you better?”
I’ve met leaders who expect their teams to be at their beck and call. And this also meant that teams must know the quirks of working with the manager and adjust accordingly. Don’t talk to him in the morning, he’s usually not in a good mood. Don’t send her a long email, she won’t read it. Don’t schedule meetings beyond 4pm on Thursdays, that’s reserved for golf.
Unfortunately, relationships don’t work that way. Successful relationships, including professional ones, are a two-way street. In the same way that employees must know how to work best with their manager, so must managers know how to work with their teams. This means understanding their needs, motivations and helping them discover their strengths.
Shift #2: From “Let me tell you how” to “Let me tell you why”
One of my key takeaways in my study of agile people development is that managers should tell the why and the what and leave the how to the people. Simply put, this means setting clear goals and purpose and steering away from micro-management.
As a coach, one of the key principles we hold is that people are creative, resourceful and whole. Applying that same principle to leadership means that we trust them enough to do the job and to figure out how to do things to meet the set goals.
Trusting is not easy. But it’s at the foundation of successful teams and organizations. Great Place to Work uses their well-researched Trust Index ® Survey as part of their certification program. Trust is also essential in Psychological Safety, another foundational element in leading great teams.
How can you build trust? Go back to the previous Shift # 1 – Get to know your people better.
Shift #3: From “How can you contribute to our goals?” to “How can I help you succeed?”
Some managers see people as the means to an end. The end being the organization’s growth or profit goals. The reality is, the organization’s performance is highly dependent on its people. An organization cannot perform well if the people are not performing well. People perform well when they are motivated and their needs are met.
What does this mean to managers? Managers must understand their employees’ individual goals and how it aligns to the organization. It also means looking after the employee’s overall wellbeing:
Shift #4: From “There is no room for error” to “Let’s learn from mistakes… together.”
When you make a mistake, are you able to raise your hand and say, “Sorry, that was me.”
I remember a time when I made a mistake at work and felt like I was a criminal being chased down by the police. I tried to, at all costs, avoid a call from the boss. Why? I was scared to admit I was wrong, scared to be yelled at, and scared to feel like I’m not good enough.
Good leaders are able to foster accountability within their teams. And that means also the accountability to say, “Yes, I made a mistake.” This accountability is created not out of fear, but out of alignment to a common purpose or the why (see shift # 2) and relationships built on trust (see shift # 1 and 2). Thus, mistakes are not seen as dead ends, but as opportunities to learn and do better.
Good leadership starts with self. In order to be a good leader to others, you must lead yourself first. In coaching, we call this, doing the inner work.
- Discover what your motivations, needs and superpowers are
- Clarify your own personal and professional goals
- Discover and develop your own leadership style
- Actively drive your career growth and development
- Practice self-compassion, especially when you make mistakes