If you’re a leader, or about to become one, the first question to ask is to yourself: what’s your motivation? What’s your “why”? As with most things in life, if you’re unaware or lack purpose, your direction will most likely falter and, inevitably, fail. And as a leader, since you are in charge of directing others, it is all the more important you give time to this question, and figure out your why for doing it. What is your purpose in being a leader? Why do you want to become one in the first place? Once you’ve established the source for your “why”, direction within the team will be much easier.
Regardless of its being “good” or “bad”, every job has an environment attached to it. It’s the tone, the overall “feeling” to a place that you realize immediately on entering. Who sets this? Well, everyone can contribute but the overall environment is determined by its leader. As Peter F. Drucker wrote, “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” That being said, what’s the type of environment you want to create as a leader? Healthy environments usually include trust, compassion, consistency, as well as opportunity for growth for your team. Decide which you want to have felt and experienced by you and your team, and create accordingly.
You may be wondering, Well, how do I create that sort of environment? The first step? Listening. Good leaders not only listen to what their team has to say, but seek out feedback directly. This form of conversation makes your team feel valued, builds trust, and provides a safe environment that assures loyalty and reliability. In so doing, the leader has also made it clear that they not only want help but also need it, removing ego from the game and rendering accountability within the team a much easier practice.
When I was a kid, I played the violin for about 10 years, quite seriously. Over that span, I had many teachers but–I’ll be honest–in the beginning it was a struggle to want to practice or play it at all. My teachers were all very skilled at what they did, were qualified to teach me, but left me uninspired all the same. Then in high school, I took a lesson with a new teacher, named Jenny. And she brought something to the lesson that changed everything for me: encouragement.
You’re probably thinking, Wow, those other teachers must have been horrible! In fact, they weren’t. But they did not teach me through encouragement, and that made all the difference. I would still make mistakes in my lessons with Jenny, but she would be sure to include something encouraging about my playing along with the critique. It shifted my perspective, both in how I felt as a player and also in how I cared to be better. The same applies to your workplace. Inspire your team’s growth, by giving them the gift of confidence through encouragement. Make them want to be better.
By cultivating and implementing these habits, your effectiveness as a leader can only strengthen. Remember, build relationship within your team, with patience and consistency. By doing this, you’ll have already succeeded.