Things Positive Leaders Can Do, Part 6 – When you are the boss!

Accept that your people are your most important resource. However Imperfect they may seem and however many problems they may have caused they have more than enough potential to help your department succeed.

They are your people. You either select them or accepted them because they were thought to have the ability to do the job. Now they are your people and you are responsible for developing their potential. Remember that unless they are incompetent and/or unwilling, it is less expensive to remediate the problems they cause than to replace them. Place your faith and trust in them; elevate your expectations. If you are forced to conclude that your people do not have the potential your department requires, it is your responsibility to do something about it.

Let your people know what your company’s objectives are and let them know when it succeeds or fails and how you and they have contributed to that success or failure. Do not withhold data about your company’s performance. Remember that knowledge is power. Most employees have an intuitive understanding of what it takes to be profitable and, with a little help from you to teach them how to understand the numbers, you will likely be surprised at the manner of their response.

One of the best ways to do this is to give them specific information relating to the expectations of your customers.
Let you people know what your department’s job is and how it contributes to the success of the business. Also let them know how your department interacts with other departments and how these departments mutually support one another. Make certain you people understand how their jobs fit in the program and how they contribute to the success of the department and to the business as a whole. Identify the internal supply chains that exist for each department. Make sure they understand who exists to serve whom. Who are their internal customers and what are the expectations of these customers.

Whenever possible, help your people set specific goals and objectives. This does not mean setting those expectations for them. Expectations should be as high as possible as long as they are achievable and the more your employees participated in setting those expectations the more powerful they will be. Then, measure performance and publish the results. Find something to count. Celebrate all victories.

Let your people know that your job, as their supervisor, is to help them succeed and, then, do your job.
Become a strong advocate. Fight for your people and stand up for them. See that they get the credit they deserve.
Take advantage of every opportunity to give positive feedback and recognition. Feedback is not something that should occur on a schedule or on special occasions. Positive feedback should comprise a significant part of what we do, each and every day.

Establish an atmosphere that concerns itself with solving problems not fixing the blame. Allow for mistakes and for failure. Give recognition for a good try. The only people who never make mistakes are those that never accept a challenge and never extend themselves. Recall the adage that says that “unless you fall down once in a while, you are not really skiing.” Remember that mistakes are nothing more than wonderful learning opportunities.

Make a commitment to listen. Seek out the ideas and suggestions of your people and act on them. Establish a pattern of incentives that will encourage more ideas and suggestions. Let people know the outcome of their ideas and suggestions.
Manage on the move, out amongst your employees. Never underestimate the power of your physical presence and the number of opportunities your presence creates. Avoid the ivory tower image.

Operate with an open-door policy. Contrary to popular belief, an open-door policy does not weaken the chain of command. The rule of thumb is that “you can and should listen to anyone, anytime, but avoid taking action until you have heard all sides, gathered the facts, and involve all of the appropriate participants.” Schedule time when you will be available—otherwise your time will be devoured by circumstances beyond your control and the open-door policy will be a myth. Your people know how busy you are and that there are many demands for your time. When you guarantee time for them it will help them appreciate how precious your time is and how important they are that your are willing to share it with them. Remember that the best open-door policy is one in which the boss is going out among the people as well as allowing the people to come to the boss.

You will not be able to solve all of their problems but you will establish a positive atmosphere that will be a fertile ground for productivity and excellence.

Handle problems, don’t create them. Take action to resolve problem situations and to respond to problem behavior by people, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. Rather than criticize or punish people, deal with the natural consequences of behavior. Leave personalities out of it as much as possible. Solve problems at the lowest possible level.

Avoid the temptation to legislate solutions to problems. This gets the supervisor off the hook, temporarily, of having to deal with a problem. But it punishes the whole unit or department and it does not address the underlying problem. After all, behaviors are nothing more than symptoms of underlying issues. More often than not, it is the employee’s lack of commitment to the mission that is driving undesirable behavior. Do not make the majority suffer for the misdeeds of the few. In these situations, the innocent taste the bitterness of injustice and nothing destroys trust in leadership more than perceived injustice. Use the “few rules theory of leadership.”

Rules are the studs, joists, and rafters of bureaucracies. When the behavior of an individual compromises the mission or purpose of an organization, positive leaders go to the source. Positive leaders begin with the assumption that the individual wants to do a good job but has, somehow, been diverted from their purpose. Positive leaders view these events as opportunities to teach and also opportunities to build trust. They begin by reminding themselves of their purpose as a positive leader, which is to help individual men and women be successful.

“Hold on a minute!” you might say. “That is not the outcome we are seeking.”

A leader’s focus on outcomes, whether desirable or not, shifts the focus away from the individual. Imagine how differently you feel when someone accuses you of doing something wrong, compared to a simple response of surprise that the outcome of the effort was not what we wanted or expected. It changes the entire dynamics of the conversation. Positive leaders have the highest possible expectations of their people and they avoid searching for evil intent.
Inevitably, even in the career of the most positive leader, there will be men and women with the intent to work in the disinterest of their organization. Exemplary leaders are always shocked to discover people of bad character because they expect the best of everyone. When an individual to whom every consideration has been given proves him or herself to be untrustworthy, positive respond with the gavel of certain justice. These leaders respond unhesitatingly and unequivocally. At the moment when the positive leader becomes convinced that an individual can no longer be trusted, the leader’s efforts shift, immediately, from the focus on remediation to one of acting in the best interests of the organization. Rarely are the interests of an organization served by hesitation or vacillation. Positive leaders waste no time and immediately get the individual out of the organization.

Learn as many names as possible and smile at the people you encounter. Acknowledge your people as valuable human beings. Treat them with dignity and respect. People do not normally respond to embarrassment or humiliation. “KAP!” Kick Ass Privately when it is necessary to kick ass at all. Make people feel important. Have a training session for your entire management team to teach them how to make people feel important.

Your integrity and your character are your most important assets. You do not have to be right all the time nor do you need to win all of the battles.

Vent your frustrations and express your doubts only to your peers or to your boss. Even the penultimate leader feels doubt and frustration—after all they are human beings. It is okay to be human. What distinguishes positive leaders from their less effective counterparts is the recognition of their responsibility to put the interests of their organization and its people ahead of their personal interests. They vent their frustrations appropriately. Require the same of your staff. Encourage them to vent their frustrations to you. Once a policy is made by management, do not burden your staff with your disagreement or disenchantment with that policy. Carry out the policy with the same positive enthusiasm you would display if it were your pet project or idea. If you are a strong advocate, as well you should be, you will have given testimony of your opinion in the policy formation process. In dealing with your staff, encourage them to express their honest opinion about every topic until such time as the decision is made. Once the decision is made, expect them to support it enthusiastically.

Let your people know that you trust them to do their job, to produce results, to meet deadlines, to achieve objectives. Then, let them do their jobs. Don’t look over their shoulder until they have missed their deadlines. Give them honest feedback about their results. Remember that trust is one of the most important characteristics of a successful organization. Work hard to earn their trust in you.

You are the leader—so lead! Be Proactive! Be decisive! Accept responsibility! Keep an eye on the future!

Build Teamwork! Talk to your people about the role you want them to play and about its importance to the organization. See that they get recognition for their contribution and that they get to share in victories as a full member of the team. Intermix individual performance goals with team goals. If the individual’s performance holds the team back, involve the team in the resolution.

Insist on the facts! Know your department inside and out! Know what it produces and how much it costs to produce it. Don’t be afraid of the facts. They can be a powerful tool to get things done and the more you and your people know about your operation the better your outcomes.

Teach your people to accept responsibility for their jobs! When they come to you with problems or questions, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to think for themselves. Good leaders resist the temptation, when the employee is stuck on a problem, to take over and solve it. The goal is not to solve the problem and show how smart you are; the goal is to help them employee learn how to solve the problem and teach them how smart he or she can be. Ask them what they think. They may be extremely reluctant to share their ideas with you for fear of looking stupid, but ninety percent of the time they will have an idea that may lead to a solution.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day. Teach him how to fish and your feed him for a lifetime.
Teach your people how to be strong and independent rather than weak and dependent! Many supervisors think it necessary to keep their staff dependent on them when, in fact, this only weakens the organization. Effective supervisors are constantly working to help their staff become independent within the scope of their jobs.

Expect your people to be the best and expect your department to be the best. Make certain that your expectations are communicated to everyone. There is substantial evidence to support that most people will strive to live up to or down to the expectations of their leaders. There are very few people in the world who want to be a loser. People will follow a leader with a winning attitude. Leaders who believe their people are winners and who expect them to win, consistently produce winning teams.

When confronted with problems, take action to solve them. When you have no authority to act, prepare a plan of action and present it to someone who does have the authority. Give them enough information and sufficient options that they need only answer yes or no! There is never an excuse for inaction unless the problem is found not to be a real problem.

Deal with people in terms of their and your intelligent self-interest. Make decisions and take risks! Be patient and tolerant, set standards for others that represent their capabilities, not yours. Keep communication channels clear and rise above emotional barriers. Above all, accept responsibility for everything that happens in your department or organization. But, remember that responsibility and blame are not synonymous. In fact, forget about blame. Blame is a negative activity that contributes nothing to progress.

Set productivity goals that can be met by the majority of people in the workforce. Better yet, let your people establish their own productivity goals. The object is to set them high enough to generate pride in achievement but low enough that the majority begin to feel like winners. Publish those objectives for the world to see and post the results just as prominently. Let the results speak for themselves. With each victory, raise the level of expectations.
Begin the process of dismantling the bureaucracy. Try to find one rule per month that can be abolished. The more freedom you give to your people the more responsibility you have a right to expect. The more responsibility people have the greater their sense of ownership. Establish the ritual of inviting your people to nominate one rule per month for the scrap pile. You will also find this is an effective way to reduce your costs as each rule places and enforcement burden on the enterprise.

The list can go on and on. Build on this list! Use it as a springboard. We’ve tried to leave room with each of these strategies for your to flesh them out with greater specificity. Personalize them; tailor them to your individual tastes and preferences but, whatever, do something. Act!

Remember that anything human beings can imagine, human beings can do. Positive leaders believe in the possibilities and they believe in their people. Positive leaders communicate mission, vision, and values relentlessly.
Positive leaders strive to become totally dispensable to their organizations. They do this by empowering their people and in the process they become invaluable.

The world needs you and you can do it! You can make a difference!

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