As leaders, it is important to ensure that help is provided to people to become their “best self” through the process. I love the idea of sometimes “super-sizing” their job, meaning that we put them in situations that are “above” what they usually do, to push them to become better. Yet when people are put into these situations, the likelihood something can go wrong is greater.
How do we ensure that people are put into the best possible situations to succeed? Here are a few ideas below:
- Trust them. Have you ever seen a basketball coach say to a player about to shoot a free throw, “Don’t miss.” Duh. Do you think that a person wants to do poorly? Not a chance. If you hired them in the first place, then trust them to do the job that they are supposed to do. The people you have hired do not need to be micromanaged or else they wouldn’t have the job in the first place. I would actually suggest that the more someone is micromanaged, the more anxiety they will feel, leading to a lesser chance of success. You should definitely be available to support and jump in when it is absolutely needed, but being micromanaged is the equivalent of not being trusted. No one thrives in that environment.
- Ask what they need. Servant leadership should be just that, servant. As discussed above, it is important not to have it done your way, but to support people in a way that they need. Sometimes people feel that “asking” is a sign of weakness, so a great leader will check in on what they can do for someone to be as successful as possible. Sometimes it will be nothing, but just being asked is sometimes enough to say to someone that they are there for you.
- Figure out when to be a leader or a cheerleader. Sometimes things go wrong and people need to step in, but it is the degree something goes wrong that people have to understand. Is this something that will lead to being totally unsuccessful, or is this something that will be a great learning experience for later? Sometimes leaders need to step in front, but sometimes they need to support from behind. The skill is figuring out when.
- Be direct when needed. If someone in your organization is not achieving to the level you believe they can, it is important to communicate clearly to them. I have had leaders that really want to say something, but they want people to figure it out for themselves, yet this can cause mistrust. Instead of dancing around a topic, being direct is often the best way to go when something is absolutely needed. This will lessen the conversations that run through a person’s mind after, as they know exactly what is needed, as opposed to wondering if they are missing the mark. People want to do a good job, and if they aren’t, sometimes the best way to communicate this in a direct but respectful manner.
- Ask questions. The best leaders know that they can learn from any position, and that the more questions they ask others, the more they grow as well. The best mentor relationships is where learning is happening in both directions, not just top down. Through your own curiosity and questions, it helps someone reflect on their own work, which helps them to be successful the next time around. Success breeds success, and the more we learn from what others did right, the more we all grow.
- Appreciate the work in an authentic manner. I could have just said to “appreciate the work”, but sometimes praise feels political; like it is being done to check off a box of being a “good leader” as opposed to coming from the heart and mind. Give meaningful feedback to someone and appreciate not only their success, but their growth. Do it not as a “boss”, but as person to person.
These steps are more ideas than a formula, as each person we serve is different, but hopefully they will help others to think about how leadership is crucial to setting up others to become successful.
What have the best leaders you had done to support you to become successful?