Is it true? Does the buck really stop with you – the leader? Yes.
We tend to shy away from the great responsibility on our shoulders. Sitting at our desks, making decisions that seem important, feels easier. The hard part is realizing that everything that happens with the team – good and not so good - is on you.
If employees don’t perform up to expectations, it’s tempting to blame them. We say, “The employee goofed up. What do I have to do to get some decent employees around here?” It seems like the “thing to do” is to deliver stern messages when employees screw up.
Want to get the most from your employees? Are you tired of the constant battle to get everyone to do their job? Are you just “done” with all the screw-ups? What’s a leader to do?
Hire for soft skills. Personality and temperament have a huge effect on the way someone will fit in with your team and perform with your customers. Look for new hires with a strong work ethic and great personality. These soft skills translate well with team dynamics and customer service. A person may not have the technical knowledge or skills for the job, but they can learn those if they possess the soft skills that will help them be successful in the position. I’ve seen people in the lowest paid jobs shine when given a chance to learn new skills because they had the desire to work hard, and the ability to interact well.
Create teams with diverse backgrounds and knowledge. When groups are too homogenous, “group think” develops. You recognize this “thought virus” when the group comes to the same conclusion quickly. Often that conclusion keeps the business in basically the same place. When you include people with diverse backgrounds, experience, and knowledge, new thoughts and views are injected that can propel your team and your business forward. Diversity opens minds and generates ideas to meet needs in ways that group think does not.
Provide encouragement. Let people know when they are doing well. It’s easy to expect your team to do their job, praise them once in an annual evaluation, and the rest of the time let them know in no uncertain terms when they aren’t working to your expectations. Research shows it’s important for direct reports to interact with their leaders for six hours a week, either face to face or by email. When those interactions include discussions of what is going well and how to overcome any challenges they are having, they are more engaged, inspired, and motivated to do their jobs. They get what they are working toward because it’s constantly in their minds.
Handle mistakes positively. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what we do when mistakes happen that sets the stage either for learning or for repeating the mistake. So what do you do as the leader? First, take a deep breath. Clear your head. Refocus how you are viewing this situation and the person(s) involved. Your thoughts will dictate your feelings, and set you up for responding or reacting. If your thought is “This is horrible! We are going to look so bad! This person is a jerk for doing this!” then your feelings are anger, frustration and blame. That is going to result in reprimanding, demanding, treating the other person without respect, yelling, and perhaps even firing. The employee will shut down and an opportunity for improvement is missed.
Instead, think of a more supportive thought you can have. If you think, “Okay, this is not a great situation, but it is a good opportunity for us to talk about what happened, how we can fix it, and how we can prevent it in the future,” it’s much easier to feel calmer, more in control of your own emotions, and more focused on involving the employee positively and productively in resolving this situation. It keeps the employee in the game, thinking of next steps, helping to find solutions, and problem solving to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
Create leadership-building opportunities. It’s never easy to move from the technician role – “I do this specific task” – to leading others. It takes a totally different set of skills. Provide opportunities for each person on your team to take a leadership role. Give them the support they need, including clear outcomes and boundaries, as well as mentoring through the rough spots.
Leadership can be tough, especially when employees make mistakes. If you need help learning to handle mistakes in a new, more productive way, or if you would like support for emerging or recently promoted leaders, contact Joy! Whether it’s one-on-one coaching or team building, Joy can help you and others turn mistakes into profit!
About Joy Humbarger
Joy, CEO and founder of Maximize Your Leadership, is considered to be one of Kansas City’s leading trainers and coaches on the ONE thing that changes everything! With more than 30 years of experience in the education and leadership fields, Joy is an expert in transforming mindsets to achieve better business results. She is the author of “Coaching the F___!! Out of Change,” a chapter in The Change11, a national collection of tips and stories to empower others to take their leadership to the next level. She provides individual and group leadership coaching. To schedule a training, workshop or consultation with Joy, email Joy@MaximizeYourLeadership.com.