I got this in a message from a former employee:
When I worked for you, I thought I was Superman.
It was wonderful to get that message.
But additionally, those 10 words sum up for me, in a pretty profound way, what I believe being a good leader is about.
I have occasionally reflected on why that was. Not sure I know all the answers, but the things I do know are that the environment was real, the energy was high and the crap was low.
Why this works
I used to wonder why I was so lucky to have such remarkable, talented, experienced people want to work for me. I realized that a big part of it boiled down to these 3 things:
1. I got the right people in the right roles
2. I let them be amazing
3. I got the crap out of the way
(People liked this.)
1. Get the right people in the right roles.
There is nothing more important to effective leadership than to build a team underneath you that is so capable, that you can free yourself up to solve higher order problems.
Too many managers think the job is to make the best of the team they have.
That is not the job. The job is to develop, and if necessary change, the people to build a highly capable team that can do what the business needs.
The good news is that getting the right people in the right roles is great for them, it’s great for you, and it’s great for the business. There is no downside except that it’s hard to do.
Don’t accept and cover for a weak team
Reality check: If you are personally stepping in to make decisions and do strategic work that you hoped one of your staff would handle, you have a weak spot on your team that you need to deal with.
It’s important to remember that is is not your job to cover for that person to “shore up the team”. Your job is to get a person in that role who you don’t need to cover for.
If you don’t get the right people in the right roles, you are holding yourself back as a leader. And you are failing to deliver enough value to your business.
Find the magic
When you get the right person whose natural strengths, ability, and ambition are right for the role, magic happens.
They thrive. They grow. They do amazing things. They feel proud of what they do. They are motivated and energized.
And your productivity goes up because you don’t have cover for any their job personally.
Your job is a leader is to create a team that can amplify what you can do — not just execute it.
Otherwise you are at the helm of a team who is constrained by you not led by you.
2. Let them be amazing
Hire stars, give them big work, support them, step back and let them be amazing.
Don’t just delegate work. Delegate power.
Let people make decisions, solve problems and be the spokesperson for their efforts. Let them do great work they can be be proud of let them be recognized for it.
If you hire top performers, show them trust and respect, and make sure they get the credit, they will move mountains for you. Get out of their way!
3. Get the crap out of the way
As a leader a key part of your job is to create a work environment that is good to work in.
- You need to seek and destroy chaos.
- You need to remove uncertainty.
- You need to eliminate unproductive negativity.
- Don’t let questions and rumors fester. Don’t leave people to wonder what is important, or which direction to go. Create Clarity. Make decisions. Communicate.
- Get rid of poor performers and negative people who drain energy out of the organization.
- Address missed deadlines with consequences and action plans. (You’d be surprised how much positive energy this creates.)
- Remove internal competition and broken strategies. Have clear plans with measures and accountability.
Want more ideas?
If you are thinking, “I agree, but this is hard, or I can’t really do this in my environment”, check out these articles and webinars for some practical ways to move forward:
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)