Published on 18th September 2014
As business leaders, we have an overriding focus on driving profitability, growth and customer satisfaction. However, one mistake that we often make is spending all our time managing our businesses – rather than leading them.
Leadership and management aren’t the same thing. Management is about creating and steering an organisation that delivers against well-defined objectives. Leadership, on the other hand, creates a compelling vision, and then builds belief, trust and unity of purpose. Leadership is not about directing – instead, it builds teams that embrace shared goals and are motivated to deliver.
Effective leaders don’t just put forward a vision and assume that this will sway their team. They ask questions – they have finger on the pulse of their people, and take action based on what they learn. Here are five key questions that you should be asking your team.
Do we live our values? Values are important. When employees embrace them, they work more effectively together. Equally important, values shine through in everything a business does. Think of a fine restaurant – the menu has to be appealing, but people expect more. The food has to arrive on time, the service must be impeccable, and the ambience must be welcoming. It’s the same with your business – no matter how good your products or services are, the way that you deliver them is at least as important. Having a set of values that underpins this is critical – and everyone must understand these values and commit to them.
Do you have opportunity to grow? Every business relies on the skills of its people. However, it’s a mistake to think that regular training is enough to build and maintain skills. The skills we need are changing all the time – they are as dynamic and fluid as your business and customers are. Taking a top-down approach misses the point, since your people are on the front lines and know where there are gaps. By involving your team in the skills discussion, you gain deeper insights into what is needed and make them part of the process – which in turn builds passion and commitment.
Do we deliver on our promises? Accountability is a mainstay of any high-performing organization. Managing accountability is essential – efforts that fall short of the mark or are misaligned need to be corrected promptly, and successful efforts need to be recognized. However, managing is not enough. Teams must hold themselves accountable collectively, and need to hold their members to high standards. Leaders instil a culture of accountability by making teams aware of consequences and achievements, and by giving them a say in the best way of achieving their goals.
What would you do differently? While leadership is about creating a vision and rallying your team behind it, it’s a mistake to assume that you have all the answers – or that your people don’t have better ones. When you ask your team what they would do differently, you engage them and show that you respect their opinions. You also help them to understand the challenges that you face – which builds a more empathetic relationship. However, it’s essential to follow through on good ideas. Employees need to know that you are listening, rather than making a cynical attempt to get them on board.
Are you having fun? Successful people enjoy what they do, and motivated teams are passionate. As a business leader, you know the importance of being excited – otherwise, you couldn’t put in the effort. It’s the same with your people. They need to feel that fire and sense of accomplishment, even when the pressure is on. If they don’t, then something has to change. Don’t assume that everyone is motivated by the things that make you get up in the morning. Take the time to understand what make sure people tick and what leaves them deflated – and then do something about it.