Leadership

3 Simple Ways to Lead From the Front

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PROVE THAT YOU CAN DO THE JOB

Not your job. THEIR job; and prove that you can do it well. This is one of the ultimate ways to show that you take your team’s efforts very seriously. Spend one hour throughout the week doing the job of those you’re responsible for. You are putting your capability and efficiency on display which means you are also demonstrating that you are vulnerable.

Your team will either be impressed with how well you do or they will be impressed that you are trying to work towards performing at the level you expect them to be at. By being a regular practitioner you can have 3 motivational tools at your disposal:

1. Rewarding those who regularly work hard by asking if you can take something off of their plate. “I’ll take over for awhile if you don’t mind. You’ve been crushing it all week and you deserve a half hour to yourself. Hopefully I perform up to your standards!”

2. Asking top performers how they can help you and the team get to their level of excellence. This is not only a technical piece, but a way to determine if these personnel can convey knowledge - a critical aspect of leadership.

3. YOU can help coach low performers. If they can see that you execute at a high level, it will remind them that they can likely do more. This tool is enormously helpful if you’ve demonstrated improvement through dedicating yourself to that hour a week of practicing and getting your reps in. “Joe, I love that you do (fill in the blank) so well, but I also noticed that you struggled a bit with (fill in the blank). Don’t worry man, I used to do the same thing until Susan taught me this way. Now I’m way better. Can I show you?”


CREATE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR RISK AND FAILURE

So what if you know the answer! So what if you know a better way! By saying no to ideas you KNOW will fail only serves to protect you while allowing you to try and control the outcome. You once made plenty of mistakes and while you feel that you can help your team avoid some of them — there is also an enormous opportunity for growth here. I cannot count the times I’ve been approached with “Rich I have an idea!” Here’s how it usually went:

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1. “Carl, I don’t like it. I actually think it’s a bad idea. BUT do it and let me know how it goes.”

2. “We’ve tried that one already Jackie, and here’s why it didn’t work. Knowing that, see if you can come up with something to try a better version out.”

3. “I love it. This could be BIG or it can fail miserably. Tell me what ends up happening and how I can help.”

Obviously I am not suggesting free reign of every idea, especially if it can cause something catastrophic or interrupt an important deadline. But, we know there is ample time throughout the course of a month or quarter to be the enabler and encourager of ideas. Spoiler alert: your ideas are probably not that great either. They just get better with practice.

Most people fail forward when you give them a long leash. If they don’t, this is where your leadership and mentorship will come in at an even larger scale. The greatest leaders take risks and don’t fall in love with the tried and true ways to execute.


Talk Less. Listen More.

Sometimes you just need to shut up. Sometimes you don’t need to send that 10th email by midday. Sometimes you don’t need to call out everything that you see wrong. Walk around, observe, and LISTEN. Just try and be a fly on the wall and determine what patterns, good or bad, that you see. Look, I love to talk but that doesn’t mean everyone loves to listen. When I see eyes start to wander as I’m talking or giving direction I know one of three things is happening:

1. I’m going on too long. I’m not adding value. I’m keeping people from work they want to do.

2. I’m not addressing a problem. Worse, I’m not solving a problem.

3. I’m being repetitive. They’ve heard this before or a version of “this” before. Leadership is ongoing and creative communication is as well.

Listen more by asking open ended questions. Listen more by asking questions that don’t have to do with work. Listen more by containing your response or even thinking about your response while the other person is talking. I promise you they can tell when you are prepping your rebuttal or comments. Give them the courtesy of body language that represents sincere interest in what they have to say.

CAVEAT: Talk less doesn’t mean don’t talk at all! Don’t surprise people with late feedback. Don’t fail to immediately correct something that is grossly out of standard. Most importantly, don’t EVER delay positive feedback!

The Customer EXPERIENCE

“You ready? The grill closes at 1:35pm so it can cool off by 2pm” the woman said almost coercing us to tell her we’ll pass. It was 1:25pm. The cafe closes at 2pm.

My wife orders a combo from the one menu sitting at the counter. “We don’t have any of that stuff.” Now I just can’t help it and I have to say something. “Why is it out then?” “Cause it’s stuff we used to have, but we don’t anymore,” she refuted. I quickly realized in terms of laziness, I was superiorly outmatched. 

Let me rewind. Before we walked in I already knew the hours of operation. I saw a gentleman mopping. I saw the grill clean. Yet, we were hungry and timed our meal at a specific time since we knew we wouldn’t have access to food for a long time. While I love to help people out, I wasn’t going to pass up on food because they were one step ahead of the game in preparation for closing time. 

So customer satisfaction is derived from adopting a position to provide your assistance, service, or time to those looking to use or consume your product or service. In this instance, the employee cared about closing more than the customer, and in doing so created a poor customer experience. I don’t like to use the word service because that has a more finite feel to it. When we use the word experience it captures how your impression of the person and ultimately the business will linger. 

It took the woman almost no time to make our meals. When she realized we hadn’t inconvenienced her as much as she was anticipating we would, she became a little more vivacious and conversational. 

None of this is the woman’s fault. This is her leader’s doing. It was clear an environment had been created where her ownership of the grill, closing time, etc. meant that she could incentivize herself to be out as soon as possible to include shutting the grill down 25 minutes prior to closing time. 

Leadership comes from setting an example not of how you want to portray the business, but more so on what you desire the customer experience to be. Now that I’m in the “entrepreneurial” business I look at my watch much less now. And when I do, I’m always like “Shit it’s that late already!!?” I feel like I need more hours and more undistracted time. 

When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you’re constanty wondering what time it is so you can count how much time you have left. We all do it or have done it. I’m just glad to be done with that aspect of employment and I hope it’s permanent. Feelings of guilt would always surface when I was in my various positions of leadership and all I wanted to do was be home or away from where I was.

That meant one thing and one thing only. I wasn’t providing value to anyone; at least not to my fullest potential. The customer experience of those in my charge was shortchanged. And that feeling is far far worse than having a few hours left to go. 

When you find yourself in these situations, you can tough it out. You can be strong for your people. Ultimately though, there will come a point where it’s simply exhausting. If you’re a leader, the best example you can set if to position yourself on a daily basis to contribute at the highest level- not due to sheer work ethic, but because you care that deeply about where you are and what you do. If you’re not there you’re only marking time and waiting to close the cafe.  

 

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