Why do leaders struggle?
Many leaders I work with, if not most, struggle with how to take great ideas that they either read about or heard at a seminar and create a great company culture. Their senior employees seem to fear the idea of changes that come once a week, month or year because of what some call "project ADD," meaning leaders jump from one idea to another and never really fully implement anything.
I've found that organizational change is incremental, but it must start at the top with a leadership mindset change. I believe that leaders must acknowledge that everyone wants to be successful and that they need to make sure they're setting their people up for success.
In a great book called Extreme Ownership, former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share the winning mindset that Navy SEALs have in order to always be at the top of their game. While physical endurance is a given, mental endurance is the key to their tremendous success. Willink and Babin's message: Stop blaming your people or market conditions or any other (even legitimate) excuse. Instead, take ownership of the problem, and focus on how to make whatever changes are necessary. When an organization is in blame mode, you know it's not in solution mode. As a leader, it's your responsibility to be focused on solutions rather than on problems.
Having a positive and solution-oriented mindset is the ability to continue on with the same enthusiasm, regardless of the challenges and obstacles. Winston Churchill is often quoted as having said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Having a positive and empowering mindset allows you, as a leader, to focus on helping your people be the most successful they can be.
Aim to encourage open and honest feedback so that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done to create a winning organizational culture. Stephen Covey once famously said, "Keep believing in the people, holding them accountable in the way agreed."
The No. 1 failure I see is that many leaders don't realize each person is an individual and has their own unique strengths and abilities that, when put to use in the right way, can create success. This great quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein: "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." As a leader, try not to put a square peg in a round hole. Be very aware of the unique talents that you and your people bring to the table, and maximize those talents.
Ask questions such as: What about your job gives you energy, and what sucks up your energy? Where do you feel you can accomplish more, given the right position and the right assistance? This shows your employees that you really want their success. By putting them in the right positions, you're setting them up for success, and they'll likely be willing to do so much more than when they're put into the wrong positions.
I believe that leaders must empower their employees and that employees need to be ready to accept empowerment for it to work. When managers and employees really believe that each person is vested in the other's success, it will happen.
Leaders, you have the opportunity and the obligation to make your organization a place where employees want to work, clients want to shop and vendors want to sell.
Here are 10 things to remember to help you set your employees up for success:
1. Hire for the right attitude. Many people get hired for skills and fired for attitude.
2. Train employees in both hard and soft skills, and onboard them properly.
3. Share your mission and goals.
4. Be open to feedback.
5. Be genuine in your communications.
6. Empower your people to take responsibility.
7. Praise your employees in public, and criticize them in private.
8. Be kind and compassionate.
9. Failure is a given; make sure to learn from it.
10. Remember that inspiring leaders create other inspiring leaders.
As a leader, it's up to you to help your people be successful. Be honest with yourself and ask the following questions: Did I hire the right people? Are they in the right positions? Do they have the right values? Have I clarified their goals and objectives? Have I given them enough slack to accomplish these goals? Do I continually give them the right feedback? Do we have an open and honest culture?
If the answers to the above questions are yes, commend yourself for being an effective leader and in all probability, seeing success. If not, examine the questions very carefully, and ask your trusted advisors (insiders and outsiders) these questions: What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? What am I doing that others could be doing? What am I not doing that I should be doing?