11 Mar 2015

The 8 rules all good leaders follow

Effective leaders are at the center of many successful businesses, frequently rivaling the impact of a compelling product, a marketplace niche, or a unique value proposition. In fact, a DDI global survey found that organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance [1].

As 2015 unfolds, make sure you’re leading your business in a way that drives results by focusing on these seven key leadership ingredients.

1. Be crystal clear

Being transparent about the state of the business and its objectives helps employees understand their roles in pushing the organization forward. But author William Schiemann found when polling businesses that only 14 percent of employees have a solid understanding of their company’s strategy and direction [2]. From monthly newsletters to daily team huddles, employ a regular communication plan that spotlights priorities and defines the path to results.

2. Remember: nobody’s perfect

Whether it’s technological limitations or R&D shortcomings, it’s important to remind yourself of how much you don’t know. Better yet, make a list of those in the organization who know more in certain areas and create opportunities to leverage their talents. While know-it-alls incite resentment, acknowledging your imperfections can help you earn respect and foster a more collaborative environment that stimulates performance.

3. Trust in employees

After defining responsibilities and expectations, give team members space to perform and experiment, providing coaching and encouragement along the way. At the same time institute accountability measures, especially for employees working remotely, by monitoring key performance metrics or scheduling quarterly meetings to assess objectives, responsibilities, and results.

4: Focus on the positives

From losing clients to missing sales projections, all businesses hit obstacles. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In a study of IT employees and managers, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that “positive leadership correlated with employee optimism, engagement, and project performance” [3]. The lesson there? Reflect on achievements and share successes with your team. Then you and your team can define concrete ways to build on recent accomplishments and reverse the unsatisfactory marks.

5: Celebrate contributions

From public recognition in a company-wide email to a handwritten note, sharing credit inspires collaboration, motivates workers, and aligns individuals to organizational performance. An O.C. Tanner/The Jackson Organization study of 26,000 employees concluded that an organization that recognizes employee performance could “dramatically impact its profitability” [4]. If your team wins a big account, reaches a revenue milestone, or launches a new product, try to celebrate that collective achievement and recognize the individual contributions that sparked the triumph.

6: Keep calm, carry on

Employees, many of whom face long careers, generally appreciate visionary leadership committed to building a sustainable organization.When Jorgen Vig Knudstorp became CEO of LEGO in 2004, the toymaker hovered near bankruptcy. Rather than installing shortsighted, reactive fixes, Knudstorp crafted a multi-layered, strategic plan that included improving relationships with employees and customers, introducing tighter financial controls, and engaging fans in the design process [5]. Like Knudstorp, you can solicit insight from others, find the root of problems, and invest in solutions that spark transformation and create lasting value.

7: Enjoy it

Work can be fun. And breaking the monotonous routine of the workday allows staff to flex their physical or intellectual muscles and strengthen connections with one another. Recognize the value of play and create an environment where people can rejuvenate their bodies and minds through competitions or team-building events. Enjoy an afternoon at the bowling center, plant a neighborhood garden, or host a lunchtime trivia contest.

8: Lead with purpose

In today’s fast-paced, ultra-competitive business environment, strong leadership powers results— a reality savvy leaders embrace. By mixing in these seven key leadership ingredients, you can build a more connected and motivated workforce energized to perform and succeed.

This article was first published in the February edition of the HP Technology at Work newsletter.

[1] DDI, Global Leadership Forecast
[2] Blanchard LeaderChat, Only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy and direction
[3] University of Pennsylvania ScholarlyCommons, Optimistic Managers & Their Influence on Productivity & Employee Engagement in a Technology Organization
[4] O.C. Tanner, Recognition Pays
[5] Business Insider, How Lego Came Back From The Brink Of Bankruptcy

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