04 May Twelve Ways to Be a More Impactful Leader
Leadership is more than just a title.
It’s an opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to make an impact by bringing out the best in others and helping to equip them with knowledge and empower them with confidence. It has little to do with your job title (that’s management) and more to do with your intentional choices.
Here are twelve ways you can build your influence to be a more impactful leader in your career.
PEOPLE NOT PAYROLL
Even though they’re just names on a payroll sheet to a lot of organizations, true leaders see beyond the letters and into the person. A crucial first step to leadership is to invest in building relationships with those we’re working with and trying to lead.
Coaches always tell me that their goal is to “get to a player’s heart before they try to get to their head.” It’s paramount we build a connection before we try to get their commitment, and a big step in doing so is building a connection to the people on our team instead of viewing them simply as payroll.
Open yourself up.
You don’t have to cut yourself open and gush out your entire life story, but it goes a long way in building rapport when you can share a story about a time you failed, overcome a challenge or felt a similar sense. People struggle to connect with perfect – what they do connect with is imperfection and how we respond to it.
As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Start there.
CONNECT THE DOTS
All companies will teach their employees what to do in their job and how to not get fired. Fewer companies will teach their employees how their specific role and the work they do helps the team succeed.
And very few organizations take the time to learn about their employee’s big goals and dreams, and then help connect the dots between the day-to-day work they’re doing now and how it can help them build for tomorrow.
This not only builds better motivation in an employee when they can see how what they do helps them get to where they want to go, but it helps build the team dynamic when they understand their leaders want to see them be fulfilled and successful.
LIFE SERVICE BEFORE LIP SERVICE
Leadership is always about our life service before our lip service. It’s easily confused in today’s corporate landscape where managers want to only tell their teams the standards they expect while simultaneously failing to live up to those same standards themselves.
My Dad taught me years ago about the importance of modeling the standard before expecting others to fully buy into it.
Accountability is the truest sign of love – and one that often gets a bad wrap.
It can easily be seen as discipline. You messed up and I get to hold you accountable to getting “in trouble.”
In reality, accountability is saying “here’s the agreed upon standard we’ve set or you’ve agreed to live/work up to. You fell short. I’m going to encourage and challenge you to rise to that standard because I believe you’re capable of more than you’ve given.
It’s a call-up. Not a call out.
ALWAYS GIVE YOUR BEST EFFORT
Effort is a choice.
It’s not dependent on circumstances or feelings, but on commitments, we’ve made (or failed to make). Angela Duckworth points out in her book Grit, that in the success equation, talent counts but it’s our effort over the long-run that’s twice as important.
Can your team always count on you to bring your best?
You don’t have to always be at your best. It’s hard to be at 100% every day. Some days we’re at 70%, others we might be operating at 40%.
But will you give 100% of that 40% or do you check out because “it’s just not your day?” Leadership requires consistency of communication and consistency of effort – because if you expect your team to give their best, they need to first see you always giving yours.
Is your team on the same page in how they define your internal language?
Some are. Many aren’t.
We may all see the same word, but our definitions may vary from one person to the next. Take for example something like “compete.” You might believe it’s about “beating someone else, me vs. you” while I argue it’s more about “striving to gain or win something, me vs. me.”
Both of us could be right but in what context does our team use it – and which is the correct alignment?
We have to make sure we’re on the same page by…
a) First defining what language we’re using internally and what it means – especially in relation to our core values and culture.
b) Then overcommunicate those words consistently so there’s never doubt and we’re always in alignment on the meaning.
If we have to see advertising messages at least seven times before the message sinks in, why do we expect to say things once or twice to our teams and it stick?
Always be communicating.
Ego becomes our enemy when it gets in the way of our learning. The best – no matter their field – always look for ways to improve. They stay curious.
Michael Jordan hired famous trainer Tim Grover to help him change his body and game in order to rise to the next level.
My business coach – an incredibly successful speaker and coach – has her own coach.
Once you think you’ve “learned enough” and become complacent, you’ve started the timer at the end of your run. There are two key pieces to staying curious:
- Consistently looking for better ways to lead and help your team succeed.
- Setting the example for your team that no matter how good you think you are, there’s always something to learn and improve on.
Leading by example means consistently looking for ways – books, podcasts, interviews, coaching – how you can improve your game in order to improve your team’s game.
WATER YOUR PLANTS
You can’t bring your best without doing the work to become your best. It’s important that you continue to grow, learn and develop.
“But Jake, isn’t that selfish? Shouldn’t a leader be a servant and only care about his/her team?”
It’s selfless to do the (sometimes difficult) work to become your best so that you can continually bring your best to your team and those you lead. When you choose the selfish route and not do the work, you’re essentially telling them, “I want you to follow me, but you’re not worth me doing the work to improve to be always someone worth following.”
CONSISTENTLY SEEK FEEDBACK
It’s impossible to improve unless you’re looking for opportunities to improve. Seek feedback from yourself by evaluating each day/week and how well you did or didn’t do. Identify opportunities to improve and intentionally build on them the next week.
Seek feedback from your peers or managers on what you can do to improve as a leader and teammate, so you’re able to better lead the overall team.
Feedback isn’t always the most fun thing to hear, but done right, it has the ability to be the most impactful information in our growth.
PRAISE IN PUBLIC
Call your team up and praise them publicly. Reward great effort and teamwork as much as you do outcomes. Give shoutouts in front of others to encourage the behavior and controllables you want repeated in the office.
Remember, rewarded behavior is repeated behavior.
COACH UP IN PRIVATE
Criticize or coach up in private. In very rare circumstances is it beneficial to criticize someone in front of their peers. Most often, it’s more productive to coach up poor behaviors in private and work together to create a solution that helps the person being coached up grow and improve.
Leadership isn’t a title. It’s a choice.
It’s an opportunity we can choose to take advantage of every day if we’re intentional. If you want to create a competitive advantage in your career and help your team by leading them more impactfully, start by incorporating each of these twelve choices into your daily & weekly work habits.