Leaders set the standard by their behaviour and by the behaviour they accept in those they lead.
In times of change and uncertainty, those leadership standards are tested. For leaders wanting to ensure they pass that test, here are five key tips to action.
- Lead by example
Improving the culture and uplifting the effectiveness of the leaders in your team won’t work if you are missing one key ingredient - your leadership. How can you call to account and coach your team on how to be better leaders if you aren’t an exemplary leader? Quite simply, you can’t because it will be seen as hypocritical, and consequently, your advice and counsel will fall on deaf ears.
- Open your eyes
The leaders reporting to you will want to impress you, do well, and show you they are delivering. That means, they could be shielding you from their mistakes, overinflating the good parts and downplaying the bad, or glossing over areas in which they don’t excel.
A recent study by researchers from The University of Central Florida’s College of Business found that when a person is considered a top performer, they are much more likely to have bullying behaviour overlooked by their manager. While unfairly, often the people who were the victims of that behaviour were seen as the bullies themselves and received lower job performance evaluations as a result of being victimised.
The study’s co-author, Shannon Taylor, an Associate Professor of Management, attributed this flawed decision making to cognitive bias. He explained it as, “…the halo effect, in which positive attributes mask negative traits, or the horn effect, in which one negative attribute casts a person in a completely negative light”.
- Sense check signals
Good leaders are alert to weak signals and to signs of discontent across their team. Then they’ll dig, check and inquire into what might be going on in order to validate the rumbles and rumours, before acting with integrity and purpose. Use informal and formal data sources:
Informal - Feedback you receive from your direct report’s team members, peers, their executive assistant, and suppliers or customers they deal with.
Formal - Data from engagement results, 360 feedback assessments, feedback from employee exit interviews and other performance metrics such as productivity, staff turnover, absenteeism, stress levels and any formal complaints.
- Identify areas for growth
Identify the key areas of behavioural change required and what specific actions your direct report can take to make that happen. Get them to be as specific as possible. It’s easier for them to execute when they identify the steps to take every day to reach their leadership potential. As part of this plan you may have short and long term goals depending on whether issues have arisen because of temporary blips caused by workplace stress (or something else), or if there are more ingrained behavioural patterns that need to be tweaked or broken.
- Be their coach
You are the leader’s leader and with that comes the responsibility to coach and support in a way that enables them to reach their leadership potential.
Often the best support is what comes from you. It’s you being available, taking a coaching approach and providing regular in-the-moment feedback.