Move the needle: Automatic leadership

You’ve just completed another 65-hour week and had the realization something’s got to change. No amount of money is worth all this stress, exhaustion and time away from family.

It’s time to bring on some additional help. However, unless you understand how to lead, you may have just signed up for more work and frustration.

Keep in mind leading an individual is completely different than managing employees. Anybody can send out an e-mail with a list of tasks and follow up to make certain they were complete. Anyone can manage – few people know how to lead.

First, a great leader starts by understanding the “why.” Understanding the “why” simply means you need to take time to figure out what your employees hope to get out of their careers. In other words, you need to know what a perfect career looks like for each of your direct reports. How much would they (employees) like to make? What would their title be? What skills would they be developing?

Before you start, it’s important to note I have asked thousands of employees these questions and almost no one has any idea what they want their career to look like in the future. You’ll need to help them stretch their horizons a little bit and get them dreaming. Next, be prepared for some of your staff to have a vision for their careers that doesn’t include you and your company. That’s perfectly normal. They were going to leave anyway – everybody does. Why not get the most out of them while they’re here?

Second, once you know where your employees want to go, it’s important you set some clear expectations to help them get there. Most leaders think an annual review and sporadic staff meetings qualify as setting clear expectations. Not true. Employees are like teenagers: They do a lot of head bobbing (up and down) to our instructions, but rarely give us their full attention. As a result, you need to set and reset expectations all the time.  I recommend you start weekly at a minimum.

When your staff doesn’t meet expectations, you have to hold them accountable. Because holding people accountable is often uncomfortable, many leaders permit the failure to meet expectations convincing themselves “They probably won’t make this mistake again.” Don’t let that be you. Avoiding these conversations doesn’t fix the problem; it just makes it worse.

As with most things in life, the solution is simple. All you need to do is execute.