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Leadership Declutter Project – Focus on Your Role

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There is much good information about the role of a leader. With so much guidance available, what is a busy leader to do? Information overload can hit very quickly and we fall back to old, comfortable patterns. A leader often must make decisions with little time to reflect. The most effective leaders are able to keep a laser focus on a goal. In the spirit of spring cleaning, let’s declutter and focus our energy on three priorities for leadership success. 1. Set expectations. 2. Get input and feedback 3. Reinforce those expectations.

In my mind, a leader’s primary role boils down to this: To create conditions where individuals and teams achieve desired results. Seems simple, right? Why then, is the reality so difficult? Well, people are complex – what jazzes one person may drive another to madness. Effective leaders understand how adapting their style to those they lead is a powerful way to be.

At the same time, influential leaders know there are some consistent things people need from their leaders. The Gallup Questions are a good source for priorities. After extensive research, the Gallup Corporation found twelve questions with the highest correlation between employee engagement and business outcomes such as profitability, productivity, turnover and safety

Here are three of those questions that mirror our three priorities: Do I know what is expected of me at work? 2. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? and 3. In the past six months, has somebody talked to me about my progress?

Let’s start with a high priority for leadership success – set clear expectations. (Do I know what is expected of me at work?) What does that mean really? Effective leaders provide enough detail so there is no question what is expected. (Do you say, “I need that report” or instead “I need that report with first quarter analysis by 4:00 today.”) It may feel like a minor point, but the truth is many of us overlook critical details. Why? Perhaps we forget to think about things from our employee’s perspective. Try this, before giving an assignment, ask yourself, “If I was receiving this information, what things are open to interpretation?” Or, “Where do I need to fill in the blanks?”

Second priority – get input and feedback. (Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person.) This priority has two advantages – effectiveness and engagement. Asking for feedback is the fastest way to ensure your message is understood. When giving instructions, ask your employee to repeat back what they understand the assignment to be. By adding this one step in your communication skill box, you reduce mistakes and increase productivity. Also, by involving the brainpower and talents of your team, you just might get that great idea. People appreciate sincere interest and the knowledge that their input is valued. Motivation to support the goal tends to increase.

Third priority – reinforce expectations. (In the past six months, has somebody talked to me about my progress?) It’s easy to fall into the trap that once we communicated expectations and clarified understanding – our job is done. On to the next challenge. The reality is most people are faced with overwhelming competing priorities and can easily be derailed. Scheduling periodic check ins to discuss progress ensures that priorities remain priorities. And, from the engagement angle, most people (particularly early career team members) want and crave feedback.

That’s it. Only three things to remember: Set expectations. Get input and feedback. Reinforce expectations. With a little focused attention, you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Here’s my challenge for you. Focus on these priorities for three weeks and let me know how it goes. I value your input:

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