1. Develop every employee
Sure, you can put your primary focus on reaching targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals—but do that and you put your leadership cart before your achievement horse.
Without great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will ever pay off. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it’s your job to help all your employees be more capable so they—and your business—can achieve more.
It’s your job to provide the training, mentoring, and opportunities your employees need and deserve. When you do, you transform the relatively boring process of reviewing results and tracking performance into something a lot more meaningful for your employees: Progress, improvement, and personal achievement.
So don’t worry about reaching performance goals. Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of your employees and achieving goals will be a natural outcome.
Plus it’s a lot more fun.
2. Deal with problems immediately
Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, feuds between departments… all negatively impact employee motivation and enthusiasm.
And they’re distracting, because small problems never go away. Small problems always fester and grow into bigger problems. Plus, when you ignore a problem your employees immediately lose respect for you, and without respect, you can’t lead.
Never hope a problem will magically go away, or that someone else will deal with it. Deal with every issue head-on, no matter how small.
3. Rescue your worst employee
Almost every business has at least one employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task, lost his cool in a meeting, or just can’t seem to keep up. Over time that employee comes to be seen by his peers—and by you—as a weak link.
While that employee may desperately want to “rehabilitate” himself, it’s almost impossible. The weight of team disapproval is too heavy for one person to move.
But it’s not too heavy for you.
Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Say, “John, I know you’ve been struggling but I also know you’re trying. Let’s find ways together that can get you where you need to be.” Express confidence. Be reassuring. Most of all, tell him you’ll be there every step of the way.
Don’t relax your standards. Just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.
If that seems like too much work for too little potential outcome, think of it this way. Your remarkable employees don’t need a lot of your time; they’re remarkable because they already have these qualities. If you’re lucky, you can get a few percentage points of extra performance from them. But a struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference.
Granted, sometimes it won’t work out. When it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. The effort is its own reward.
And occasionally an employee will succeed—and you will have made a tremendous difference in a person’s professional and personal life.
Can’t beat that.
4. Serve others, not yourself
You can get away with being selfish or self-serving once or twice… but that’s it.
Never say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did.
If it should go without saying, don’t say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct.
When employees excel, you and your business excel. When your team succeeds, you and your business succeed. When you rescue a struggling employee and they become remarkable, remember they should be congratulated, not you.
You were just doing your job the way a remarkable boss should.
When you consistently act as if you are less important than your employees—and when you never ask employees to do something you don’t do—everyone knows how important you really are.
5. Always remember where you came from
See an autograph seeker blown off by a famous athlete and you might think, “If I was in a similar position I would never do that.”
Oops. Actually, you do. To some of your employees, especially new employees, you are at least slightly famous. You’re in charge. You’re the boss.
That’s why an employee who wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you.
When that happens, you have a choice. You can blow the employee off… or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, reassure, motivate, and even give someone hope for greater things in their life. The higher you rise the greater the impact you can make—and the greater your responsibility to make that impact.
In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star.
Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom.