Being A Great Leader is Never About Luck!
“I’m struggling with my team Elizabeth, and I don’t know how to move forward. Everyone feels like they are working in different directions and it seems that the entire office is at odds. I admit that I don’t pay as much attention to what they are doing as I should, but I have all this other stuff going on…I guess I am just not as lucky to be a great leader like you.”
Today is National Lucky Penny Day! Did you know that? You’ve heard the saying…“See a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.”
I’m not superstitious or believe that picking up a penny will give me good luck. But what I do believe is that our mindset and how we approach leadership has a great deal to do with our success and maybe even that lucky-ness we feel when something wonderful happens.
Being a great leader is never about luck. It’s about skills, creativity, knowledge, emotional intelligence… I could go on and on here. But you get the point. You don’t become a great leader by being lucky. You become a good leader by doing the work!
The story above comes from a young woman I mentor, who was struggling to manage the business and build her team. And when I heard her say she wasn’t lucky enough to be a great leader…I sat back in my chair and smiled at her.
“Do you think I was born with all my leadership skills?”
Here’s how this conversation went from here…
One of my most successful leadership skills I learned at the ripe age of 24 was my ability to be humble. At 24-years of age, managing a group of people who were twice my age, I had to learn to admit that there were a lot of things I didn’t know. But what I did know is that they promoted me based on my ability to get the answers and then make things happen.
There wasn’t a training course that taught me how to be a leader. As a matter of fact, most of my learning was on the job. And most of my learning was through the people I managed. I learned to listen, and I learned to inspire them to talk to me and be a part of the process. It wasn’t about me making all the decisions. It was about us finding the best way to get the job done, and in many cases, they knew from experience, what worked and what didn’t.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed thinking about my first staff meeting with them and thinking why on earth are they going to listen to some kid tell them how we are going to make things better.
Before going into that meeting, I did my research on every one of my team members, and I wrote down all the things that were noted in past reviews where they had thrived.
When I finally sat down in that meeting, I was armed with all the superpowers of everyone in the room. I even took the time to review my file to pull out the superpowers that had been noted to me by my bosses. And we spent that first hour talking about those superpowers and by the end of the meeting they were sharing stories about each other where those superpowers had saved them.
“Gosh, if it hadn’t been for Susie that week, we would have had to re-do all those files – All 1,100 of them. Her attention to detail saved our asses!”
They learned to trust each other. The team also learned to use each other’s superpowers and support each other’s weaknesses.
And I learned a valuable lesson that day that has lasted me throughout my entire life…I didn’t go in there acting like the boss. I didn’t go into that meeting telling them how it was going to be. Humbleness was my first leadership lesson, but there have been many I have learned over the years…let me share five of them with you today:
1. Listen more than you talk
I always hear…” You’re awful quiet.”
When you listen, you learn. When you talk, you’re just sharing what you already know. There is a time and place for both.
As a young leader, there were many things I didn’t know, and I remember my boss telling me when I was promoted…just listen. The more you listen, the more you will learn. He was right, and over the years I have done a lot of listening…and I still do!
2. Never expect others to do the things you have never done
With any team I have ever managed, I took the time to learn every job function. How can you manage a team when you don’t know what the work entails? When you start at the bottom and work your way up, you have a better feel for the business. When you come in at the top, this isn’t as easy to do. But it can be done!
I remember when I moved to Florida to take over the Chief Operating Officer position for a credit card processing center. There were so many things going on around me, and I had no idea how any of them got done daily. I spent the first 6-months learning how everything worked and what everyone did. I met people and learned about them and their job functions, what they liked about their jobs and what wasn’t working well for them. I made no changes until I understood the entire process and how those changes would affect everything it touched.
Being an honest leader is not always fun or comfortable. However, when you have a habit of being honest with your team, they will respect your decisions. They may not like them, but they will appreciate your ability to always bring honest ideas, suggestions, and information to the table.
I remember when one of the company’s that I worked for had decided to close. We had a large staff, and the rumors had started to take root. I knew that I didn’t have any relevant information to give them, but they needed to hear from me. I called a meeting and said…” I wish I could tell you specifically what is going on, but at the moment I just don’t have any information. I am just as concerned as you, and I promise I will be standing here sharing it with you as soon as I know.”
We did close, but the owners allowed me and another associate to stay on an additional 4-weeks to help employees find other opportunities. We had access to employee files and helped them file for unemployment or take care of any other needs they had while they looked for new jobs.
4. Drama Free Workplace
This one is a little odd, I know. But if there is one thing I can’t handle in the workplace it’s drama. A good leader will not tolerate drama. It creates issues and conflicts that can damage a company culture in a heartbeat.
I specifically remember an incident in the call center where a manager and one employee were called into my office. The door was closed, and we were in there for over an hour. The meeting concluded, and my assistant was quick to notify me that rumors had started about a new position that was open and that people on the floor were not happy about the employee “they thought” I was getting ready to put into the open job posting.
The meeting was about a delicate customer issue that had transpired the day before; it had nothing to do with hiring for the new position. But people create stories and before you know it…you have a full drama party going on.
Drama can always be extinguished with communication and honesty. Don’t let rumors fester and spread. Nip them in the bud immediately and diffuse the drama around them!
5. Be Inspiring and Promote Creativity
Most members of team want to feel like they are working toward a vision that is bigger than they are and they want to feel like what they are doing is making a difference.
It doesn’t matter if you’re company is selling widgets for a living and your team is responsible for handling incoming calls about how to use the widget.
Find a way to inspire your team and bring creative ways to do their jobs into the mix, like creating ways to deliver the best customer service and servicing customers’ needs so they grow to love the widget!
When I worked in corporate…there was nothing fascinating about the service we offered. A hundred-other people offered the same service. We had two call centers with around 250-telephone reps and we worked hard to keep them inspired and having fun. We instituted the FISH! Program for the representatives and they loved it.
Not only did they love it, but they were happy and that happiness came through to our customers. We were known for delivering great customer service!
As a business owner, you are a leader. It doesn’t matter whether you have a team or not, leadership carries through so many different parts of our lives. It’s present with your vendors, clients, customers, family, community, etc.
The five leadership tips I shared above are not only used in my business, but I use them in my daily life and you can too. Being a good leader is not about luck, it’s about a lot of things and you never stop learning.