Tips for Effective Leadership
Don’t Prove Yourself
by Wolf Rinke
Effective leaders have the guts to look
at what others do …
In teaching clients how to be better leaders, there is a key strategy I stress: Don’t Prove Yourself. You can have a dramatic impact on an organization and achieve your goals if you forget about proving anything to anyone. Instead, I urge clients to use the following 11 steps during their first 30-60 days in any new leadership position.
Step 1: Walk softly and carry no stick: Become a voracious learner and active listener during your first 30 days. Walk around with a notebook and record everything that strikes you as ineffective, wasteful, redundant, quirky, unproductive and so on. Here’s the important stuff: No matter how ineffective you perceive anything to be, don’t change anything just yet and keep your mouth shut!!!
Step 2: Talk less, listen more. Meet with all team members on an individual basis. Ask consistent questions and record the answers to such questions as: What are your goals and aspirations? What stands in your way of doing a great job? What do you like about this company? What do we do really well? What could we do better? What do you feel could be done to improve results? What one thing would you change if you had my job?
Step 3: Look for themes. Analyze the data you collected and look for themes. Identify the top three concerns, and start asking how they can best be addressed in your subsequent discussions and meetings with your team members.
Step 4: Do the work. Schedule yourself to work every major function in your organization.
Step 5: Catch your predecessor doing things right. While recording all the “bad stuff,” also find what’s been done right so that you can extend praise for a job well done to all those who deserve it. Go out of your way to publicly acknowledge what your predecessor did right. At all costs avoid criticizing anyone or anything during the first 30 days.
Step 6: Get to know the organizational culture. Lots of things go on in organizations because of the culture or climate. (Culture is what employees do when the boss is not around.)
Step 7: Trial balloon your vision for the future. Reflect on how your vision for your organization will “fly” in light of what you have learned in Steps 1-6. Try out your vision on your organizational early adaptors --- the people who love change --- during one-on-one meetings. Revise accordingly.
Step 8: Share your vision. Share your vision, goals and commitments for a new future. Publicly thank those who have bought into your vision for their support. Be sure to communicate the WIIFM—what’s in it for them, and do it with sincerity and passion. Above all, speak in inclusive terms—we not I. Open it up for questions, and involve your previously established support system in answering questions. Listen carefully to what is not being said. Conclude the meeting by asking for their help and support.
Step 9: Walk your talk. Make sure that you breathe, act and live your vision and demonstrate your commitment to the organization’s visions and goals at every opportunity. People will pay much more attention to what you do than what you say.
Step 10: Celebrate more than you think is wise. Publicly celebrate those who move the organization closer to the attainment of their vision and strategic goal. Reinforce it with stories of individuals and teams who have made a difference. And celebrate at every opportunity.
Step 11: Go for the long term. Stay positive even in the face of temporary setbacks. Keep focusing on the progress that has been made over the long term.
Throughout these steps it is important that leaders do not allow the Nay Sayers to dissuade them from their course. Every organization has them. As long as leaders have the support of about 75 percent of the management team and about two-thirds of the team members, they will achieve dramatic improvements in performance and profitability. And, they will have done it without trying to prove themselves.
Dr. Wolf J. Rinke is a management consultant, executive coach and keynote speaker dedicated to helping organizations and individuals maximize their potential. In addition to his new book Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel … and 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw-Hill, May 2004), he is the author of several other best-selling books including Winning Management: 6 Fail-Safe Strategies for Building High-Performance Organizations. Rinke can be reached at 800-828-9653, WolfRinke@aol.com or www.WolfRinke.com .
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