I’m the boss and therefore I am in control. I need to be absolutely consistent in my approach and the exact way I lead my team needs to continue via succession planning when I leave.
How do you feel about the statements above?
This article will look at three areas of leadership that I have seen people struggle with – particularly in the early stages of their leadership journey as they set out to make their mark. Those areas are control, continuity and consistency.
I recently did a great piece of work with someone who had the job title of Financial Controller. What do the words themselves conjure up in your mind? After a long discussion about what the person actually does they decided that they would change the way they describe what they actually do. They don’t control anything – what they actually do is help other people and the business by making their financial lives easier. So why is their job title not ‘Director of making people’s lives easier by doing all the numbers and finance stuff so you don’t have to and allowing you to concentrate on your actual job’
Pretty short and snappy right?
We did have a good laugh about job titles and came up with some quite funny ones (which I can’t put on here). We shared the opinion that job titles mean little to us both – what we really care about is what we actually do and the difference that it makes. In my experience, job titles rarely actually reflect what people do in real life on a day to day basis.
So with that in mind, what do leaders do? What does the ‘job title’ of ‘leader’ mean to you?
Over the last few years I have coached many people who are both leadership veterans with a wealth of experience and others who are new to leadership. An area that a lot struggle with (particularly those new to leadership) is trying to be in control all the time. It wears them down very quickly and they get frustrated when they realise that they can’t actually control everything. They also can’t know everything and they for sure can’t be everything that everybody else wants them to be at all times.
Idea number 1
Stop trying to control everything. You can’t and that is not what a leader does.
What you can be is yourself and shout about your talents, skills and knowledge but also admit what you struggle with, what you are not so good at and when you need help. (More interesting stuff on this here) Trying to be something or someone else is draining and eventually the cracks will appear on your façade and the real you will come to the surface. This usually happens when you are placed under stress/pressure. Things will crumble and this is what people will see and this is what your leadership will look like – cracked, false and unstable.
Idea number 2
Don’t get hung up with job titles. Understand that leadership is not a job title – it is about being influential, motivational, engaging, inspiring, having empathy, listening with the intent of understanding and above all – being human. All of this is to help move a team towards a shared goal/ambition/mission.
During a recent coaching session with a very senior company director we were discussing succession planning and that he felt it was imperative that someone is identified to take his role when he retires and that someone needs to be exactly like he is in order for there to be continuity. After a long chat about this he came to the conclusion that actually, for his direct team and the wider business, it would be more impactful if his successor was not like him in every way.
There will need to be some things that remain the same or similar of course, especially in the short-term in order to transition smoothly. Longer term however the ‘new blood’ could inject some very much needed new thinking and re-energise the team and business. In the modern world in which we work we can’t afford to not think differently. Things change too quickly and if a leadership team (and therefore the business) can’t think in an agile way then they are doomed to fail.
Idea number 3
Continuity is both a helpful and a hindering thing. Consider wisely what needs to remain and what needs to change in terms of how you lead a team. So rather than just doing the same old thing – what you’ve always done, what few things could you change that would have the biggest impact. Create a changeable, interactive and agile culture that is constantly questioning how and why it does things. Culture is not fixed and it is not something that you are detached from. The things you do and say on a daily basis either change or perpetuate a culture. What impact are you making – good or bad?
Contrary to the previous point although leadership is about being agile and adapting to the needs of your team, your business and yourself, there are areas where consistency is also important. Giving appropriate praise is a good example of something that needs to be done pretty consistently (see my other article on this here).
Imagine if you as the boss came in on one day and were totally standoffish, unapproachable and cold but on the next two days you were happy-go-lucky, fun and all smiles? The day after that you were perhaps snappy and irritable. How will this make the team of people you lead feel? Uncertain, unclear, worried, guilty, angry themselves, upset perhaps or simply bemused. Having a high level of emotional intelligence and understanding who you are and how you come across in different situations with different people is a consistent that every leader needs.
Just remember that the way the boss comes in in the morning is the way that people go home at night.
Idea number 4
Understand what absolutes you need to be consistent on with different people and the team as a whole and be that way – CONSISTENTLY. But, don’t forget to take into consideration the things that you don’t need to control and let them go – forget the continuity and consistency and try new things. You may be amazed with the results.