The new year offers a great opportunity for you to evaluate your leadership strategies.
The following leadership strategies may help you make your team more effective this year. Consider taking some time to evaluate your leadership and consider any changes that might help your team learn and grow.
1. Communicate goals.
Are you clear with your team? Or... clear as mud?
You can't expect your team to understand goals by osmosis. Too often executives assume people see the big picture—what the company's mission and goals are—only to discover they don't because the goals were never communicated.
As early as possible this year, consider laying out a handful of your company's top goals. Address such things as new products to be developed, sales goals, customer satisfaction and renewal metrics to attain or large initiatives that are in the works.
Sharing the goals in writing can help make them “official." Also consider holding a meeting with employees to discuss company goals. Encourage them to ask questions. You want team members engaged in a two-way conversation around the goals, so that they get excited and develop a sense of shared purpose.
2. Tie activities to goals.
It's not always enough for workers to know the big picture. It can also be important for them to understand their role in that picture.
Leadership strategies that make it clear to employees that their roles are tied to concrete company goals can be valuable. One way to do this is by being explicit about the connection. When you meet with employees to go over goals, consider telling each department (or in a very small company, each person) an example of what they can do to help further the goals.
For instance, if the company has a goal to achieve a 90 percent customer renewal rate, point out how phone reps reducing customer wait times could help achieve that goal. In other words, help workers understand specifically how they fit into the big picture. This may motivate them by making them feel needed.
3. Lead by example.
Some leaders lead by telling. But I think the most effective way to lead is by doing.
In 2017, you can show your team members what to do by demonstrating the type of work and actions you expect through your own behavior and leadership strategies.
For instance, if you want team members to be more innovative, then show what you mean by that. You could lead a brainstorming session by bringing up your ideas for how to solve a difficult problem, and showing your team the type of innovative thinking you're looking for. During the session you can ask for input and listen carefully to team members' additional ideas. You could use your example to encourage others to raise their own innovative ideas.
By participating in the brainstorming session, you can show your team the pattern of innovative thinking you want to see from them.
4. Develop mini-you leaders.
As your company and team grows, there's no way you can do it all. It helps to have the leverage that comes from building a solid management bench.
Make 2017 the year you develop one or more direct reports to become more effective leaders in their own right.
If someone's had very little leadership experience, delegating projects can be a good way to give them a shot. You could delegate a project for them to lead from start to finish. Explain the authority you are delegating and your expectations. Make it clear that they are in charge of the project.
Then hands off! This is one of the more effective leadership strategies you can use to empower your team. You have to allow the person room to achieve great results or make mistakes. Either way you give them an important opportunity—the opportunity to flex their leadership muscles and develop leadership strategies of their own.
5. Encourage team input.
An effective leader is one who understands his or her team—and listens to them.
This doesn't necessarily mean abdicating all decision making to your employees. But I think in order to lead your team to new heights, it helps to tap into their accumulated knowledge and judgment.
Consider going out of your way to gather input from your team. You can ask questions in meetings or in emails such as, “What are you thoughts?", “How do you think we should handle this issue?" or “Do you have suggestions on what should take priority?"
This can be especially important for employees who have direct contact with customers or clients. They are on the front lines and often are the first to identify a problem. These are the employees who are more likely to notice if one particular product tends to get lots of customer complaints.
They also may be the first to identify a missed opportunity, such as a cross-selling opportunity. Tap into leadership strategies like organizing regular team meetings or encouraging suggestions to get your employees talking!
6. Challenge employees in exciting new ways.
Your goal as a boss shouldn't be to make work more difficult for your team members. But challenging them is another story.
Very few people like to do the same mundane tasks, day in and day out with no variation. (How boring!) A fresh challenge or something new to master can help improve employee motivation.
You may want to give your employees something new and different to do, even for a short while. You could have employees spend time shadowing other departments so they can use that information to improve their regular work. For instance, you might have your product developers sit in with your customer service team for a day or two so they can learn about the types of questions customers raise about products. The product developers can then go back with a renewed sense of purpose and insights for future product enhancements.
7. Implement technology.
Technology can help open up a whole new world of possibilities for businesses and for teams.
Learning a new technology can be a fresh challenge for a worker. You could dub an employee your "in-house expert" in the company's new CRM system. Your employee may feel a sense of pride at being given the distinction of knowing the system at a level no one else in the company will have. And as the system “expert," that employee may be inspired to make the system implementation a success.
Another advantage of technology is its power to help decrease drudgery by automating routine tasks. One way to make employees feel needed can be removing grunt work, and replacing it with work that exercises their brains. You can show them how technology can make their day more interesting and less boring, and they may just respond by reaching new heights of productivity.
8. Make space for failure.
Failure can be inevitable in the business world. And the bigger your goals, the bigger the chances for some things to fail.
You don't want your team to fail at the everyday tasks that keep your business running. But accept that when they're stretching themselves, and working on new initiatives like landing your biggest client or developing a new product, failure may happen.
So this year, as strange as it may sound, consider encouraging failure among your team. Emphasize that your team should learn from failures and not become discouraged. They should think of failure as merely the start to achieving something big and wonderful.