My role as Chief Executive requires me to lead some super smart and talented people to lead functional areas of our business. This challenges me significantly. Like many of the Chief Executives that I am lucky enough to work with & coach as part of our Executive Leadership Program, it is easier (short term) to just get stuck into a project or task that needs doing and to take it over. As the quote by Simon Sinek highlights, it is a far more effective goal to help people to shine, to step up and do a fantastic job and to then leave those skills within that person. This will help you lead the many areas of the business and will get people playing to their strengths. Long term it will allow you to build a sustainable, scaleable and growing business!
Leading talented people is the ultimate challenge especially within the complex and fast changing world of business. How do you do this? Whilst there is no template there certainly are a few steps that can help you along the path. Here are the 10 steps I use and coach to;
- Know yourself well. Be comfortable with your own strengths and weaknesses and build a team around you that are good at the things you are not. Constantly learn and try new things. When you get things wrong be brave enough to own up and say “I got that wrong” or “that didn’t work and here is what I learnt”.
- Know your people well. Seek every opportunity to get to know what makes them tick. How do they think? Like to learn? Like to be rewarded? What do they do in their spare time? Who are their family? The best teams know each other well and when they know each other well trust can be established.
- Have good one on one meetings with your talented people. Use the time to get them better as leaders, in their role, to clarify their thinking, to encourage their hearts & passions. This is your number one tool for leading clever people in the way they need to be led.
- Get out of their way. It is easy for a Chief Executive to get in the way of progress, to slow them down. They need to know what you need from them to report to the Board of Directors, to share with the wider team, they need clear expectations from you and they need to know what they have autonomy to do.
- Have tough conversations. Give them ongoing feedback and encouragement. Confront issues fast before they become too big or impact on their effectiveness. If you are having regular and ongoing 1 on 1 meetings with your key staff it is unlikely that there needs to be too many of these. You are not their friend, you are their boss and to lead people effectively they need to know that you are on their side. You are there for them, in their corner, part of the wider team and their biggest champion they need to know they are part of a wider high performing team.
- Use others in the team (peers) to help you coach, guide and mentor. Use their skills and style to help them push through blockages and to build confidence. Leveraging the skills of others is one of the best levers you have to pull in a talented leadership team. Business and leadership is complex enough and as many smart minds on the job as possible.
- Celebrate their wins. Small break through to big successes, make sure you recognise their efforts, bravery and achievements. It is too easy to see what didn’t go well, the things that did not work that we forget the good stuff. catch people doing great things.
- Make mistakes fast. The Chairman of my Board (of Directors) coaches and mentors me each month and he actively encourages me to try new things. His mandate “Make good decisions, try new things, if they don’t work change them fast”. This gives me a lot of confidence to do great work but recognises that not everything will work. If you get everything right you are not pushing hard enough!
- Bring people back to the numbers. Always use numbers to measure what has been achieved and what success looks like. No one can argue with good clear metrics and it takes emotion and opinion out of the important stuff. have good team meetings with numbers and individually coach your team members to hit them and kick them right out of the park.
- Have fun & make things happen. If you are not having fun go and get a job that is fun. If it is fun then you will love doing what you do. If you are having fun your team will be having fun and in turn your clients will too. Laugh, don’t take life too seriously & keep it real. As Tom Peters says “Leaders do people”. If you don’t like working with people and leading people then you are in the wrong job. It is as simple as that. Leaders make things happen and get things done.
This by no means is the complete list but it is 10 of the important things. Getting things done is by far the most important thing. When John Spence was out in NZ in March he drummed into me that there is no shortage of really smart people in the world with fantastic ideas. There is however a really big shortage of people who can make things happen.
Get out there and make things happen by employing super smart people and then coaching them to be the best they can be. It will make your life a lot easier and means you don’t have to try and be a super hero and do everything on your own. It is not possible to do it alone!
Want a fantastic video to watch? Check out Simon Sinek in this 12 minute clip called ““Why Good Leaders make you Feel Safe”.