Leadership Boot Camp: Seek Clarity

imagesOn  scale of one to ten, how do you measure up?  If a “man on the street” interview was held with each member of your team, how would they answer this question:  Based on feedback from my supervisor, how is my performance?  I suspect answers would vary.  Some would say, “I know I’m doing well in my sales, but I need to work on my systems knowledge.”  Others might say, “No news is good news.  I’m still getting a paycheck.”  And most are probably somewhere in between.

The ability to create clarity is a business skill.  Why? Anything else allows assumptions to enter the equation.  And in today’s fast-paced and competitive marketplace, no business can afford a team who is almost hitting goals.

Today’s bootcamp workout focuses on working out your communication skills.  And in the spirit of clarity, we’ll focus on three specific strategies that will help you achieve this goal.  So, stretch, focus and get ready to work out this muscle.

#1  Translate what is in your mind to theirs
All too often leaders fall short of clarity because they falsely assume shared meaning has been with his employee.  We say the same words but two different meanings exist.  For example, “I want you to be a team player.” is the instruction.  You want the employee to display behavior such as initiative, follow-up, anticipating needs and offering assistance.  But your employee hears, “do your job so the team can be successful”.  You both nod your head in agreement but the employee’s performance doesn’t measure up to your expectations. You become frustrated and give negative feedback to the employee and she is frustrated because she thinks she was doing what you asked.

To close this gap, consider two specific steps.  1.  Use as many examples as possible when giving an expectations.  Describe team player, give an example of initiative and don’t leave it to chance for your employee to figure out what you want.  2.  Ask the employee to tell you (not repeat back) his understanding of the expectations. As they began to describe what they heard, you can determine if that shared understanding has taken place.

#2  Connect the dots
I love the curiosity of a 2-year old.  Their favorite question is “why?”  Your employees have that same curiosity about team or greater business strategy.  Where are we going?  And how does that impact what I do every day.  One of the greatest roles for a leader is connecting the dots to his team.  How do the activities of the individual employee impact the team’s output?  And how does the team contribute to the overall business?  A leader translates the big picture into weekly goals and daily activities.

To close this gap, why not add these two elements to your team meetings?  1. Include a few minutes to talk about the company’s financials (define key terms if necessary).  Help the understand the relationship between expenses and revenues within your team.  2.  Spend time discussing why you are doing a specific project versus the reasons against an idea.  Place it in the context of the key metrics of the business.  You need to see light bulbs come on in your team’s minds.

#3  Help them see a future
Do I have a future here?  This a question of every one on your team.  This doesn’t mean every employee want to be in management; however, everyone wants to know if a future of opportunity exists.

To close this gap, talk to every person on the team periodically to understand career goals.  Then based on those goals, determine the right fit and development plan for each team member.  For some, it means a plan to grow a specific skill or provide an certain experience.  For others, they need constructive feedback that helps them understand skills that must be corrected before advancement can occur.

So what do these three strategies have in common?  They will create a more cohesive, productive team. Why? Everyone knows what he is supposed to do and  how it impacts those around him.  When every person on your team gets this, results happen.  But the truth?  It does take time and intentional effort from the leader.  If you miss this step, your team will too.  The ball in your court.  Take the initiative.  The effort is worth it.

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