Leadership Is About What Happens When You Are Not There
This week I was coaching a leader who is experiencing performance problems with an otherwise capable team member. The leader was frustrated, perplexed and a little bit angry.
She is convinced that this employee possesses the knowledge, skills and attributes to be a valuable team member. This person has exhibited such qualities in the past. However, the leader has had to remind her teammate of particular responsibilities repeatedly and given her directions about how to perform those responsibilities.
Not surprisingly, my client explained to me that after she gives the teammate a little lecture and reminds her of how her duties should be performed, the employee performs well for a period of time and then falls back up on bad habits. I reminded this leader that such performance patterns by employees are not uncommon. Frequently, people will perform well after they are reminded of particular responsibilities and then regress again after a finite time period.
As leaders we must always think about motivating team members to perform not to please us, but to please themselves. We have to call upon people’s internal motivation. Sometimes it can be very challenging to identify that motivation, but I believe it exists in virtually all team members. It is our job not to inject motivation into people, but to bring it out from under the surface.
It’s easy to find teammates who will do things the right way if they think we or others are examining them or looking over their shoulders. What we must strive for is helping them motivate themselves to perform well when no one is looking. We do not want team members to be dependent upon us or other managers to perform well. Such dependent relationships are not healthy in the workplace. Rather, we want employees to perform well independently and eventually to learn to function effectively interdependently, as part of a strong team.
The key question to ask is always: “What will happen when we are not there looking?” Will team members rise to the occasion and perform well because they are accountable to both themselves and to each other, not just to us?
I was reminded of this important leadership lesson again this Friday when reading about a new book co-authored by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley, “Simple Truths of Leadership.“ This book contains 52 servant-leadership concepts, one for each week of the calendar year, and gives examples of each, describing how leaders can effectively implement them in their workplaces.
In his weekly leadership blog, Leadership Now,” Mike McKinney highlights several of these 52 concepts. Number 44 is: “The most important part of leadership is what happens when you’re not there.“
So as you continue to strive to be the best leader you can be, I invite you to ask this question: How can you help your teammates help themselves and find the self-motivation to be their best selves on a daily basis, especially when you are not there?
-Can you educate teammates on the creation of SMART goals?
-Can you collaborate to create annual goals with your teammates?
-Can you collaborate to set up objectives to reach those goals?
-Can you work throughout the year on building your relationships with all team members?
-Can you ask teammates where they want to be professionally two years from now?
-Can you check in with each direct report periodically throughout the year on goal accomplishments?
-Can you determine what kind of “rewards” appeal most to each team member?
-Can you inquire how you can most directly help them in their professional growth?
If we want to maximize our teammates’ desire and ability to perform well when we are not there, we must ask the right questions throughout the year and remember that helping people identify with their own internal motivation is always more effective than depending upon external motivations.