For those of you that have read my columns over the years, you know that December is my month to reflect a bit. Past columns have looked at topics such as Busyness (12/07), Making a Difference (12/08) and Peace (12/12). This month we will primarily look at how to be better leaders. All of us lead someone somehow, so even if you are not a leader in our industry, this column applies to you.
Let me start off by saying that most of these thoughts are not my own but are the result of research and come from learned consultants. These are things all of us need to hear even if (and maybe because) we consider ourselves to be good leaders. When I can, I’ll mention the source, but we don’t want the column to become a bibliography.
One of the keys to being a good leader is effective communication. National workplace expert and author Lynn Taylor said, “The best bosses know that their success is tied to their team, so they consistently remain in close communications with them and expect that of their managers too.”
Here’s a list of a few key things (and ways) to communicate to your employees: be present, make connections, be personal, offer praise and recognition, be positive, admit fault, be appreciative, be courteous, offer support, give examples, offer feedback, solicit input, and share vision as well as a laugh. These are just some of the ideas of how/what to communicate, but communication is as much about listening as speaking. Be a good listener.
Taylor also said that the very best bosses think before they speak and have a high emotional IQ. “They’re capable of taking a new approach if the current one isn’t working. They know that they are only as good as their team, so their words and actions reflect that awareness.”
Yes, you read it right. Two articles I read recently discussed how important it is for leaders to be humble. According to a study from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, humble people tend to make the most effective leaders and are most likely to be high performers in both individual and team settings.
Many of us incorrectly believe that humility is weakness and an inability to stand up for ourselves. In fact, humility requires inner strength. The result is that when leaders have a strong, humble center of gravity, they are naturally perceived as more honest, trustworthy and capable.
Jason Mendelson, founder and managing director of the Foundry Group, helps us to make sense of this. Confidence is necessary to move your idea into the marketplace, but humility prevents confidence from turning into arrogance. Mendelson said, “The difference between arrogance and confidence is self-awareness. The confident leader is self-aware of their customer’s needs, their company’s culture and the rapid changes that occur in their industry.”
How do you stay humble? Entrepreneur magazine calls arrogance the “idiot cousin” of the confident businessperson. How do they suggest we avoid becoming the idiot cousin?
• Ditch the swagger: People want to communicate with others who are respectful and humble. Swagger is a turnoff for most of us.
• Communicate: You can’t listen when your mouth is moving. The best leaders are the best listeners.
• Know the difference: Humility is knowing we will get kicked and striving to be kicked differently each time. Arrogance is thinking that no one would ever dare take aim.
The Business Insider sheds some more light on what makes a manager great.
• Engage and inspire: Great managers motivate.
• Provide feedback and coaching: A 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback works best.
• Recognize and reward: 93% of employees who feel valued are motivated to do their best work.
• Set goals and help us achieve great things: The hard work of managing helps employees be their best.
Now that we have some ideas for how to be better managers, let me offer a few thoughts on how we can be happier. Here’s a list from Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia.
• Spend money on other people: Better to spend on others than yourself.
• Delay consumption: Put a gap between paying and utilizing, such as paying for a trip long before actually going.
• Talk to strangers: When around new people, you strive to be your best, happiest self.
• Have a kid: Family life provides comfort.
• Stop worrying about being happy: As the “philosopher” Bobby McFerrin would say … don’t worry, be happy!
Here at Industrial Heating, we hope the holidays put a smile on your face and wish you the best for a happy 2015. IH
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