10 Tips on Being a Better Leader at Work

Create a positive work environment where people genuinely want to do their best every day.

Former NFL Coach Jimmy Johnson probably said it best, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” This is especially true in leadership.

Getting the business fundamentals right is critical for success, but how you treat people is that little “extra” that can truly inspire an organization.

The problem is that too many leaders don’t recognize this. A Harvard Business Review study of 20,000 people worldwide found that a majority (54%) of employees felt their leaders didn’t treat them with respect regularly.

This lack of respect and civility has a real impact on employee engagement. The same study found that being treated with respect was more important to employee engagement than any other factor.

Employees who said their boss treated them with respect were 55% more engaged.

Employees who said their boss treated them with respect were 55% more engaged. Click To Tweet

The truth is, it’s not that difficult or time-consuming to display genuine respect for your employees. It’s that little “extra” you can do to create a positive work environment where people genuinely want to do their best every day.

In more than 30 years as a leader, I found these ten simple activities can make a difference:

Be present – Never underestimate the power of your presence. You can’t lead your company from behind your desk. You need to be there. You need to walk around. Employees need to see you, and you need to see them.

Focus on them – When engaging employees, remember it’s not about you. Ask them questions. Find out about them. Find out what’s on their minds. Most corporate communication is top-down, but when you talk with employees, this is a chance for a more interactive dialogue.

Be polite – It doesn’t take extra time to say please, thank you, and acknowledge that you appreciate someone’s effort. It shouldn’t be rare to be civil. I was shocked to learn from a former employee that I was her favorite boss simply because I was always polite.

Don’t forget to smile – As a leader, you are on stage every day, and your attitude is contagious. Even if you are having a bad day, force yourself to be positive and smile when engaging employees.

Give them your full attention – Nothing says disrespect more than ignoring an employee. Stop what you are doing and acknowledge them. It’s acceptable to let them know you need a minute to wrap up what you are doing but then put it away and give them 100% of your attention. When it comes to employee interactions, never multi-task.

How you treat people is that little “extra” that can truly inspire an organization. Click To Tweet

Send thank-you notes – A simple letter thanking an employee for their extra effort helps reinforce the right employee behaviors. It shows you care. I also like to send the notes to their home where they can open them in front of their family.

Send get-well cards – I keep a stack of “get well” cards on my desk to send to employees who are sick or having surgery. It’s a simple thing that shows you care about them as a person.

Catch them doing something right – Most bosses focus on catching people making mistakes, but author Ken Blanchard says there’s a better way. He says the easiest and quickest way to improve workplace morale is to notice, encourage, and celebrate all the good things in your organization.

Welcome new employees – I once had a boss who sent a large basket of cookies and snacks to my home after hiring me. In it was a note that said, “I’m looking forward to all the great things I know you will do.” It was a simple gesture that I will never forget. I always try to do the same for new hires to my direct staff.

Promote a culture of mutual respect – You must select leaders who share your desire to show respect to employees. The primary reason employees leave companies is the poor leadership of front-line managers. Make sure your leadership team knows the importance you place on respect by promoting those that display the right behaviors.

To be an extraordinary leader, you have to love people. You need to do the little “extra” things to show you care, you are listening, and you recognize your employees’ efforts.

Most leaders claim they don’t have enough time to respect their employees. Yet, they seem to find time to deal with the aftermath of poor employee morale and engagement.

I challenge you to try these ten simple activities and see if it makes a difference in your organization.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

[Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash]

Leadership Advice for New Managers

I get this question a lot, “What leadership advice would you give to new managers?”

Honestly, being a new manager is exciting. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in a new role or a brand new leader, everyone will be watching you.

One of the most important things I have learned in more than 30 years of leadership is that the first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone for how the organization will be run under their leadership.

There is only a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

The first 100 days are critically important for new leaders. Click To Tweet

You are under a microscope and everyone is closely observing your every action. Everything you do is seen. Everything you say is dissected and discussed.

This is good news!

It means you have an opportunity to make a massive impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you in these early days.

Here are 10 activities to consider in your first 100 days in a new leadership role:

 Let your team know who you are. Every time a new leader is assigned to a team there will be anticipation. People will have concerns and expectations. It’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself. Use stories and examples to let them see your character.

Get out of your office and be visible. Spend time where your people are. Actively listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas. Be open and engage them on the subjects they care about. Get to know them by asking open-ended questions. Let them get to know you as well.

Meet with key employees. Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. I like to have one-on-one meetings with as many people as I can. I want to know the biggest challenges and most important issues facing the organization. I also want to understand what needs to be addressed first.

Set expectations early. People want to know what you stand for. Communicate your expectations as soon as you can. Let them know what is important to you as a leader. I typically send a list of my top 10 expectations to my team in the first few weeks so they know what I expect and they don’t have to guess.

Set an example. Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. If you expect people to be on time, you need to be on time. If you expect managers to get out of their offices, you need to be out of your office. If you expect people to wear their safety equipment, you need to wear your safety equipment. It’s simple. Just as children follow a parent’s lead, your team will take cues from you.

Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. Click To Tweet

Signal your priorities. What’s important to you will be seen by your team. If you spend the first two hours of each day on your computer and not with your team, they will see that. They will assume they are not as important as your e-mail. If you concern yourself with only the inventory numbers and not the on-time delivery results, they will think you don’t care about customers.

Create a buzz. Take advantage of the early attention you have and do something to get everyone talking. Make it extreme so the message is clear. This is something I like to do. In one manufacturing plant, I had the maintenance team paint over all the signs for the reserved parking spaces for managers, including mine. The message was simple, there is no special treatment for managers. We are in this together.

Communicate with employees regularly. During a leadership transition, employees will want to know what’s going on. Will there be any organizational changes? What are your initial observations? How are things going? It’s good to send a weekly e-mail to your team to let them know what you are seeing and what they can expect. In the absence of good communications, there will be worry, speculation, and rumors.

Create the mood. We all know attitude is contagious. Regardless of how you feel, you need to be upbeat and optimistic around your team. You still need to be empathetic when you have serious issues to deal with, but if you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, the team will demonstrate the same behaviors. In the same respect, if you are quiet, unresponsive, angry, abrasive, or sarcastic, life will quickly get sucked out of your team. Think about what mood you are conveying every time you are with employees.

Cast a vision. At the end of the first 100 days, your team’s strengths and weaknesses will be clear. You will also understand the opportunities and threats. The goal now is to communicate a clear vision for the future. Consider where you want to go and how to get there. Communicate this vision to your team in a way that is clear and concise.

Leadership in the first 100 days is an exciting time. You are under a microscope which means you have an opportunity to make a huge impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

 

 

 

[Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash]

The Toxic Leadership of Urban Meyer

At just 13 games, Urban Meyer had one of the shortest tenures of an NFL head coach, and even that was too long.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired first-year coach Urban Meyer this past week after just 13 games.

Under Meyer’s leadership, the Jaguars generated the worst offense in NFL and produced a dismal 2-11 record. If the mission of an NFL team is to win games, Myer’s failed miserably.

But even more incredible are the stories of poor leadership he demonstrated in his short career as an NFL head coach. Meyer appeared to be a narcissistic boss who created a toxic work environment.

Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was filled with losing and controversies, but the Jaguars should have known he would be a problem.

As a college coach at Ohio State, he built a reputation of having a volatile temper, a need for complete control, and a limitless urge to blame those around him for his failings. He was even suspended at one point for poor judgment.

If the Jaguars missed all this, they must have known things were going bad early on.

Meyer’s temper and need for complete control created chaos early in the preseason. He failed to listen to key staff members with extensive NFL experience and insisted on doing things his way. The morale suffered, and his outbursts and fiery remarks to players and coaches created discord and disorder on the team.

“He has everyone looking over their shoulders already,” said one staff member early in Meyer’s tenure. “He becomes unhinged way too easily, and he doesn’t know how to handle losing, even in the preseason. He loses it and wants to take over the drills himself. It’s not good.”

Meyer even threatened to fire staff members after losses in the preseason.

One employee said, “You can’t freak out about preseason games and belittle your coaches on a staff you handpicked every time things don’t go your way. It’s not going to work here.”

And then there was the incident in Columbus.

After the Jaguars’ September loss in Cincinnati, Meyer didn’t travel back to Jacksonville with the team. He didn’t spend time on the plane with his staff and players to review the loss and develop plans to get better. Instead, he went straight to Columbus, where he was recorded in a viral video getting a lap dance from a woman who was not his wife at a bar.

Still, the Jaguars kept him as their coach. Maybe they thought he was just having a bad few months.

But, the problems continued. In early December, it was reported that Meyer had an unusual meeting with his coaches and assistants. According to the report, Myer delivered a biting message where he told his people that he was a “winner” and his assistant coaches were “losers.” He went around the room individually, asking each staff member to compare their “pathetic resumes” to his.

You would think that would have been enough to fire him but the final straw was the revelation Meyer had kicked one of his players, Josh Lambo, during pregame warmups.

Apparently, emotional attacks weren’t enough for Meyer.

In an interview, Lambo said, “I’m in a lunge position – left leg forward, right leg back. And while I’m in that stretch position, Meyer comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Dips–t, make your f–king kicks!’ And kicks me in the leg.”

Lambo confronted the coach, and Meyer said, “I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.”

Hours after this incident was made public, the Jacksonville Jaguars had finally had enough. They fired Urban Meyer. They ended his catastrophic and toxic tenure with the team.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I like to say that leadership matters.

The Jaguars thought they could hire a winning college coach to help them turn their team around. Instead, they brought in a toxic leader that destroyed the culture.

U.S. Navy SEAL and leadership author Jocko Willink likes to say, “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

In Extreme Ownership, he says that “Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team.”

In this case, Meyer set the wrong tone for the team, and the team failed because of his poor leadership.

[Photo WJXT News4Jax]