Despite the tough economy, many companies are still enjoying great successes. Executive and leadership coach John McKee shares some ideas you can use to build a more successful organization.
Depending on the news you hear, it may seem like this economy is still going downhill or perhaps the bottom has finally been reached. But either way, there’s no doubt that more organizations are going to fail before we’re truly moving continually forward again.
However, while many organizations struggle, there are still great success stories out there. Leaders who see opportunities where others see roadblocks generally lead those operations. Not coincidently, their teams are usually both more positive and more productive than competitors’ teams.
Over my 30+ years working with business leaders and professionals, I’ve been able to see which ideas will work in almost any arena. Here are 10 tactics I’ve garnered from some of the finest pros I’ve worked with. See if any of them could help you improve your rate of success.
Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in our IT Leadership blog. It’s also available as a PDF download.
1: Become a small picture kind of boss
It’s critical that you help everyone understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization. But don’t forget that the best leaders also bring those goals down to the smallest details of individual jobs. Learn to help everyone, at every level, understand how his or her specific contribution can make the whole organization more successful.
2: Nuke the Blackberry when at home
It won’t surprise you that many execs tell me their organization can’t run without them. They say it’s imperative that they take a message and help “fix” things. But you might be surprised to learn the percentage of bosses who never check messages or emails after hours. Yet these folks are generally highly rated and successful, and — this is important — they often work in the same industry or even company as those who tell me that they must be available at all times.
3: Stop treating vacations as an option
Almost like it’s some kind of badge of honor, many managers frequently note how little time off they take each year. On the other hand, others get creative with their vacation planning. They look forward to getting away from the shop to recharge and clear their minds. They tell me that their breaks make them more effective and creative. Care to guess which group I’ve seen moving up the ladder most quickly?
4: Improve the preparation for hiring new players
Most organizations do really crappy interviewing. Many who interview potential new hires admit to not being well prepared. They say they figured someone else in the process would have done much better. Now more than ever, it’s important that anyone joining your organization is well screened and the best fit for the opening. HR studies show that 60% of new hires fail in the first 12 months.
5: Develop your memory
Think back to the first time someone important remembered your name. It felt pretty good, right? Like you counted. The best leaders remember names, job roles, hobbies, partner’s names, and more. Watching them go through a series of meetings, it can be amazing just how good their memories are. And it pays off. People work harder for those who care enough to remember personal things about them.
6: Exercise your body as well as your mind
Regularly scheduled forms of body work are a hallmark of the best bosses. The body needs to be exercised and maintained so that you can function at peak performance. Yoga, for example helps to release stress. That’s good emotionally too, of course, but it also helps our posture because we have a tendency to hold stress in the front of our body. So it helps us to walk and sit taller; breath better, and have more energy to take on the demands of the job. And keep this in mind: If you were choosing between two candidates for a promotion, would you pick the one who looked fit and alert or the one who looked tired and worn out?
7: Learn these words: “I made a mistake”
And then say them as required. When you are confident enough to admit your screw-ups, it’s a great signal to team members that you are real and that you get it. This encourages them to be just as honest, reducing the fudging and BS so prevalent in many organizations. This makes it less likely that you’ll get one of those surprises that cause people to reach for purple pills in the top left-hand drawer.
8: Track how you spend your time
The finest managers spend their time where the best payoff is likely to come. However, many leaders, despite their best intentions, spend too much of their time on problems or dealing with problem people. To see how you’re doing, I suggest that you regularly take out your calendar and review how much of your time you spent with what and who. If you see a pattern in your behavior — like too much time dealing with the whiny guy who always has troubles in his department and not with the positive individual who always delivers on her commitments — make some changes to your time management.
9: Don’t demi-task
Do you listen 100 percent of the time or are you usually mentally engaged in several things at once? Top dogs know that nobody can multitask effectively over the long haul. They’ve figured out how to focus with laser-like precision. And their team members come to know that their boss is really hot and can’t be bluffed. This makes the team better at being clear and precise in their communications to you, and it saves both time and energy for everyone.
10: Celebrate success
Whining doesn’t create change. Managing by berating is counterproductive. Even in downtimes, you can probably find something that’s doing well. Cite it during your meetings or in emails. And name the responsible individuals. What you choose to focus on gets the most attention from others on your team. When you celebrate the little wins, you encourage more of the same behavior from others. And soon, you’ll have bigger things to celebrate.