Leaders have responsibilities.
Key among these is building and leading a high performing team. Let me share a personal experience. I can to this day remember a major lesson I was given early in my career regarding
leadership. I was working for a small business that had just taken on a major project with many challenges.
My role was to be the project manager. Production was at a plant out of state. Getting things started required extended visits to the plant, sometimes up to three weeks at a time with weekend breaks to go home. After a particularly frustrating and challenging three weeks, I was saying goodbye to the plant manager for a weekend home visit and made the comment: “I’m tired and I’m thinking of throwing in the towel.”
His reply was, “You can’t.” When I asked him why, his reply was that my job was to protect them from all the slings and arrows and to take blame for whatever happened. He added that I had the best picture of the process and what the end result had to look like to both the customer and the owners.
How’s that for a going away present. I didn’t throw in the towel and the project was a very substantial success. What a gift he gave me. Reflecting back on that call to action and having the opportunity to own my own business, I would like to share what I consider key ingredients of leadership.
Leaders can’t get tired. The team needs to know that you are still engaged and optimistic about the outcome. They’re going to watch you very closely and will break if they sense you’re going to break. A leader must have a clear picture of what’s to be done and what the end result will look like.
As a business owner or chief executive, you should be able to give a clear picture of what the company will look like in three to five years. The vision needs to be exciting and in measurable terms. Americans love challenges and want to play on winning teams.
Your employees will want you to be in the trenches with them. At the same time, it’s important that you are over the process rather than in the process to make sure that necessary adjustments are made. Ideally you should be over the process with the team running the business using your capital and achieving your goals.
A pertinent, reliable, and timely database must be established and kept up to date. Information that can be shared with the team. Some data is certainly confidential and must have restricted distribution. Meetings are far more effective when you can attack the process and not the people.
An Employee Handbook needs to be written and kept up to date. This Handbook is the foundation for treating all employees in a consistent and fair manner. Poor performers must be identified and given the option to have additional training or to be transferred to in a more appropriate job. Employees with bad attitudes and sloppy work habits upset the rest of the team. They must be removed if performance can’t be corrected. At the same time exceptional performers should be recognized and acknowledged. In addition to merit pay, high
performers deserve to be told, “Well done, thank you”
America is going through an economic crisis. Thankfully, our economy is being turned loose again. Exceptional performance is required by all companies, especially our small companies, to make up for lost opportunities and lost profits. Our workers want to work — that’s become very clear. It’s time to LEAD.
SCORE is here to help.
Dick Jordan may be reached at 218-251-4413.