Strive to Be an Excellent Leader and Manager
The research literature on leadership finds that the most effective leaders are excellent managers and excellent leaders. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said leadership is about determining the right results and management is about achieving results. Effective team leaders can identify the right results and can achieve them. Management and leadership both take people skills and a drive for results that deliver value from a systems point of view. If you don’t treat people well in driving for results, then it is only a matter of time before those people will turn against you. For example, if you focus on results above all else, then the people commitment needed to support the results will wane over time as people get frustrated with not being recognized for their contribution. Further, if you don’t pay attention to delivering value from a systems point of view in determining the right results, then the infrastructure needed to realize the right results will not be there. For example, investing significant resources to develop an innovative new product makes sense if there is a realistic potential for making a profit from selling the new product. Team leaders who see how people and results are related will benefit in the long term.
Both driving for results and exhibiting good people skills don’t come naturally to leaders. Only 13 percent of 51,000 leaders were found to display strong abilities in both driving for results and having good people skills.6 I have found two key approaches for team leaders to develop this rare combination of skills. The first approach is involving others to develop high- quality team goals that produce results. The second approach is using leadership mindsets that support the people skills needed to produce results.
A team leader is appointed because there is a vision of what a better future looks like that can’t be realized by one person alone. Often it is not clear how to realize this vision because that is something that the team needs to figure out. Regardless, the leader needs to set and communicate a clear direction for the team. Setting a clear direction takes understanding what the current situation is and what the desired future state looks like. The leader can distill the team’s direction into a list of proposed team goals. But input from team members is important to create high-quality team goals because different perspectives increase the value that can be produced by the team. In fact, the value that can be produced by the team can be increased even more by seeking and incorporating input from the team’s key stakeholders. A large study of working professionals revealed that value is equal to benefits to others times quality times efficiency.7 For a team, benefits to others are the benefits to the team’s stakeholders or a representative sample of the people impacted by the team’s outputs.
Test the Quality of the Goal
One tactic I have used to incorporate team member input into a team goal is a group exercise to test and address the quality of the goal. This tactic is based on a proven process from strategic planning. It involves the following five steps, which are explained with examples in the ensuing paragraphs.
The first of five steps to develop team goals is to write broad goals using the format of an infinite verb followed by a broad long-term aim that makes clear the impact of the goal on the group or organization. An infinite verb is one that has direction but no destination like provide, promote, maximize, maintain, or foster. A sample broad goal is “maximize awareness of our brand to drive business results.” The infinite verb is maximize, the aim is brand awareness, and the impact is business results.
The second step is to identify objectives for the broad goals that satisfy the following three criteria: they measure a result or impact and not just an activity; they are SMART, an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time- bound; and together, if achieved, they will accomplish the broad goal. A sample objective for the broad goal “maximize awareness of our brand to drive business results” is “use branded landing pages to track the effectiveness of five different approaches over the next twelve months to increase the enrollment of our online courses.” This objective measures the effectiveness of different landing pages on enrollment in online courses. It is time- bound and specific enough to be measurable. This objective is also relevant to driving business results because online course enrollment is a source of business revenue.
The third step is to brainstorm critical success factors for the broad goals and objectives. Critical success factors are conditions that must be met to accomplish the objectives for the broad goal. Consider again the objective to “use branded landing pages to track the effectiveness of five different approaches over the next twelve months to increase the enrollment of our online courses.” A sample critical success factor for this objective is to “find a landing page application that can track click- throughs to online course enrollment pages and revenues from completed online course enrollments.”
The fourth step is to brainstorm barriers for the broad goals and objectives. Barriers answer the questions: “Why aren’t we there yet? What is standing in our way?” Again, consider the objective to “use branded landing pages to track the effectiveness of five different approaches over the next twelve months to increase the enrollment of our online courses.” A sample barrier for this objective is “no budget for a firm to design five different branded landing pages.”
The final step is to brainstorm strategies for achieving the broad goals. Strategies are broad activities required to achieve an objective, create a critical condition, or overcome a barrier. The format for a strategy is a finite verb plus an object and a purpose. A finite verb is one that has a destination like establish, develop, implement, build, create, educate, review, prepare, or define. Consider how to overcome the barrier of “no budget for a firm to design five different branded landing pages.” A sample strategy to overcome this barrier is to “secure a project budget for designing five different branded landing pages to drive online course enrollment.” Strategies provide high-quality goals for teams.
For more information, see When Bad Teams Happen to Good People
Image Credit: Kaleidico.