Your most valuable business asset is your team. How are you investing in this special group of people? Little actions can equal big results for leaders. Here are a few tactical pieces of advice you can use to grow as the head of your business, as shared by military heroes, leadership experts, award-winning coaches and athletes.
1. Be Accessible.
Leaders are busy, which often makes them seem unreachable. Army Major General Vinny Boles (Retired) encourages leaders to have face time with their team.
“Use your calendar as a forcing function to get you out and talk to employees,” says Boles, a 33-year veteran of the U.S. Army and president of a leadership and consulting practice. “Say hello to three people.”
Don’t just ask how they are doing. Instead, ask: What are you working on? How is it going? “The answers will be the best indicator to find out how they are doing,” he says.
Employees might share concerns. Thank them for doing so, he says. “Good leaders look at what they can do to improve the situation—not just what caused the situation.”
2. Seed Confidence in Your Team.
“Your goal as a leader is to make sure your team has high levels of self-efficacy,” says Dave Mitchell, founder of consulting firm the Leadership Difference.
Self-efficacy is having confidence in your own ability to achieve results. “Basically, it’s the feeling that I’ve got this,” Mitchell says.
Train and encourage your team, and let them know it’s OK to make mistakes.
3. Showcase Servant Leadership.
As the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, John Calipari focuses on inspiring his team. This concept of servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down so the leader exists to serve the team.
“Leadership is about serving everyone under you,” he says.
Calipari’s philosophy is for each teammate to serve as his brother’s keeper—on and off the court. “If they know ‘I got you,’ they can fail fast and try new things,” he says. “We win or we learn. We never lose.”
4. Seek Input On Decisions That Affect Your Team.
Conflicts arise when people feel they weren’t involved in decisions that affect them, explains Daniel Shapiro, director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. This concept of autonomy, also explained as the freedom to make your own decisions, is imperative for leaders to understand. Strive to involve your team in a decision-making process, Shapiro encourages.
“You still have the authority to make the decision, but you’ve engaged them in the process,” he says.
5. Openly Praise Good Work.
A small acknowledgement pays dividends for leaders. Just ask retired four-star Army general and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“When someone does a good job, make sure you know about it and let that person know you know about it,” Powell says. “I write notes to a lot of people in my organization on little 4”x6” cards. It’s always handwritten, it cost me 10¢ and takes 10 minutes. That little 10¢ note is put in a $150 frame.”
6. Be Brave In The Face Of Change.
Uncertain times can paralyze a good team. As their leader, you must motivate and encourage your employees, says Jim Craig, goalie for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team.
“Inspire your people to commit to the unknown,” he says. “They are scared and afraid, and they are more scared if you’re scared. Be proactive rather than inactive in dealing with change.”
Focus on the challenges you can influence, which will let you improve the skills that make your team competitive. “The main rival you should compete against is the performer you were yesterday,” he says. “Success happens when you believe in winning and then you prepare to make it happen.”