Fostering Relationships: The Leader's #1 Job

Achilles is famous in Greek mythology for his ultimate strength and beauty.  He was the perfect warrior except for his even more famous heel.  A small arrow shot to his heel brought him down.

Every boss, supervisor, business owner, manager and team leader strives for perfect strength and leadership.  They all can be brought down with a number of different weaknesses and tactical errors, but there is one that is the ultimate Achilles Heel - either not knowing or forgetting to do Job #1...

A leader's #1 job is to grow and develop their people.

At a recent state human resources management conference I presented a workshop covering the six keys to getting employees engaged and keeping them engaged in their work.  A major take-away for the HR professionals was based on a question:  do the bosses in your organization have this #1 job in their list of core duties?  Do they personally invest financial and calendar resources to this task?  Their responses were interesting.  Some were shaking their heads yes.  Most had a look that said, "No."

The most important relationship in an organization is the one between a supervisor and their immediate team members.  When this goes bad or isn't healthy, people under-perform, cause trouble or just leave.  There are many reasons why a leader's #1 job is to grow and develop their people, but helping people meet/exceed expectations and enjoy their job is the best reason. 

If you are a boss and/or play a role in helping bosses understand how to do their job effectively, ask yourself that question.  If you don't give a resounding yes, make some changes.  Dedicate a majority of your time developing people and helping them understand expectations, develop their strengths, minimize their weaknesses and have what they need to do their job exceptionally.  Good luck.


Vision: Personal Leadership Plan

"3. Every useful brush has a canvas upon which to leave its mark. Getting into Leader Gear requires a reason, a purpose, a place, a team, a project and/or an idea. You reading this book means you more than likely already have one or more of these. They are essential for your leadership to create real change and value. The secret is not that you need a canvas on which to leave your mark. The secret is that you need to whittle down the size of your canvas for your colors to be bright, bold and substantial. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Although this book covers a wide swath of leadership topics, skills and application points, you need to take a different approach. Focus your leadership strongly in one or two areas. As those areas gain color and strength, you can move on to others. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster. Pick and choose your battles. Prioritize. Think like a master surfer riding a wave. His most important ally is the ability to be totally present; using all his physical and mental strength to read the moment, adjust quickly on the fly and make it to shore safely. Being in Leader Gear means being 100% present for the people and projects that need your time, attention and leadership. On their behalf, thank you for giving 100% to moving from a leader in waiting to a Leader in Gear."

Those are the final words of the first chapter of my new leadership book, Leaders in Gear.  The core lesson is you must have a place to apply your leadership.  You are a leader because you have influence on others - for good or for bad.  However, your goal is to put action to your leadership and this requires a field on which to throw the ball around. If you are struggling with where to apply your leadership or if you think it is time to kick it up a few notches, you should consider going through the process of creating a Personal Leadership Plan. 

(Click here for a visual version of the following process.)

Personal Leadership Plan
Step 1.  What is your definition of leadership?  This definition should be brief - like a mission statement - and should give you (and others) a sense of your core values and beliefs about leadership and influence.

Step 2.  Who are the people and projects in your life that need your leadership the most?  This list should be short as well.  Just a handful of people and a few projects, but be specific.  List faces, not groups.  List general tasks at home, work and play, not just home, work and play.

Step 3.  What specific actions do you need to take to be a better leader for each person and project?  How can you "act out the words" in your leadership definition?  Again, be specific.

Step 4.  Break each action down.  List out the goals and the benefits of accomplishing each.  Give yourself benchmarks.  How will know that you are half-way and all-the-way finished with that goal (with the understanding that some of the goals may be perpetual)?  Most importantly, give yourself time reminders.  When will you revisit this plan to check in on yourself and see how you are doing?  You should not only write these in your plan, but also put them in your calendar tool.

Step 5.  ACT!  You might be amazed by either how much leadership you are already doing and simply aren't labeling it that or by how much you aren't doing.  Either way, a PLP is a valuable and meaningful process only if you get to and complete step 5.  Good luck!