Leaders Own the Next Step

Many of the leaders with whom I work desire to lead more and do less. I don’t mean to create easier work; I mean to let their team make their own decisions and solve their own problems. By doing so, the leader builds the skill set of their team and find that they can lead more and manage less.

Yet, many leaders find this a hard thing to do. They have often risen through the ranks and one of their key skills has been to problem solve hands-on. “Solving problems takes up too much of my time. How do I let go of something that helped me be successful?” Here are a few key steps you can take to help you move from problem solver to leader.

  • When a team member comes to express concerns regarding another colleague, ask the team member if he has first spoken with the colleague to share the concern.
  • If the team member says yes, the leader should inquire how she can help. The team member may not feel that progress was made and is seeking additional help.
  • If the team member says no, the leader should instruct the team member to share his concern with his colleague first.
  • If the team member is worried about sharing his concern with his colleague, the leader should ask about the concern(s) and do what she can to ensure her team member that having a direct conversation with his colleague is a great place to start.
  • If the team member feels this is a great idea, this is where the leader still owns the next step. The leader needs to let her team member know that she is excited that the team member is going to speak to his colleague and to let her know once the conversation has occurred.
  • By closing this loop, the leader can ensure that the conversation has happened and the conversation has not “died on the vine.”
  • If the team member does not get back to her within 1 – 2 weeks, the leader should follow-up with her team member to assess the status of the conversation and craft next steps, if necessary.

By making sure an important conversation between team members has happened, the leader has helped to solve a problem by building the skill set of her team, while not attempting to solve it herself. That’s great leadership!

Your Boss is Your Most Important Relationship

In today’s ever-evolving organizations, the most important relationship you will have is with your boss. Your boss is accountable for the activities on which you focus. Organization leaders will come to your boss for feedback on your performance. Your boss is the author of your annual performance appraisal. Your success in your organization is dramatically impacted by the impression your boss has of you.

Your relationship with your boss is based on a series of interactions characterized by dependencies and expectations. For a variety of reasons, you often find yourself disconnected from recurring interactions with your boss, which prevents you from building a relationship. It will be difficult for your boss to have an impression of you, especially a positive one, if your interactions are limited. Your interactions with your boss may be limited due to one or more of the following reasons:

Time. It is not surprising that a significant hurdle to interacting with your boss is time. In an organization where business professionals are expected to do more, with less, and faster, time is at a premium. Many of your colleagues report that weeks may go by without a substantive conversation with a boss; and when a conversation does occur, it was usually due to a problem or a need for a quick piece of information. Successful business professionals find time in their busy day to connect with their boss in substantive ways and to overcome challenges in their bosses schedule by being persistent.

Personality. As individuals, we all possess personality preferences which differentiate us from each other. Recall the observations earlier in this chapter regarding nature or your natural interest to interact with others. Some of these personality preferences work in harmony and others create conflict. You may feel this at work when you express your feelings in ways such as “I can’t get along with Bob,” or “I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t like Karen,” or “Cheryl and I seem to be from different planets.” Conflicting personality preference differences between you and your boss may create a situation where you avoid spending time with your boss. For more information on the impact of personality preferences at work or to learn more about personality assessments, visit www.type-coach.com. The information and tools found at this website can help you understand personality differences in ways that help you work with colleagues effectively.

Geography. In today’s virtual and global workplaces, one of the biggest enemies of visibility is geographic distance. When you work in Tampa, Florida, and your boss is in Shanghai, China, or when you work from home and you are barely at the office, your ability to be visible is at significant risk. It can also be frustrating if your boss and your colleagues are situated in the same building and you are the only one working at a remote location. But successful business professionals have found ways to stay visible with their boss, regardless of geography.

These individuals realize that visibility is not just physical visibility (as in being seen), but focused more on interactions (whether physical or not).