I have leadership on the brain right now. If you take a look at your life, there are always situations in which you can be a leader. If you followed my twitter feed tonight I went on a role about leadership.
Leadership is intentional. Some people are born leaders…you know, the bossy little kid who organizes all of the other little kids to play games, etc. Other people have to learn leadership skills…the kids who would follow their friends off a bridge with no questions asked. Noone is such an amazing leader that he/she cannot stand to learn something new.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the past few months.
Positive reinforcement is not optional. It’s ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. I work with a bunch of young people. Most of them don’t have much work experience outside of our office or the dental field. One of my main points of interaction with the assistants in our office is that I ask them for x-ray duplication. From the start, I always write a note with a smiley face…corny but effective. I make sure that they know how much I appreciate their help because they possess a skill that I do not have. I explain to them that they are helping our office get paid when I send these xrays to an insurance company. I generally don’t wait too long for xrays to be duplicated. I joke around with the assistants. When they do a good job, I let them know it. Yesterday, without asking, two of the assistants were helping me with random tasks. I let them know they are appreciated, and they help me without me asking.
People really don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If I had a dollar for everytime I was told this, I would be a millionaire. But it is 100% valid and a completely invaluable concept. Most of the time, when I ask someone how they are in the morning, I want to know. If someone is having a down day, I try to make them laugh. Laughing releases chemicals that positively affect you physically. I really care about my coworkers. My goal wherever I go is to leave a positive mark on people’s lives. It is my goal to deposit into lives instead of withdrawling. Sometimes making a deposit is painful. Sometimes you have to tell people what they don’t want to hear..it will feel like a withdrawal, but it’s really a long-term deposit.
There is a difference between delegating and dumping. When you delegate a task, you give that person the authority to do the task that has been assigned. Sometimes delegating means giving someone a task that you like to do…something that will help that person grow in some capacity–personally, professionally. Delegating a task adds value to the person to whom you are delegating. The success–or at times failure–of that task belongs to the person to whom you’ve delegated. Dumping is giving someone a task you loathe so that you don’t have to do it. Dumping is asking someone to do a task that is more of a burden than a learning experience for the person.
Micromanagement is not leadership. Micromanagement diminishes people’s value. If you ask me to do a task, but then do the task yourself within minutes, you have told me that I am not capable of doing what you’ve asked me to do. You’ve just made me less likely to do a task for you in a timely manner because now I expect that you are going to do the task anyway. If you give me a task with a deadline and continuously check my progress, you are micromanaging. I think that micromanagement is one of the most toxic things a leader can do.
You have to learn to step on their shoes without losing their shine. One of the most prevalent mistakes that I have come across in the past 15+ years in the work force is that leaders make rash decisions to correct mistakes instead of investing in people enough to add value to them while correcting mistakes. Immature and insecure leaders tend to be the most guilty of this. This is 100% an acquired skill. As a leader, there are going to be times when you have to correct people who are following you. And there are times when you yourself are going to need correction. The trick is to reinforce good behaviour, correct bad behaviour and have the person leave your presence feeling like something positive has happened. You have to step on their toes without diminishing their shine.
For me, leadership means investing in people. You don’t need a title to be a leader. You just have to invest in the success of other people. When I die and face God, I want Him to look at me and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That means investing in other people. That means serving other people. That means allowing other people to invest in me. If I get to the point wherein I don’t allow anyone to speak to my strengths and weaknesses, then I am in a state of atrophy.