Unfortunately, I continue to hear from way too many people about the negative impact their leaders have on them. Recently, a friend told me about their leader, who had told him over and over during the past year that he had “saved her”. He is an “A player” on the team, but at the time of his performance review, the leader’s actions didn’t match their words. That same leader hadn’t held the required “One on One” monthly meeting with that team member for 18 months, and the leader is also poor at resolving conflict on the team. No wonder that employee is now looking to move to a different leader.
Another person told me that they were concerned about the leader they were assigned to because their position was not deeply technical, and the word was that this leader only valued technical skills. When I checked with them recently about how things were going, they responded that the team hadn’t really seen much of the leader lately. They just figured that the leader was working on their own development and didn’t have time for the team.
Leaders will always have an impact on their team members, either a positive one, or a negative one. A good leader of course wants that impact to be a positive one. A bad leader will often cause a team member to become so dissatisfied that they will leave the team, and perhaps even the entire organization.
In the organization I worked at, leaders were responsible for three primary things – results, developing people and creating a high performing work environment. Driving results was always the item that was most rewarded, and I understand that. At the same time, I believe that the other two items were often under appreciated.
What can you do as a leader to consistently have a positive impact on your team members? Here are a few thoughts:
- Care for your team members as people. As their leader, put their needs above yours. Do your team members know that you care about them as people, or do they see you as someone who is taking advantage of their good work to advance your career. Do they know how much you value them? John Maxwell has said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Get to know them as people and find out what is important to them. Ask them about their family, what they did on the weekend and how their vacation was. Show a genuine interest in them as people, not just team members.
- Learn from your past experiences. All of us have worked with bad leaders from time to time, and as a result, experienced the negative impact of doing so. Take what you have learned from those experiences and make sure you don’t do it to your team members. Cheryl Bachelder has said “Think about difficult leaders you have worked for. Have you made a conscious decision to lead differently than them?”
- Provide challenging work. I always tried to help team members achieve their career goals, whatever they might be. Some team members wanted to pursue leadership, and others wanted to achieve the highest analyst position. There were others who were content to work in a good environment doing work they loved and being appreciated for it. As a leader, you can help your team members no matter what their career goals are. Support their development with challenging work assignments. Give them clear direction, feedback as needed and all the support they need to be successful. Help them find mentors as needed and as they request them. Encourage them to move on to other assignments if it is best for their development, even if it will cause you and your team some short-term inconvenience.
- Be present with your team. Make it a point to walk around and see your team members on a regular basis, daily, if possible. Even if you are not in the same physical location you can still connect with them via technology such as Instant Message or Skype. Again, this is a way you can demonstrate to them that you can about them. Let them know that if they need to spend time with you, you will do everything you can to make that happen, even if it means that you don’t get everything done you were hoping to that day. Far too often, when I was very busy, I would close my office door. That’s something I regret, as it sent a message to my team members that I was too busy for them. And even something good like mentoring others or working on your own development, can have a negative impact on your team if by doing those items you aren’t spending the time you need to with your team.
These are just a few thoughts about how to have a positive impact on your team members. All leaders will have an impact on their team, do everything you can to make it a positive impact.
What would you add to this list?