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Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Stewardship – Stewarding My Part Well in Today’s Workplace

Blog - Stewardship - work.chronPhoto Credit: Work.Chron

All of life is stewardship. Doesn’t it make sense? Our jobs, our relationships, our personalities, and our future have multiple layers. When we think of stewardship, rather than ownership, or entitlement, or giftings, or personal rights, we take on a much broader, healthier view or life. Writing about it previously here, I wanted to focus more, this time, on our workplace.

In 1993, Peter Block wrote a revolutionary book entitled Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest. He updated and expanded it twenty years later (in 2013). Block defines stewardship as “the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance”.

Words mean things.  When we use the word “steward”, we loosen our grip on ownership – of our job, title, product, and work relationships. However, we do not loosen our commitment on personal responsibility. This is the gem of stewardship – a gem in the workplace that can be mined by each one of us.

Years ago, in nursing school, we used Virginia Henderson’s definition of nursing which focused more on facilitating the patient’s return to caring for him/herself than on the “giving care” component we often think of with nurses. Nursing as stewardship. When our children came along, we as parents would need to decide whether to home school or put our children into a private or public school.  Another parent gave us wise counsel: Whatever your decision, you are responsible for your children’s education, some of which you may contract out to other teachers or institutions. We, as parents, were stewards of our children’s education.

In the workplace, we have heard the word steward used in the service industry: union shop stewards, ship stewards, stewards on airlines, stewards of estates. However, the stewardship that Block describes can proliferate at all levels, especially if our leaders set this value and mindset. What if an organization determined to have an inclusive model of accountability where all employees operated by serving, rather than controlling, those in their influence (colleagues, customers, vendors)?  What if we chose to apply ourselves to the work before us, with deep personal care and commitment, rather than under a boss’s control or need for our compliance?

Stewardship as a concept and value is both time-tested and trendy. Check out REI‘s commitment to customers in delivering quality outdoor gear…and also to its employees. Stewardship.Blog - Stewardship - slideplayerPhoto Credit: Slideplayer

My first encounter with this word, stewardship, was as a child hearing the parable of a master preparing to leave on a journey. He entrusted the three servants with some measure of his wealth (talents). Their master had given each varying amounts of money, according to each servant’s ability. The master would be away for some period of time and meant for his servants to “steward” the money. Two servants invested his money in such a way that each doubled the amount entrusted them. The third servant, fearing the master (and possibly lacking confidence in his own ability), hid the money entrusted to him. He only had what he’d received in the beginning to give back to the master. The first two servants were rewarded for their faithfulness, care, and initiative, but the last cautious, fearful servant suffered the consequences of his inaction.

There is much to learn about stewardship from this old story. Stewardship is taking personal responsibility and interest in quality of service or product and depth of relationship. Like in the story, it could mean taking risks ourselves or with each other (especially leaders entrusting other team members with decision-making and design). It means empowering others in discussions and details that we might prefer keeping for ourselves (except that we are stewarding toward a larger outcome). It means making investments in others and in the over-all organization. Stewardship is the embodiment of employee engagement…all-in, whatever it takes, for that greater good. Lastly, the story spoke to rewards for those diligently stewarding what was placed in their care, and the consequences of those who refuse to be engaged…which leads to a place nobody really wants to go.quotes of bill gatesPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

Leaders and managers who are willing to give up control and who genuinely care about their employees and customers become true stewards themselves. They set the standard for stewarding across a company. Whether leaders are on board or not, any of us can still have ownership of a new-old way of thinking and practice. We can steward well what is our responsibility or under our influence. Again, this type of “ownership” is not about owning the job, the product, or the relationship. Stewardship is the owning of our personal responsibility – our piece of what could be excellent, and our piece of what’s not going well, and applying our experience, knowledge, giftings, and heart to benefit all touched by our service. Our stewardship.

BLog - Stewardship - 2 - whatcomlandtrustPhoto Credit: Whatcomlandtrust

What are your stories? Do you see the impact of your stewardship? Of the stewardship of others? Could you see how this might color the culture at your workplace? Is your company one where top-down, bottom-up, people care about each other and what they’re doing? It shows…if you are, or if you’re not. Stewardship.

Blog - Stewardship - John Wesley - QuotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

Monday Morning Moment – All of Life Is Stewardship

Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (2nd Ed.) – Peter Block

Five Lessons for Our Lives From the Parable of the Talents – Hugh Whelchel

Monday Morning Success – How Biblical Stewardship Transforms Your Work – Hugh Whelchel

Blog - Stewardship - Winston Churchill quote - ololmke

Photo Credit: OLOLmke