Remember Goldilocks? She quickly labeled everything she touched: too hot, too cold, just right, too big, too little, and you know the rest. If she came into your organization, how would she label your leadership? Too much? Too little? Just right?
Just as there are three types of porridge, chairs and beds, there are three types of leaders. Leaders who over-function, leaders who under-function and relational leaders who recognize that employees are different, address problems as they arise, and adjust their leadership accordingly to bring out the best in each employee.
Leaders who over-function tend to make autocratic decisions, micromanage and treat their employees as though they aren’t bright, capable or trustworthy. Unfortunately, over-functioning bosses kill motivation and creativity. I’ve yet to meet an employee who flourishes while being second guessed, managed through fear and intimidation, or hounded about what they are doing.
Equally destructive are the under-functioning bosses who tend to avoid problems, have a hard time delegating and struggle to make decisions. They would rather do things themselves than take the time to train someone or risk something not being done right. Additionally, they tend to treat everyone as though they are an outstanding employee needing little supervision. With an under-functioning boss, forward progress significantly slows, problems are left to fester and grow, and great employees become demotivated.
Here are seven ways to be a relational leader.
1. Realize that “one size fits all” leadership never works. Just as flowers and plants have varying strengths and needs, so do the people who work for you. What brings out the best in one employee isn’t going to get the job done with another.
2. Get to know the people you lead. What are their skills, strengths and interests? Do they like to work alone or with others? Do they get things done right away or do they need deadlines to jolt them into action? How do they like to have appreciation expressed?
3. Set clear expectations and goals. The clearer you are about your objectives and what tasks entail, the more you set your people up for success. Check to ensure you are on the same page before you send someone off to do something new.
4. Delegate. While it might be easier in the short run to do things yourself, your time will be swallowed up with things you shouldn’t be doing if you do fail to delegate and train your team. Remember that delegate doesn’t translate to dump. Check in on them, make sure they are headed in the right direction and provide input as needed. Each time you delegate, you free yourself up to do primary leadership functions which promote productivity and profitability.
5. Whenever possible, allow autonomy. As employees demonstrate both skills and trustworthiness, give them the autonomy to make decisions and determine how they can best accomplish tasks and objectives.
6. Recognize and reward extra effort and outstanding performance. If you want employees to give extra effort, reward it. Otherwise your best performers will wonder, “What difference does it make how much I do or how hard I work?” Even worse, your underperforming employees have little incentive to up their game.
7. Address problems as they arise. Address problems directly, and clearly outline needed changes. Then, hold them accountable. If they are unready, unwilling or unable, it is time to evaluate if they are in the right position or working for the right company.
Relational leadership takes time and effort, but it pays off over and over again in increased productivity and profitability. What are you going to do differently this month?