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By now, you have probably read a few books on leadership, management, delegation and tiers, among other topics. But there are still some pieces that are not matching the puzzle you have. What exactly does a good leader do? Exactly that: Lead. You manage time and tasks, but lead people. People don’t want to be managed, people want to be lead … some by the hand, while others by just pointing at the direction they should be heading.
Coming from an education background, I can tell you that when you ask fourth graders what they want to be when they grow up, none of them say, “I want to be a drug dealer.” They all have these great dreams of being working professionals and a success. But somewhere along the way something happens where some kids fall through the cracks and they end up derailed. Why? What is the difference between a child who ‘made it’ and one who has not or did not? They went to the same school, lived on the same street, and had very similar experiences. The difference in most cases is that the one who succeeded and surpassed life’s vicissitudes had someone who believed in them. It only takes one person. That person can be you. Leading people is like teaching children. Remember the worst teacher you ever had? Remember how incapable you felt, when you were told you could not do the task exactly the way it was supposed to be done? Don’t be that leader. Don’t be that teacher.
Think back at the times you felt great about yourself because you were told you did something that impressed someone. Chances are one of those people was a teacher, a parent, an older sibling or a boss. What were some of the elements involved? Someone praised you; someone noticed one of your talents and recognized how valuable your contribution was to a project. That all summarizes, in one line, what my old boss used to say: Everyone wants to matter.
A good employee can be a great employee if given the proper set of tools. They have the potential. A mediocre employee has the potential to be a good one, and subsequently, great. How does this happen? Start by asking what they like to do. Observe from afar what they are great at and place them in a role where they can not just survive, but thrive and shine in their own light. We were all born with great talents. It is your job as a leader to make those talents come to light. Point your folks in the right direction and give them a little push. Set goals where employees are aware of the areas of improvement and spend time working on a plan to achieve goals. I don’t need to tell you those goals need to be SMART, because you have seen that acronym 100 times. Yes … they do need to be smart.
Do not micromanage. Do you like having someone looking at how you do our job constantly? I am sure you don’t and your employees don’t either.
When making a department or companywide decision, involve all your employees. Why? Because everyone looks at that decision from their own lens and they can give you a perspective you have no way of seeing. They will also feel like a part of the decision-making process and that makes them feel they matter. Future leaders are part of those folks. The answer to your question is always in the room … you just need to ask it.
Elizabeth Morales is business development director for Long Beach, Calif.-based Applied Business Software Inc., creators of The Mortgage Office and The Loan Office Software. She may be reached by phone at (562) 279-7424 or e-mail [email protected].