Monday, April 21, 2014

Developing Your Future Leaders Part 4... How to Spot Leadership Qualities in Your Team Members

How to Spot Leadership Qualities in Your Team Members        

We’ve talked a lot about what to do when we see Leadership potential in our team members, however I don’t know that we’ve really spent any time on just how to spot that potential… or what exactly we are looking for.  So…

In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader he listed many of the qualities we will be looking for.  We talked all about them here.  I also talked about his The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player: Becoming the Kind of Person Every Team Wants .  If you haven’t read either book, you should, as he gives a much better description of each, as well as examples to make each one understandable to most anyone.

You’ll remember that when hiring, we are looking for how our applicant sees himself or herself, the world, and how they fit into their world.  We are not very worried about skills or qualifications when we are hiring for hourly jobs.  If you need specific skills, qualifications, or certifications for your job, use that list to weed out the applicants without the needed skills, and then use the method described starting here.  You still need to hire people based on how they see the world if you are going to build a high functioning team.

Hiring in this manner has a second benefit, in that it helps us identify Leadership qualities in our applicants.  Those qualities may be something that our applicant is aware of and trying to develop, or they may be lying dormant, waiting to be recognized.  So let’s talk about exactly what that means…

Whether we are interviewing an applicant, or developing relationships with current team members, we are asking the same types of questions.  If we have specific skills or qualifications that we need, we have already weeded out those without them.  So we are only asking questions that allow us to assess how this person sees themselves and the world.  Do they posses the qualities of a Leader?

Let’s use “trust” as an example.  Can you train someone to trust?  Do you think that you can find someone who does not instinctively trust others, and find a way to get them to start extending trust?  You cannot!  None of us can do that.  And yet trust is perhaps the most powerful influencer there is.  You cannot name one successful Leader who has not been able to extend trust.  We simply cannot do anything alone… we must trust others if we are to achieve our goals.

You can take almost any team member you have, and start building a relationship with them.  Get to know them, show them that you are human by sharing your faults and mistakes.  Find out about their lives, and what goals they have for themselves.  Over the course of these conversations you will build a relationship, which will gain you some level of influence over your team member.  If you then actively help them achieve their goals, so that they really understand that you care about them, you will achieve a higher level of influence.  If however, at the very beginning, you state that you care about them, value them, are happy to have them on the team, and extend trust, you will gain so much more influence almost immediately. 

You can extend trust by allowing them the freedom to decide how to achieve the results you desire; by giving them responsibility for ordering something; or by asking them to be responsible for some other task.  You are responsible for providing them with the tools and training needed.  You can, and should follow up to be sure that they are achieving the desired outcome, and you should be there to help them when they need help. 

Our job as Leaders is to gain influence over others in order to achieve the team goals.  There is no quicker way to gain influence, or a stronger bond than by extending trust.  And we cannot train someone to trust.  Either it is there, inside them, or it is not.  They can develop that quality if they choose, and it is no easy task.

As we talked about in the hiring series, we need to understand that it’s pretty normal for applicants to think they should tell us what we want to hear.  However that doesn’t do either of us any good at all.  If we fail to see that this is what they are doing, we will end up putting them into a role under false pretenses, and where they are likely to fail.  Not a good outcome for anyone.  So… it’s up to us to spend some time getting the applicant or team member relaxed and comfortable.  You are the Leader, so this is up to you.  You are in charge of speaking in a manner that will allow the person you are communicating with to let go of any ‘script’ or prepared thoughts, and just talk to you honestly.

As I’ve stated before, there is absolutely no need for any of this to be adversarial.  You should not be showing anyone who is boss, or exerting your authority.  Speak to them as if you just met them at a family picnic, and you are interested in getting to know all about them.  We need them to talk to us honestly and openly.  We can use our own faults and mistakes to show our humanity, and help them to talk about their own.  We aren’t necessarily looking for their faults… we all have plenty of them.  We are looking for actions, and attitudes that describe qualities.  That might be a little confusing…

This time, let’s use self-responsible as an example of a quality we are looking for.  We can probably agree that this is a quality we find in most every Leader, right?!  OK, so we will look for this quality in our team members.  So how would we define ‘self-responsible’?  We might state that self-responsibility is acknowledging that you, through your thinking, feeling, and behaving, are in control of how you experience life.   That’s fine, and how would you tell a team member how they might act, if they wanted to show that they were self-responsible?  That first definition doesn’t work anymore, does it?

Now we have to come up with some actions that show ‘self-responsibility’, so we can look for them.  Literally, self-responsible means not blaming other people or circumstances for anything.  So when we have team members who accept, or better yet, volunteer responsibility when something goes sideways, we are witnessing self-responsibility.  We also look for people who reach out to others to build relationships… they take responsibility for those relationships.  We see it when people accept responsibility for their feelings.  We see it when people ask for help when they need it, and before they get in too deep.  My own personal take will also add people who fully accept a job, role, or task as if they owned the company.  Those people will do their best without having to be told to; they will find new, more efficient ways to get things done; they will ask if they can change how things are done to save money or time; and they will keep you in the loop, because they are responsible for your relationship.

Does that make more sense?  Those are the actions we are looking for when we talk to our applicants and team members. For each quality, we look for actions that describe that quality.  

I don’t think it’s rocket science, and it does take some practice.  Most of us have been trained to look for skills and qualifications, and it can be tough to stop doing what we’ve been doing for so long.  And yet these qualities are the only things that are of any real importance.  So… with practice, we can look for, and see the actions, and the traits that show the beginnings of Leadership in each of our team members.

Next time we can look at qualities other than self-responsibility, and see if we can come up with some actions or traits for each of them. 

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