Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Find Your Future Leaders Part 1…

Meeting with Our Team Members

So… we’ve done a lot so far.  You should be proud of all of the work you’ve done!  Now you have to follow through on your promises from the whole team meeting.  It’s really the only way to be a true Leader… you have to meet with your apprentices AND each of your team members in order to build relationships with them.  We will talk about when and where to meet, what kinds of questions to ask, what to personal information you should share with them, and what to expect from them.

You need to start meeting with people as soon as possible.  You just met with your apprentices while preparing for your whole team meeting, so you have some time for your team members.  You will of course be paying them to meet with you, so during work hours is appropriate.  If you need to meet with them before or after work, you will need to be very flexible with their availability, and understand that it may be difficult for them.

The point in meeting with your team members is to get to know them, and in order to do that, they have to be willing to talk to you.  It might take a couple of meetings for people to believe you have good intentions, and start to open up to you.  That’s going to have to be OK.  One thing you can that may speed things along a bit is to talk to them outside of work.  Yup… take each of them out for coffee, a walk around the block, whatever you or they want… as long as it’s doable in the time you have, and it’s not in an office at work.  Offices at work are places where team members get written up, where they feel intimidated, and where most of them definitely do not feel relaxed and at home.  Since you want, no… need them to talk to you, and volunteer information about themselves, you are responsible for helping them feel relaxed and able to do just that.

Exactly how much time you can afford to give them is up to you, and… you must take this seriously.  We cannot expect to get another person relaxed and involved in an honest and genuine conversation in 20 minutes.  I would suggest 45 to 60 minutes as a first meeting.  Later meetings can probably be shorter, and we’ll leave that until then.

What?  You can’t afford to do that?  You don’t think that’s a good use of your time?  You haven’t been reading along, or reading the books I’ve suggested, have you?  You will need to go back and start reading from the beginning, at least from here where we start to talk about hiring the best.  Don’t worry… we’ll be here when you catch up.

For everyone else, let’s move on, shall we?

Your goals here are two fold.  First, you need to really get to know these people.  Yes, they are people, just like you and your peers.  Some of them are just as smart, if not smarter than you.  One or two might just surprise you and have more education than you.  You need to get to know them, understand their motivation; how they got where they are; and where they want to go.  Fully understanding their goals and dreams is the only way know how to help them get where they want to go.  You will find it helpful to let them know about you, and your life, including the good, bad, and ugly.  Sharing your struggles and mistakes will help make a connection, so please don’t get to this point and then fail to be honest and transparent.  These people are not stupid, or as gullible as you might think.  You need to really, honestly connect with them, and that means sharing yourself with them. 

The other goal of these meetings is to begin developing Leadership qualities in our team members before we need them, and maybe before our team members are even thinking about their next role.

This is the great advantage of hiring for qualities rather than skills.  We can pretty easily teach most any skill, however the qualities that enable us to be Leaders are not so easily taught.  They can be developed, and only if the person has done, or is ready to do some very difficult personal work.  And isn’t it handy that many of the qualities that we hire for happen to match up with the qualities of a Leader?  Imagine…

So… first off, you may be thinking “Hey Steve… I didn’t get to hire any of these clowns, and I don’t see Leadership qualities in any of them”.  “And while we’re at it, why do you always capitalize Leader”?

Well, I’m going to ignore the tone of that last remark, since the anger behind it is probably not about me.  I capitalize Leader to give the word the respect it deserves, and to, in my mind at least, create a separation between the title ‘leader’ and a person who is acting like a Leader.

On to your actual issue… I understand that many of us inherited our teams, and we have to work with the team members we have.  If you’ve been reading, you know that I have worked for some pretty crappy bosses, at some very unhappy workplaces, and under some unusually poor working conditions.  I don’t think for a second that my experience is unique.  A huge percentage of us have worked for years under managers who have no tools in their Leadership toolbox, and so they simply follow the example set for them…  They yell, they demean, they threaten, they demand, they lack integrity, they keep all of the credit and love to place blame, they withhold praise as if it’s in short supply… I could go on and it just depresses me.

From my varied experiences as a team member, and my long and mistake filled years as a Leader, I believe the percentage of people who have a ‘great team member’ within them is much larger than most people think.  And the idea that they could be a valued team part of a team, or even a team Leader, was beaten back down inside by the poor managers they had in the past.

We all have to work with the team members we have.  Our job is to treat each and every one of them with respect, to trust them, to believe in them, and to give them a chance. 

Yes… you with that smirk on your face… go ahead.  Go ahead and tell us how you will be taken advantage of if you start trusting everyone.  Tell us all how you have tried that in the past only to have someone take advantage of your good nature.  You can leave the room.  Your negativity is crushing me.

For the rest of us, yes… some of your team members will need to go.  If you are to successfully transform the culture on your team, you need to get rid of the most negative, the ones who do not really want to work, or be part of a team.  You know who they are, and it’s best if you get them off the team as quickly as you can.

For the majority of your team however, give them a chance, give them a safe environment, give them 9 times as many positives as negatives, give them the tools they need to do the job, give them the freedom (as much as you can in your workplace) to achieve the desired outcome without telling them how to do it, give them a fair and transparent rewards system, tell them about your own struggles, share your mistakes, show them you have integrity and walk your talk every day, ensure that your apprentices are following your example and expectations are consistent from day to day and shift to shift, allow them to make mistakes, have their back when they do, and be the person you always wanted as a Team Leader, and you will find a team full of good people, waiting to their chance to be great!

Now… literally how do we get there?  Well… you have to do everything in this last paragraph.  You have no other choice if you want to change the culture on your team.

Well… 3 pages is probably about as long as any of you are willing to read at one time, so we’ll stop here for today.  Next up, we’ll talk about training, I think… there are so many important things to talk about, and I get off topic so easily.

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