Guest article by Bill Yeargin
Pete, a recent MBA graduate early in his career, approached me at an industry meeting with an obvious question on his mind. He had taken leadership classes as part of his grad school program and understood leadership theories but not the pragmatic side. He wanted me to make it simple: how could he be a great leader?
For Pete, or any other leader who wants to be successful, there are three things to know.
First, think Who, Not How.
Luckily, early in my career, I realized I needed to be on a great team, and any success I have had is because of the people around me. Knowing this, whenever there was a problem to solve, I have always thought, “Who, not How.”
Many leaders have the same challenge as me but don’t realize it. Over the years, innumerable leaders have asked for my advice regarding a problem, unsure what to do. When I respond, “think who, not how,” their eyes light up, and they look like a big load has been lifted off them.
The primary reason leaders give for not finding the right Who is that they cost money. Good people cost money, but usually way less than the cost of the problem.
Some leaders spend years trying to find the solution to a problem and will keep spending time on the problem trying to figure it out themselves. Finding the right Who solves problems quickly and creates a lot of additional time for the leader to focus on areas where they excel. This truly is a transformative concept that can change the trajectory of your company and career.
Second, create Clarity.
After reading my leadership book, Education of a CEO, it is not unusual for people to ask, “Is the bear story true?” If you, too, are wondering about the bear story and haven’t asked me yet, yes, it is true.
The short version of the story is that we have bears in our Central Florida neighborhood. In the book, I share a story about shooing bears off our back porch in the middle of the night but thinking that one of the bears would not leave. Afraid the bear was going to break through the glass doors at the back of the house, I was ready to shoot it if necessary. For the record, I have zero interest in shooting a bear and would be sad if I had to, but that night, I was ready to shoot anything breaking through that glass door.
The embarrassing part of this story is that I eventually realized it was not a bear stalking the house but a chair on the back porch. In the middle of that night, I lacked clarity.
Employees crave clarity. It is the leader’s job to ensure employees know everything they need to know and, as much as possible, what they want to know.
As a CEO, one of my most important responsibilities is creating clarity, especially around vision, values, our “Why,” strategic plan, and budget. When a leader creates clarity regarding these items, the results are often exceptional.
When there is a lack of clarity or miscommunication about what is important in an organization, the leader often blames the team for not listening carefully. However, lack of clarity or miscommunication is ALWAYS the leader’s fault.
The leader must identify what is important and communicate it over and over. There are many opportunities for miscommunication in the distance between the leader’s head into the employee’s ear. That’s why communication often needs to be repeated.
Third, provide Energy.
Serving for several years on the University of Central Florida board and attending the school’s athletic events was always exciting. Football games played in the “Bounce House” were full of energy. Energy is powerful; it is up to leaders to provide that power to their teams.
Many leaders don’t like the responsibility of providing energy to their team, but that doesn’t mean it is not important. It is a big mistake to disregard the benefits of energizing a team; an energized team can get a lot accomplished. The benefits to an organization of a leader who provides energy to their team are substantial.
Leaders either provide energy to a team or de-energize them. The best leaders give energy to their teams by creating clarity, showing personal interest in them, being an optimist, and affirming behavior that aligns with their organization’s goal.
Whether a leader is starting their career, like Pete, or has been managing for years, thinking “Who Not How,” creating Clarity and providing Energy will make any leader better.
Bill Yeargin is President and CEO of Correct Craft and has authored five books, including Making Life Better: The Correct Craft Story.