New Year resolutions — who keeps them? Practically no one. But if you’re a leader, be it of three people or 3,000, it’s your flat-out responsibility to not just go into work every day and improvise around the latest crisis or email flurry or employee meltdown, but to go into work every day with a cohesive plan of action about how you’re going to lead. Otherwise, why would anyone follow you, except that they simply have to?
That’s no good.
So here’s to 2014, and 10 resolutions to make it a very good year — for you, and for the team you lead.
1) Get In Their Skin
From the day you become a leader, your biggest role is to build trust, respect and support from your team. A mutual respect. As long as they deliver, you will support them and stand up for them in every way — and they know it. It’s a never-ending job and you can never slip up.
It’s your job to communicate your message, your values, what’s right about what’s happening, and what’s wrong — over and over and over again. There can be no lack of transparency. Everybody has to be on the same page. Even when you’re ready to gag over the message, you have to keep communicating it.
3) Follow-Up Relentlessly
Just because you say something once, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Too often, managers think, “Hey, I told my team what to do.” Then they come back a week later and nothing has happened. Yes, your job is to set the direction. But you also have to make it your mission to follow up — relentlessly — to see that things are moving in the right direction.
4) Create a Rallying Cry
I’ve always found that defining an enemy is very helpful. Define a competitor that’s coming after you. Rally the team around every win you have against them, every new product you introduce that’s better than theirs. Make that competitor come alive as your true enemy and you’ll see your team galvanize around beating them and winning in the marketplace.
5) Realize Personnel Actions Speak Louder Than Words
When you pick someone for a new job, you are defining what’s important. Managers love to give speeches about how their new initiative is the most important thing in the world. But then they put whatever warm body happens to be available in charge of it. Nothing could be worse. When you make an personnel appointment, you’re doing much more than any speech you could ever give. The people in the organization already know who the star performers are. And matching those stars with the projects you claim are important is absolutely critical for your credibility and the trust you want to build.
6) Embrace the Generosity Gene
I happen to believe that every good leader loves to give raises to people. They are thrilled to see their employees grow and be promoted. They are turned on by their success. Good leaders understand that they are only as good as the reflected glory of their people — and so they give until it hurts.
7) Fight Bureaucracy
Remember how much you hated bureaucracy from the bosses above you when they wanted this “i” dotted and this “t” crossed? Guess what? You’re now the leader. Don’t let bureaucracy creep into your place. Just because it’s yours doesn’t make it any prettier than when it was someone else’s. Get rid of clutter. Bureaucracy slows things down and speed is one of the best competitive advantages you can have.
8) Find a Better Way
Recognize that in business, somebody out there is always doing something better than you are. Your team can get insular and come to believe they’re already doing everything right. Your job is to ask, “How can we do it better? Where can we find someone doing it better?” Finding a better way of doing things every single day can become so much more than a slogan. It can become a way of life and make your group stand out above the rest.
9) Own Hiring Mistakes
Look, you’re not the only person in the history of the universe who has ever made a hiring mistake. Once you understand that hiring is hard work and you’ll surely have missteps along the way, realize that you’ve got to deal with mistakes fast and compassionately. Recognize that it was your fault that the fit didn’t work and get on with it. The team will respect you more. The hire you dealt with fairly will respect you more. And your superiors will reward you for your candor and willingness to own up to your error.
10) Dig into Crises
Without doubt, crises are going to erupt in your career. You’ll have someone do something wrong or have to face into a violation somewhere in your organization. To make matters worse, when you first hear about it, you’re not going to get the whole story — after all, you’re the boss. You’re only going to get the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface is a very big piece of ice. Your team will come to you and feed you, piece by piece, a slow-drip expose of the crisis. Your job is to dig deep, early and fast, to get it all to the surface. Be candid. Recognize there are no secrets anywhere. Get the right people involved immediately. And you will see a swifter resolution to problems that people all too often try to brush under the table. – Jack and Suzy Welch