As a professional and business coach who works throughout New Zealand, Australia and North America, I work with my fair share of business leaders looking for ways to become better at what they do. One of the lessons I like to instill upon these leaders is that they can’t do it alone. They need help.
Of course, most of these leaders realize this, or else they wouldn’t have turned to me to begin with. Regardless, far too many leaders – and people in managerial roles – have the misbelief that leadership is a one-man journey, when in fact, all great leaders (from war heroes to Fortune 500 CEOs) got their success through the support of others.
Aside from gaining the support of others, there’s another benefit leaders gain when they look for help: they invite their entire team into the creative process. Rather than one man carving the path toward success, a cohesive unit is.
Of course, by very definition, leaders need to be independent and self-sufficient. They can’t shirk their responsibilities and hide behind others. A great leader needs to understand the careful balance between turning toward support, and fulfilling their leadership role. What, then, is the type of help and support that’s appropriate for a strong leader?
Start by hiring good people
A strong leader doesn’t think he’s the best at everything. In fact, he accepts that he’s not. More importantly than being good at everything, is making sure that your team – as a whole – fills the void you need to get the job done. That means hiring great people who have strengths that compliment you and others on your team. In order to hire good people, be sure to be transparent during the hiring process. Let your prospects know where they’ll fit in on your team; let them know the expectations you have for them. Make sure they know what they’re getting into, so that when they do join, they can hit the ground running.
Another way to hire good people (and turn toward help at the same time) is to invite your existing team into the hiring process. Have candidates talk to potential coworkers. This gives prospects a better idea of the work environment, and allows your team to have their say in who they think is the best fit.
If you have a strong team working for you, you’re more apt to turn to them for support and advice.
Dub the specialists & use them
Now that you have a strong team working for you, how can you best turn to them for help? One of the best ways to do this is to dub your specialists. You might have one person (or group of people) who excel in finances, while another excels in IT. Even if these aren’t their formal titles and roles (in a small business setting, it’s often an all-hands-on-deck approach), let your workers know that you respect their expertise and will turn to them for help.
This does two things:
- It gives your workers the recognition they need to feel appreciated
- It gives them a sense of accountability, thus making them stay even more focused on their “speciality”
Keep in mind that you likely have people on staff who are responsible for certain jobs and tasks already. This isn’t what I mean by turning to them for help. What I mean is during those times when a leader might normally make a decision on his own. For example:
Let’s say that your accounting department crunched the numbers from last quarter – as they were told to do – and have provided you the data. It’s your job to make a decision on your marketing strategies for next quarter, based on these numbers. And while you may be able to come up with a decision on your own, let’s say you decide to invite your go-to numbers cruncher to lunch, along with one of your trusted marketing guys. Together, the three of you come up with a decision that paves the way for a strategy.
There. You’ve just looked for help while validating the worth of your employees. A win win.
It might take time
Remember, many leaders don’t turn toward other people for advice and support. They have certain expectations of people when it comes to their jobs, but when it’s time to make the final decisions, many leaders close the door and disappear.
But you don’t have to. While you ultimately make the decisions, it never hurts to gain the feedback and input of the troops on the field. Don’t forget – you can’t be a master of everything. That’s why you hired good people.
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