Whether you are the President of the United States or a shift manager at McDonalds, people look to you. You are a leader.
But notice I said, “people look to you.”
Your mission doesn’t look to you, your job doesn’t look to you, your daily to-do list doesn’t look to you.
People look to you.
As a leader, of course it’s your job to keep your organization healthy and robust, but you must not forget that your people make your leadership possible. People are the heart and soul of your organization.
You must take care of your people.
The best way to do that, is to ensure that you nourish the soul of your people—nourish the soul of your team.
Here are seven fundamental rules to ensure that your people are nourished so they, both individually and collectively, can perform at their highest level:
- Treat your people like you would have wanted to be treated as a subordinate. I take the approach of “balancing life’s checkbook.” As a leader, I try to be the type of person that I would have needed when I was younger. Human progress slows considerably if every new generation has to learn the same exact lessons from scratch. So help, guide, and lead your people through the deserts, around the swamps, and over the chasms that you’ve previously encountered, so they can focus their time on solving new challenges for the world.
- Emphasize strengths first. Work on weaknesses later. Take time to get to know your people. Learn who does what the best, and start from there. As they build confidence doing what they are good at, eventually they will be more receptive to your constructive criticism of their weaknesses. Success is the grease your people need for fixing their squeaky wheels.
- Cultivate an idea-friendly environment. Encourage failure. When people feel that they are allowed to fail (within reason), they will be more likely to take reasonable risks and propose new ideas that could actually help the team. The free flow of information and ideas will raise morale and give people a sense of belonging. Your job is not to be the dictator who comes up with all the ideas and enforces all the rules. Your job is to listen, crowdsource ideas, and create higher-level goals. Give your people the freedom to figure out how to achieve those goals.
- Anticipate divergence between group and individual goals. Understand the Principal-Agent problem. When you encounter such divergence, you’ll be able to see the situation from your subordinate’s point of view, and you’ll be able to help them see it from your point of view as well. In cases when they don’t see it your way, you must be patient and explain to them why the goals of the group must take precedent. If you see the divergence in advance, it will allow you to avoid reacting emotionally in the moment.
- Be crystal clear in your decision-making. Clarity is a superpower. If people are left in the dark, they are more likely to make sense of it for themselves. When people are left guessing about your intentions and expectations, their confidence and decisiveness will weaken, making your job much more difficult. Be crystal clear.
- Keep your people slightly hungry. You want people who aren’t starving, and but not satisfied. While you want people who feel comfortable in their roles, you want them to feel slightly uncomfortable with your expectations of them. By holding the carrot just in front of their nose, they will continue to work for success without feeling demoralized.
- Reiterate the real priority: win and help win. Ensure that every individual on your team knows that their number one priority is to do their job successfully. Their number-two job is then to help others do their jobs successfully. When the order is switched, problems occur, focus is lost, and the team falters. Personal responsibility is paramount in a well-rounded team. Bill Belichick, the great coach of the New England Patriots, always preaches “do your job.” Take that philosophy one step further: win and help win.
Leadership is more than checklists and achieving objectives. Leadership is about your people. These are the immutable rules for facilitating your team’s success.
These are the principles you must follow to nourish the soul of your people.
The Leveraged Leader OS
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