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Guest post from Chris Dyer:
Setting the tone for those with whom you work is a must for executives in the here and now. You establish yourself as the organizational authority. You suggest what type of behavior is acceptable. And you demonstrate the work ethic that will push your company to reach its goals. But on a personal level, the tone you set as leader will, in the end, determine your legacy. What will that be, and how can you influence it?
You could build your legacy on the fly, showing through day-to-day decisions and actions how you guided your working team. Or you can give the matter some thought and attempt to live up to your own vision for your tenure at the helm. This approach will let you address all the nuances involved in the employee-boss relationship—the things that add color to the technical side of your job description.
Your impact as leader spills over into the daily lives of your team. Do you handle the interpersonal details as well as you do policy nuts and bolts? Do you balance an insistence on accountability and productivity with your response to the human condition?
We all have personal styles that drive our leadership images. Some take the tough-guy or tough-gal road, laying down the law with firm boundaries and serious consequences for crossing them. Other people just want to be liked and choose to lose some control in accommodating individual tastes. Both extremes will likely create as many critics as fans of your overall job as leader.
To build a legacy that leaves you well respected by the majority of those with whom you work, take some time to compose your working obituary. How do you want to be remembered? Most of us want to be seen as approachable, objective decision makers who aren’t afraid to pitch in when the going gets rough. Even people who don’t agree with everything a boss does can respect one who is open, fair, and engaged.
To your team, your work in these areas is every bit as important as how you manage your company’s brand and market share. Take a few minutes to evaluate where you are now and how you can improve. Here are three ways to help cement your legacy as a great leader.
Effective communication is vital at every level of company function. So, your role is to both model and promote good listening, the most important half of the equation. First, set yourself and others up for success by removing barriers to meaningful listening, such as
• background noise
• distracting activity
• mental blocks
If you’re running a meeting, for instance, control the environment to reduce or eliminate outside noise. Ban multitasking on phones and laptops. Encourage mental engagement by feeding the brain and body with snacks, humor, or a group activity.
When you moderate discussions, help people suspend preconceived notions about what they are about to hear. An open mind is essential to accepting or forming a rational response to new information. Show that you are trying to understand what you heard by repeating a speaker’s words back and asking for confirmation or clarification.
Model this openness yourself in one-on-one situations in which you may be predisposed to an outcome, such as an employee asking for a raise. Don’t jump to conclusions. Instead of an immediate response, a partial compromise or a wait-and-see attitude leaves the door open to mutual satisfaction.
To be remembered as a good listener, practice in casual encounters in the hallway or elevator. Remarking on something that a person has said before shows that you were listening then and that you remembered a small detail. Don’t hesitate to take notes on your chance exchanges with team members, for future reference.
Make Data-Driven Decisions
When it comes to employee compensation, promotion, and acknowledgement, no leader wants to be seen as playing favorites, or condoning other decision makers in doing so. Set hard and fast rules on pay, job status, and recognition of good work—and let numbers do the objective work.
Form a numerical scale for evaluating performance and job fit. This can be based on key performance indicators that you’ve identified to define success in various company roles. It can take into account the opinions of co-workers in surveys or ratings. You can even tie personality traits to numbers that show how they affect job performance.
Putting the entire company on the same scale shows that upper management is fair-minded. Maybe incoming employees all take the same personality test. Maybe you average the number ratings by multiple managers or peers to determine an individual’s progress. However you do it, make your method and scale known to all, so that you can be trusted to use the same criteria for everyone on the team.
Level the Playing Field
Using objective or averaged data is a great way to afford each company employee the same opportunities to do their best and be remunerated for it. Make sure that the word gets out! There’s no reason to keep objective, fair treatment a secret. And demonstrate your commitment to it in every way that you can.
Consider letting the rest of the company rank your annual performance, the way college professors ask students to do—and then post the results. Regularly convene virtual or in-person meetings that are open to employees at any level in every department. The more everyone knows, the better they can do their jobs. These are examples of how transparency builds trust and benefits productivity.
Finally, take part in activities both in and out of your typical role. Most folks won’t notice your brilliant handling of closed-door meetings, but they will remember the time you showed up at the janitor’s birthday party. While some might rail at learning a new software program, they’ll respect you for sitting down to train with the tech crew alongside everyone else. Want to be remembered as a great leader? Don’t forget you’re part of the team.
Chris Dyer is the author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits, out now published by Kogan Page, priced $18.00. The Power of Company Culture draws on real-life examples to reveal how organisations including Google, 3M, Zappos, Apple, General Motors and Southwest Airlines have successfully built their outstanding cultures. Based on exclusive in-depth research, The Power of Company Culture outlines the practical steps that world-leading organisations are taking to build and maintain their culture, revealing the ‘seven pillars’ of success. Chris Dyer is the Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a background check and intelligence firm based in California, USA. He is also the host of TalentTalk on OC Talk Radio and iHeartRadio and speaks at events around the world on company culture, remote workforces and employee engagement.
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