4 Core Fundamentals to Leadership

Leadership of a business organization involves may skills and characteristics at a number of levels.  There are 4 basic business responsibilities that a successful leader must get right all the time.

  1. Building a winning company culture
  2. Building high trust relationships
  3. Structuring mission critical incentives
  4. Improving the quality of staff at all levels

I can hear some reactions now…’yeah, yeah, this is old news and besides I have pressures and deadlines for short term performance to meet…”  Yet, management training and development would benefit greatly by integrating these imperatives.

Well, you ignore the required focus on these game breakers & game changers at you own risk. Look deeper.

Critical Importance of Building A High-Performance Culture

The studies and statistics support the need to build your culture. When Bank of America focused on a culture pf “user-centered redesign of its..account registration, the resulting data showed their on-line banking usage increased by over 45%.

Culture – the “Rule of Thirds”

When working on building your culture, particularly with a new team or business unit, it is important to understand the “Rule of Thirds.” Coach Kevin Sutton, Georgetown University basketball, developed the rule of thirds and it applies equally to building your culture in business.

Basically, 1/3rd of your business unit will buy-in to your culture building right away.  The next 3rd want o buy in but aren’t quite ready to commit to fully signing on right away. The last 3rd of the business unit aren’t of a mind to buy-in at all and this may be due to trust issues.

The emphasis for bringing people along to support the leaders culture is in group two, those willing but not ready. I can not agree more with Coach Sutton’s recommendation on dealing with group 3…”any player that is not willing to buy in… needs to be bought out (and excused from the team completely).”  This is the fundamental of getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off it and is a key to securing a winning culture.  It is also a core competency of effective leadership.

The Importance of Culture in Recruiting & Retention

Any manager or business unit leader that ignores the importance of building and sustaining a winning culture, merely needs to look at this important data…

The Global Force article stresses making sure you have a single focused culture to avoid confusion and working with employees to make your cultural vision “go viral.”

Critical Need for Building Trust Relationships

In a white paper on”Trust in Relationships” by Diamond Consulting, they site “trust” as a primary issue at the outset of a business relationship. At the center of the idea of building a trust relationship, it is suggested that “cooperation” is a key. The idea that the people in a trust relationship must feel they can influence the other person and maintain a positive perception and attitude about each other.  From the manager’s point-of-view, this means they must not only be able to empower their team based on trusting them but the trust relationship allows both people to be positive about the delegation of work and the freedom to act together (cooperate) to achieve the business unit goals.

5 Steps in Trust Building

Building trust with anyone, requires that two people undertake a process by which the important factors for success take place.  In a Macro sense, there are two means by which this happens:

  • Communication
  • Experience with each other

Managers need to take a sincere interest in the personal and professional lives of members of their team.  A starting point can be an ongoing casual/unplanned interaction or interviews with each person.  Sometimes this can be part of the hiring orientation for a new employee, a deliberate effort when a manager takes over a new business unit or a more gradual effort with existing employees.

  1. Engagement – Conduct or bring about an open interaction to discuss the goals, aspirations and plans (both personal & professional) that are important to the individual. Open ended questions such as “what are your aspirations for your career with our company?”  Keep it simple, open and not canned.  This is a conversation.
  2. Effective Listening – Make sure to maintain absolute focus and attention to what the employee says, what they seem to be feeling and their non-verbals.  From this feedback, ask for more depth or clarification for any area that needs more depth of communication.  This relationship building process, by which the other person starts to get a genuine sense of your interest in them gives momentum to building trust and to earning the right to coach and direct this person in the future.
  3. Identify the core mission for each person, particularly professionally. If, in the course of the conversation, an issue comes up or a viewpoint that would be counter productive to their success as part of team is uncovered, sincerely explore the situation and be willing to take a risk to uncover the cause(s). Provide some “food-for-thought” and coaching on the issue but don’t dwell on it.  Make a mental note to revisit the situation in the near future.
  4. Feed Back the Employee’s vision and plans – When you have a solid understanding of who this employee is and what their goals and aspirations might be, help them refine their vision and share an honest opinion of the future they can expect as a member of your team.   The action of helping the employee to refine their plans in alignment with the organization offers them a crystal clear picture of how their vision and goals can fit into the company.
  5. Set Next Steps – If this has been a formal planned discussion, layout action steps that both you and the employee can agree to and if there are take-a ways for the employee, seek confirmation and commitment to get the steps completed by a specific date.  If this has been more of an informal discussion as part of a trust building process, schedule a specific time to meet on a given subject.

Creating Incentives that Align with Your Mission

Creating the right incentives to motivate and reward the behaviors and results wanted, the manager will need to be creative.  This is because the manager and the team may be under a corporate defined incentive plan.  The manager may not have any input or say in the structure of the incentives.  Hopefully, the manager will have say in how the incentives are applied and some latitude in setting goals and expectations.

To the extent the manager has input into the incentives, the key is to make sure the rewards are tightly aligned with the exact behaviors and desired results needed.  The incentive & the action/result and timetable needed to earn them must be absolutely clear and well-defined.

In a review from The Society For Human Resource Manage, they defined Incentive Plan Types as follows:

incentive plan types

The basics of great incentive plans is the ability to tie the companies objectives directly to the rewards for the employee.  These must be made crystal clear.   You can review tips for incentive plans and pitfalls that should be avoided at SHRM.

Motivating Employees with Intrinsic Incentives

It is very often the situation that the manager has a number of members of the team who are not on a formal incentive plan.

Now what?

Managers need to take a look at what actually motivates employees outside of compensation.  The list is very telling:

  • Challenging Work
  • Ability to Choose
  • Advancement Opportunities
  • Mentoring
  • Training & Education
  • Regular Manager Feedback
  • Participation with Decision Making.

There are very powerful opportunities to create informal incentives that can absolutely drive results. Think about these possibilities as examples.

“Here are the objectives I have for you this quarter (be very specific).  If you work to meet them successfully, I have a new and challenging assignment for you next quarter (be specific).”

” We have assigned some important goals for your that need to be completed by the end of next month. Accomplishing them will put me in a position to have you work with (name) as your mentor to learn about (specific growth opportunity.”

“You probably know about the class coming up on (specific learning opportunity of interest to employee and tied to the skills/learning needed). We have agreed to your (specific) goals and objectives for (time line). I have confidence that you can achieve them and if you do, I will provide the opportunity to take the class.”

The creative manager can find meaningful incentive opportunities inside formal plans or tailored to an employees needs and aspirations with informal incentives and rewards.  You can learn more at Small Business.Chron.

Improving the Quality of Your Business Unit

One of our favorite topics at Plan-Delegate-Manage, the recruiting, training and development and employees.  Think about the importance of hiring the right people like a well run college or professional football team.   While there are many important factors to building a winning team, recruiting the best people is at the top of the list.

There are important considerations for seeking quality talent in 2015 and beyond and it is no surprise that Social Media and their networks, “38% from Social networks”, rank high in recruiting opportunities…social media recruiting trends

Source: Global Trends That Will Shape Recruiting in 2015 by Linkedin Talent Solutions Blog

According to Capterra, data after 2014 shows that over 94% of company recruiting will rely on social media networks for acquiring quality talent. Most important for any manager looking to improve their team by effective recruiting, using social media networks created an almost 50% improvement in the quality of candidates and hires. The issue is that studies show that only about 39% of employers actually use social media networks to locate quality candidates. Read more >>Here.

Social media networks are not just growing when it comes to sourcing quality candidates, they are not the primary tool for this important job.

Retaining Your Quality Talent is Key

Keeping the quality people you have already hired and trained is in reality a part of the recruiting strategy.  Think of employee retention as part of the recruiting strategy for building a great team. Your aim is to keep the “right people on your bus.”

The Conference Board “According to the current edition of The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, and for the eighth straight year, less than half of US workers are satisfied with their jobs.”

If half your people are not satisfied with their jobs, you have more than a recruiting problem.  It is incumbent on every manager to focus on their top performing employees and concentrate time and effort on creating professional development plans and ways to keep them committed to your business unit.

Exiting Employees Who Aren’t a Good Fit or Under-perform

As hard as the job of recruiting top quality to grow your team has become, getting the wrong people off your team is even harder. In most companies, subject to the full range of employment laws and regulations, exiting employees is a long and arduous journey.

Frankly, as well intended as these rules may be, they tie the hands of helping people to move on to a new job that may suit them better and harms others on the team who have to deal with or cover for an unproductive employees lack of work or behavioral issues.

That said, the very first step is to sit down with your HR professional and gain a complete understanding of the rules and steps to deal with an under-performing or problem employee.  In our experience, more managers fail at exiting employees due to not starting immediately to implement approved performance improvement plans or behavioral issues.

Managers trap themselves by failing to document issues, set up fair but stringent improvement plans to get a given employee performing at acceptable levels and meet and monitor progress intensively.  It is not easy but it is one of the most important responsibilities of any manager who wants to improve the quality of their team.

We started this article by outlining the 4 keys to getting leadership right; build a winning culture, create trusting relationships, creative incentives and rewards, and improve the quality of your personnel. making these opportunities high-priority and investing the appropriate amount of time effort and energy in them will pay big dividends in leadership development and success.

Video Resources – Leadership

I was fascinated by a recent TED talk by Management professor Lind Hill on the unique traits of leadership.  This is worth a look... http://www.ted.com/talks/linda_hill_how_to_manage_for_collective_creativity

Topic Specific Resources



Michael D. Moore is the publisher of Management By Delegation and is a veteran executive with 40+ years in the Banking and Insurance Industries. A devoted entrepreneur, using his business experience to provide resources for managers and leaders at all levels. For the last 5 years, he has built a growing web presence for helping people with personal and professional development. To learn more about these advanced concepts & join our group Click here 5 Must Have Management Skills

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