You’ve learned that greater effort and longer hours only get you so far.
The more successful you’ve become the more complex the challenges seem to be. New situations. New problems. New dysfunctions, despite your efforts. Aargh!
There may be a long list of skills you’d like to develop, but at the least, you’d like to know the areas that give you the greatest leverage. The greatest chances for success. So that you can be a better leader today. And tomorrow.
Sure, some leadership skills will naturally come with time. With experience. Mistakes. Lessons learned.
But what do you need to be working on today?
I have compiled a list of twelve statistics that will let you know where you need to focus and some context for why each skill is so important.
These are shocking statistics. They should get your attention.
The bad news? Leadership is hard. It requires focus and continuous self-improvement.
The good news? Most other leaders aren’t intentional about their self-improvement. They’re efforts are haphazard at best. They’re not that good to begin with, and they don’t get any better.
Those are the people you are competing with for the next job. The next project. The next customer.
Focusing on the specific skills I’ve identified will help you accelerate your growth and your impact. But you need to take action.
In the future, I will be addressing these skills, with resources, lessons and best practices.
Knowing where you need to concentrate your effort — and why — allows you to be purposeful about the skills you need to grow. To lead. To achieve.
Communication is a critically important leadership skill. If you can’t communicate effectively, it is hard to lead other people and accomplish significant goals as a team.
We spend so much time per day — every day — trying to communicate, whether we are speaking, listening, writing, texting, etc. If only 25% of what we say is understood, as we intended it, we know that most people in leadership positions are poor communicators. That means you. That means me. Unless we get intentional and strategic with how we communicate.
Improving those odds is a necessity if you want to be a truly effective leader. Speaking so that others comprehend and remember your message, is a game-changer.
2. According to a 2014 study by SIS International Research on behalf of Siemens Enterprise Communications, a business with 100 employees has an average downtime of 17 hours per week trying to clarify communications, at an annual cost of more than $528,443.
Most entrepreneurs view the growth of their businesses as a success scorecard. Greater revenue usually means more interactions with customers and between employees. Before you even get to the heightened challenges of multiple locations, remote workers and virtual meetings, more frequent interactions between people make effective communication more difficult.
Consider the implications of employee communication in a growing business. Whether they are actual employees, independent contractors or project-based gig employees, it is helpful to understand the communication dynamics:
When you have 2 people, communication can go 2 ways.
When you have 10 people, communication between any two people can go 90 different ways.
When you have 100 people, communication between any two people can go 9,900 different ways. That’s a lot of potential for communication to get fuzzy or funky.
Having clear communications on a consistent basis takes planning and discipline. Most organizations, and most leaders, do it poorly. The amount of time wasted trying to clarify communications is significant — and costly. Clear communications allow organizations to move faster, to correct problems or pursue opportunities. The combination of speed and certainty are a distinct competitive advantage and should be a part of your personal leadership brand.
Time is a scarce resource and how individuals and teams best utilizes time plays a big part in separating winners and losers.
Meetings are frequent, necessary and almost universally poorly run. When you have productive meetings that are run efficiently, not only do things get done, but people actually look forward to attending them.
4. McKinsey surveyed 1,500 executives about how they spent their time, and only 9% deemed themselves “very satisfied” with their current allocation. Less than half were “somewhat satisfied,” and about one-third were “actively dissatisfied.”
The higher you rise in an organization, the more frequently challenges and opportunities will find you. Trying to add more and more activities to your plate will lead to frustration, burnout and the inevitable physical and emotional brick wall.
You must be intentional with how you prioritize and manage your time.
There are three components which provide for great satisfaction — What are you good at? What do you love to do? What brings the greatest value to the organization?
When you can say yes to all three of those questions, you are likely operating in a state of flow and satisfied with how you spend your time.
This isn’t a matter of passing the menial and distasteful activities to someone else. It is a matter of identifying the behaviors and motivators of each person on your team (including you!) and effectively delegating tasks accordingly.
Poor personal filing systems and inadequate corporate processes both contribute to wasted, unproductive time. 150 hours per year for one person is bad enough. For a leadership team of six, it represents 900 hours per year. Based on a 40-hour workweek, that represents more than 22 weeks-worth of worktime searching for lost information.
Creating filing and document management systems that are implemented and reinforced across the company is a requirement. There are quality technology tools that can be utilized both individually and throughout the company to assist in organizing and accessing information in a timely manner.
Self-awareness is one of the strongest indicators of successful leaders, not only in recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses, but how they are experienced by others, and now they fit into the world around them.
We all want to get an A on the test, whatever it is. Most of us know someone who lacks any semblance of self-awareness and we use them as a basis of comparison. At least I’m not that bad!
Or we’ve grown up without getting relevant and timely feedback. Family members didn’t want to hurt our feelings, and everyone got a participation trophy. The alternative was the absent parent or abusive family member who made us numb to seeking objective feedback.
The consequence of poor self-awareness extends beyond ourselves. A Harvard Business Review article suggests that teams led by leaders who lack self-awareness reduce the odds of team success by more than half.
Through assessments, feedback and coaching, you can dramatically increase your self-awareness, which in turn, allows you to more effectively lead others.
You don’t have to be great in math to recognize that this is impossible. It recognizes that most executives and middle managers either want to grade themselves on a very generous curve, or they are completely delusional. Nobody wants to be an average performer, let alone an underperformer. Your willingness to solicit feedback can give you insights into potential blind spots and behaviors that make you ineffective.
Trust and mutual respect are necessary elements in a high performing team. When people don’t trust their boss, it is almost impossible to develop trust among team members. The fact that 58% would rather trust a stranger than their own boss is somewhere between cynical and sad.
Trust must first be extended from you as the leader to your employees, before you can expect them to reciprocate.
One of the most important components of your personal leadership brand is developing the reputation that you do what you sat you will do. The “do as I say, not as I do” leadership approach is all too common. When your team members view you as a hypocrite, trust doesn’t exist. Effort dissipates. A-players won’t stay.
It will require you to be thoughtful in what you say, when you have a mindset of backing it up with your actions. It also requires discipline in your prioritization process, to ensure that you are executing on what you told others you would do and taking care of what you told them was important.
Leaders get results. Too many leaders rationalize that they’ve been given license to get those results by any means necessary. That attitude doesn’t work over the long term.
The best leaders are intentional about getting the best effort out of their people to achieve results over an extended period of time. That requires leaders to tap into the discretionary effort of their employees and stretches them far beyond the minimum results they need to achieve and still keep their job. But getting high level effort, the discretionary effort, requires a commitment born of trust. High standards? Yes. Accountability? Yes. But team members know that the leader cares for them individually and acts in the best interests of the team.
There are two ways to look at this. If your company is providing for your development, you are fortunate. Embrace every opportunity to learn and grow. If development opportunities aren’t available at your company, you must seek your own resources to grow and develop. In either case, the ultimate responsibility is yours.
I’ll do everything I can to provide the resources and recommendations at getfartherfast.com to help you develop into an outstanding leader. If you have the opportunity to create development opportunities for your direct reports, do so. Be the leader who develops others and helps them accomplish more than they could imagine themselves.
12. According the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) 63% of millennials feel their leadership skills are not being fully developed by their employers. Consequently, 71% of millennial employees want to leave their jobs within two years to go somewhere where they can be properly developed.
If you want to compete for the best talent, be purposeful about developing the leadership skills of your employees. If you employ other people, this is a differentiator and helps you attract and retain top talent.
If you work for someone else, opportunities for learning and development should be considerations for where you work. However, you can’t let your career be dependent upon other people or subject to the vagaries of an annual budget.
If you’re an entrepreneur and you own the company, this applies to you, as well as those who work for you. Develop others and develop yourself. Consistently. Continually.
A learning organization is better able to embrace opportunities that stretch everyone. It is also better equipped to pivot when the market requires it.
Most companies do a poor job of developing talent, particularly the leadership skills of mid-level managers. If you work for a company that is providing training and mentoring, you’re lucky. But every leader, from the owner / entrepreneur to the person who isn’t in management yet, but hopes to be: leadership development is a necessity.
If you own the company, create the budget and provide the resources.
If you manage others, fight for the resources to provide your team. Schedule time to coach and mentor the members of your team. Start with your A-players.