Knowing Yourself + Knowing your Team = Legendary Leadership

It’s guest post Monday. This post is written by Razwana Wahid who is the founder of Your Work Is Your Life, a service dedicated to making your writing work better – to sell, to convert, to connect. You can connect and follower here on Twitter. If you would like to be featured on this blog click here.

Today, you must answer the following question.

Which one of these people do you prefer?

Person A – He always looks happy, and not only remembers your name, but also the conversation you had last.

Person B – is an efficiency machine and when he walks into the office, he says hello to only a select few. Usually not you.

Which did you select?

Now imagine if person B was the leader of your team, or the CEO of your business. Is his behaviour a good thing, or will it kill any motivation you have to work?

When you’re leading a team of human beings, what you accomplish as an individual is not important – it’s how you make them feel.

Do you know what makes them tick? Do you know their values? What motivates them? Do you know the pressures they face in their personal life? Do you genuinely care?

This may all seem a little touchy-feely, but ask any one member of your team and they will attest that they would rather you remember the last conversation you had, what they told you they like to do on the weekend, or notice when they are feeling low.

Commending them on the accuracy of their reports comes in last.

I’m not saying being the ‘nice guy’ is the fast lane to great leadership – there is no reward for a dysfunctional team.

But it will take you from being the manager of the team who merely exists as a figurehead, to the one everyone looks up to and someone with total rockstar status.

Here are some tips:

Be there

When you’re in a meeting. When you’re talking to an individual or a group. When you’re passing someone in the corridor. Actually be there, and nowhere else.

What does this mean? It means being focused on that moment only – not just in your mind, but in your physical appearance.

– Turn your phone to silent mode.

– If it flashes with messages, turn it over. Or better still, remove it from sight.

– Make eye contact with others

You may think you can multitask by responding to emails and listening to the person in the room. Here’s some news – you can’t. Not without appearing rude and arrogant.

And that’s the key. What do others see when they look at you?

You may think you’re being efficient by ‘having a conversation’ whilst simultaneously answering messages. But when others look at you, they see someone who doesn’t think they’re important enough to be focused on.

So be there.

Change your perspective

You are a leader. It does not only mean you lead by example. That’s a given.

But you have more responsibility on your almighty shoulders.

It is your responsibility to see things from the perspective of your colleagues.

How is what you are doing or saying making them feel?

How do they feel when you speak? When you walk to and from meetings? When you are leading a discussion?

So….

When you walk into the office, acknowledge people. No matter what job they do for the business. People like being noticed.

When you speak, smile and make eye contact with each person. People like feeling important.

When your team does a great job, use an example of how each one of them contributed. People like feeling valued.

Do you see the pattern?

REALLY listen

When you talk to your team, make it your job to find out what motivates them.

That doesn’t mean asking them ‘hey, what motivates you?’ Who wants to answer THAT question?

Instead, ask them questions like:

– During x project, you did y and z really well. What contributed to that?

– I see you and [insert colleague’s name] have a great working relationship – what’s the reason for that?

– You get tasks A and B done really quickly. Why do you think that is?

And observe them over time. See what works and what doesn’t.

Ask them what they love about their job. What they would want more of. And then work out a way, with them, to give them what they want.

Your team will think you rock, they will give more of themselves to the business, and all will be well in the world.

Question: What behaviours do you think make a great leader?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This is certainly an area that I need to work on. I tend to be more task oriented and I know that can hurt my effectiveness as a team leader if I’m too focused on task and not focused enough on people. Thanks for the tips and the great reminder!

    • Razwana

      Thank you for your comment, Caleb. Leadership is an art form, isn’t it? One that has to be constantly worked up and mastered.

      • Absolutely it is an art form, that’s because people aren’t simple, it takes time, failure and commitment before you get it right sometimes.

  • Hey Razwana, nope, it’s not all about efficiency and getting things done as a leader. The traits you described are super important and will allow people on your team to really shine. The leaders job is to motivate, care and find out what makes their people tick so getting to know them is important. Interpersonal relationships are important. Empathy is key.

    Listening, being present and being there are all areas in my life that I’m trying to work on. Realizing that multi-tasking does not help in this regard! The less I do and more I focus on the person in front of me, the better connection I’m able to make with them. The interesting thing is those three tips are not only for how to be a great leader but how to improve every relationship in our lives! Thanks for the reminder once again. One tip I would add is simply complimenting and appreciating your team-mates more for a job well done.

    • Razwana

      They are great point you added, Vishnu. The behaviour and traits of a great leader can also be transferred into other relationships.

      We all like a person that likes us, right?

  • Great point about making your team feel valued– isn’t that at the root of group productivity? It’s for the reasons you outline here that our best salespeople often do not make our best managers or team leaders. Leadership is a skillset built onto a great heart for serving and valuing others.

    • Razwana

      Absolutely, Justin. I would add that great sales people DO make people feel valued. It’s in the art of selling, right? It may not translate 100% into leadership, however !

  • I like “be there” and “really listen.” I would also add resilience. I think good leaders need to be able to bounce back after problems or poor outcomes.

    • Razwana

      Absolutely, Dan. Leaders need to be inspiring their team, for sure. And that means through the good times and the tough.

  • I think those traits are important regardless of title or vocation. Common courtesy goes a long way. One of the keys to being a good leader in my experience is to make sure the people you’re looking into the eyes of are the right people to begin with. It’s more than coincidence that if they too share these common courtesies described there is the foundation for a great team.

    • Razwana

      Floyd, what do you mean by ‘the right people to begin with’? Could you elaborate please?

      • The right people meaning the ones who are like minded and share the same moral characteristics. I liked Jim Collin’s reference in his book, From Good To Great, where he titled it, “Having the right people on the bus.”

        • Razwana

          I can imagine there is no amount of interpersonal skills that will engage the ‘wrong’ people.

  • The part about “really listen” is so true. I remember once when I was a young manager, I was in my office having a conversation with a female employee. As was typical, I was trying to do two things at once; watching my “chat” stream and trying to listen to her. She would have none of that and gently closed the lid on my laptop with a smile on her face. I got the message.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Razwana

      Wow! I love what your employee did, Charles! That’s one way of getting the message across!

    • I’m sure that taught you a lesson:) Multitasking during a conversation is never a good thing (I’m preaching to my self). Thank you for sharing about your experience.

  • Getting in the trenches & doing the hard work is essential to leadership. Sure, a big part of that is setting an example, but I’m more referring to working alongside and not just above the people you lead. It’s working with them on projects and even taking time to explain your logic or thinking on why you chose a certain approach or didn’t choose another. Asking question is definitely a great way to get to know your team members, but working with them – seeing how they work and watching their thinking in action – is also tremendously effective.
    Also, as I read through this post, I saw a lot of how this can correlate into parenting, an area in which I am struggling right now with one of my “team members.” Going to try some of these approaches there.

    • Razwana

      Hi Kari – parenting and team leadership go hand in hand! In my experience, this has been most obvious when working with a junior member of the team who is not as experienced as the rest. It takes a different style to work with those colleagues!

      All the best with your mission !

  • Good stuff, Razwana! And good to see you here on Dan’s blog. I think a great leader wants to learn, works on connecting with others, and has a vision for the future, among other traits.

    • Razwana

      Hi Drew. Yes I totally agree. Especially with connecting with others. It’s the basis of building an engaged team.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post Drew. Great additions.

  • We’ve got a couple of leaders like leader B in our organization. I can say with certainty that they don’t inspire people to success and greatness like the ones that show an interested and are personable.

    • Razwana

      It makes me feel quite sad that so-called leaders DO behave like that. If only they knew ….

  • Great tips and so important!

    While a leaders time is valuable, so is the other persons. They deserve to get your full attention!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, both the peoples time are valuable. Thank you for sharing.

  • I enjoyed this guest post. I think one thing I’m learning about great leaders is that they are people connectors. They realize that the “resource pie” is not finite. Great leaders give stuff away, including relationships, and there’s still plenty left over for themselves.

    • Razwana

      That is such a great concept. Larry – and so true. It’s a whole new post in itself !

  • Razwana

    Dan – thank you for being so generous with your blog and accepting my guest post. It was a new topic for me and I had fun writing it.

    Your community here is also very wise. :-)

    • It was great having you here. Thank you for writing such a great post for my site!

      Yes they are:)