Three Traits Confident Leaders Expect from Their People
Most leaders expect excellence from their team members, but they stop there. I think we can—and we should—expect more.
Specifically there are three key traits, that when adopted by our people as individuals, will build the foundation for a thriving organization.
Without question, I expect excellence from myself and from those who work with me. Expecting excellence does not require us to be hard or unkind. Rather, it means that we should be persistent to define and measure how we are doing individually and as a team.
When leaders are confident to raise their level of expectation for each person on the team, the standards for the entire organization will be elevated. Here are the three traits leaders can expect from their people.
Build the Culture
Expect each person on your team to build a positive team culture.
There are three kinds of people: those who drag the culture down; those who don’t impact the culture at all; and those who improve the culture of your team. As to the first group, some individuals can add so much value technically or professionally to the team, that we sometimes give them a “free pass” if they are dragging down the team. My friend, this is not good leadership. Regardless of their skill or level of expertise, if a person refuses to build a positive team culture, he must be let go.
Once we’ve eliminated anyone who tears down the team, our job is to rally the apathetic. Those who, up til now have been on the fence. If they haven’t really done anything to add to or take away from the culture of the team, it’s time to connect with them and inspire them to contribute.
My expectation is for everyone, starting with myself, to build the culture. Make it better. Help us improve who we are. When people join our team, I tell them from the beginning, “My expectation of you is to help us make this a better place.” Articulate your cultural values into words and phrases. Clearly communicate them to new hires and your existing team. Encourage everyone to bring them to life. Ask for their help in improving the culture.
Improve the Work
Expect each person on your team to improve the work.
I heard this concept as I was studying Toyota’s approach to work. They tell their employees, “At Toyota, the job is not to do the work, the job is to improve the work.” What does that mean?
Improving the work means that we must not only do our job well—as this, of course, is required. But we must also improve how we do our work. It is unfortunate how easily we all settle into our routines, and before you know it, we are no longer thinking analytically about how we do our work.
As a leader, one thing you can do to encourage people to improve their work is to praise them when they come up with innovative ideas to advance their processes or products. And do not be quick to criticize them when they try new things, and fail. Most people don’t speak up about their ideas because they are not expected to or encouraged to.
Promote the Business
Expect each person on your team to promote the business.
Earlier tonight, I had dinner with some friends at the Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Burleson, Texas. The waitress tried so hard to gently and kindly suggest dessert when we were finished with our meal. I was happy to see someone kindly and professionally promoting the organization she worked for.
So many times as leader we neglect to encourage our people to take ownership of our organization. Most people are content to just do their work, and we become satisfied with that. While they may do their job with excellence, we need everyone on board to help build the culture of the business, church, or organization we work for. We should confidently expect our team members to improve the work we do. And we should encourage every person to consistently promote the organization. Advancing the business is not the sole responsibility of the owner, manager, or marketing department.
Actionable step: Ask yourself honestly about each person on your team. Are they working with excellence? Are they building the culture? Are they improving the work? And are they promoting the business?
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