Leaderonomics: 5 Ways to Ensure the Leaders you Manage are Leading Well - Michelle Gibbings

In this article for Leaderonomics, Michelle outlines her five tips on being a great enterprise leader.

Leaders set standards by their behaviour and by the behaviour of their leadership team. Leading is not easy. In times of change and uncertainty, those leadership standards are tested. Leaders need to lead their leaders and ensure that those they lead, are leading well too. For leaders wanting to ensure they pass that test, here are five key tips to action.

1. Leading by example
Improving the culture and uplifting the effectiveness of the leaders in your team won’t work if you are missing one key ingredient – your leadership. How can you call to account and coach your team on how to be better leaders if you aren’t an exemplary leader? Quite simply, you can’t because it will be seen as hypocritical, and consequently, your advice and counsel will fall on deaf ears. Read more on how to lead by example here.

2. Open your eyes
The leaders reporting to you will want to impress you, do well, and show you they are delivering. That means, they could be shielding you from their mistakes, overinflating the good parts, and downplaying the bad. Many times, they may be glossing over areas in which they don’t excel. Your role is to be self-aware and open your eyes to their behaviour and call them out on it, even if it means giving critical feedback to your top leaders.

A study by researchers from The University of Central Florida’s College of Business found that when a person is considered a top performer, they are much more likely to have bullying behaviour overlooked by their manager. While unfair, often the people who were victims of that “bullying” are seen as bullies themselves and received lower job performance evaluations (Even though they were just victims of the bullying!).

The study’s co-author, Shannon Taylor, an Associate Professor of Management, attributed this flawed decision making to cognitive bias. He explained it as, “…the halo effect, in which positive attributes mask negative traits, or the horn effect, in which one negative attribute casts a person in a completely negative light”. Read more about cognitive bias here.

3. Sense check signals
Good leaders are alert to weak signals and to signs of discontent across their team. Then they’ll dig, check and inquire into what might be going on in order to validate the rumbles and rumours, before acting with integrity and purpose. Use informal and formal data sources:

  • Informal – feedback you receive from your direct report’s team members, peers, their executive assistant, and suppliers or customers they deal with.
  • Formal – data from engagement results, 360 feedback assessments, feedback from employee exit interviews and other performance metrics such as productivity, staff turnover, absenteeism, stress levels and any formal complaints.

Read more about self-awareness check signals here.

4. Identify areas for growth
Identify the key areas of behavioural change required and what specific actions your direct report can take to enable growth. Get them to be as specific as possible. It’s easier for them to execute when they identify the steps needed to take achieve their leadership potential. As part of this plan you may have short and long term goals depending on issues. Short term goals also help resove temporary blips caused by workplace stress. While longer term ones resolve ingrained behavioural patterns that need to be tweaked or eradicated. Read more about growth here.

5. Be their coach
You are the leader’s leader and with that comes the responsibility to coach and support in a way that enables them to reach their leadership potential. Are you really coaching your people? Read more on how to coach your leaders effectively here.

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