Leading teams and managing people can be tough. Unfortunately, you’ll never get it right every time. Whether you are just starting out in leadership or you’ve been around for a few years, the goal should be the same. To be a better leader.
There are many managers out there who are not getting better. Many are just staying the same. But if you want to gain respect, improve your career and lead a team that is motivated and enthusiastic, you need to strive to become a better leader, every day.
Let’s look at three simple things you can start doing today, to be a better leader.
1. Be a better leader by focusing on work with the most value
Many leaders build up a huge list of tasks, without ever getting to the end of it. Some items sit on the end of that to-do list forever and are never complete. The surprising thing to me is that this doesn’t seem to bother some leaders. Why?
Because people who love having huge, never ending task lists feel valuable. When they are “busy” all the time, they feel important. Unfortunately, being busy doesn’t make you a good manager. Being busy doesn’t actually mean much. All it does mean is that you have work to do, all the time.
This might sound good. But it says nothing about whether the work you are doing is useful. There is no harm in having downtime, where you have a chance to think more strategically about what you should focus on. In fact, this is a key to being a better leader.
To focus on the work with the most value, write down all the things you do in a month. For each item, think hard about the difference it makes. Do you spend lots of timing writing reports? How much does everyone care about those reports?
Keep going through your list and cut out the items that don’t matter. If they matter, but take up too much of your time, consider delegating them to your team. Start thinking differently. Not from a mindset of trying to be busy, but from a mindset of striving to be the most effective you can be.
2. Be a better leader by saying “No”
I’m still amazed at the managers I see who are unable to stand up for themselves. Instead of pushing back on unreasonable demands, they keep saying Yes. Again and again. Until eventually, they are busy and stressed.
In the worst cases, they suffer burnout. You can read my story of career burn out here. In the best cases, these managers become flustered and unhappy.
To be a better leader, you need to know how to say No. It doesn’t mean being unhelpful or getting angry. It means respecting your boundaries and protecting yourself and your team from being overwhelmed.
You won’t be able to refuse every piece of extra work that comes your way. But I guarantee, you should be able to push back on at least some of the things that people demand of you. This protects you and your team from being overloaded.
Good leaders understand that nobody wins when people burn out. So they put up boundaries to prevent it. Start respecting yourself and learning to say no.
Read how, in the 8 step guide to pushing back.
3. Be a better leader by making time to understand your team members
Do you know what your team members’ goals and aspirations are? What about what they like and dislike? What are they looking to achieve in the future?
These things might not seem too important right now. You might be very busy and don’t feel like you have time for this. However, knowing what makes your team tick can be very useful information.
Understanding your team helps you to:
- Allocate work that suits the skills of each person
- Provide development opportunities to help people achieve their goals
- Avoid forcing people to work on tasks that they hate
- Delegate work to people who are keen for more responsibility.
You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but it’s a good idea to have the conversation with your team. Make yourself available and have a discussion about what they would like to achieve.
Many leaders never take the time to do this. Those who do have the chance to motivate and improve their team. When your team is engaged and motivated, leadership becomes a little easier.
We should all strive to be better leaders. These are three good starting points. Focus on the work with the most value, start saying “No” and build a better understanding of your team members.
Leadership is never easy, so we need to get better every day. A better leader makes for a better team. Multiply that across many teams and we get better places to work.
So let’s get started.