When it comes to managing a workforce, it’s often the most basic elements of effective leadership that are overlooked. When productivity is stressed and managers struggle to do more with fewer resources in a lean economy, proper management strategies often fall by the wayside in favor of keeping the wheels turning.
Clarify team expectations. “Without clarity, it’s difficult for an employee or team to have a clear understanding of what needs to be prioritized,” says Allen. “Each one of us has 1,000 things coming at us each day.” He says a leader needs to help the group focus its energy and focus its time where it needs to be applied and if priorities change, that also must be made clear.
Model the way. The managers who really get to know their people—their goals, dreams, and aspirations—get more out of them, says Allen. “Having a clear understanding of the people who work for you but being very clear on what your red lines are—the boundaries—are of critical importance,” he says. “You can think back to your favorite teacher, coach, pastor or mentor—you knew they wanted you to succeed. And if you feel that way about someone, you’ll work harder for them.”
Use the Pygmalion Effect. “Managers who have high expectations of their people and really believe in them, those people will generally want to live up to those expectations,” says Allen. “It can’t be high expectations because you want to get the most out of them, but if you show that you want them to grow as individuals and live up to expectations, you’ll see the difference.”
Stretch the team. Every person who works for you should have some kind of developmental project that they’re working on where it’s taking them out of their comfort zone. “When you feel those butterflies, that’s when you know you’re growing and going somewhere new,” asserts Allen. “As a leader, you need to challenge and support your team and take them to new places.”
Have them lead the team. Leadership is about influencing others and not just those who are motivational leaders. People can lead in different ways—how they behave, what kind of role model they are, and through their functional expertise as a thought leader.
Foster critical reflection. Encouraging team members to understand the reasoning behind policies and procedures will help them troubleshoot problems and help the company grow. Even in one or two minute conversations you can help someone reflect on what went well and what could have been improved. “The military calls it an after action review and they build that into the design of virtually every operation they do,” says Allen. “Often times in business, we don’t do the after action review. If you don’t give employees the opportunity to offer feedback, you’re missing out on important data.”
Foster a friendly debate. It takes practice to have conversations where people can disagree while still being respectful and good communicators. “If we can have these conversations, we can translate these conversations to address real issues within the organization,” says the author. “But if I don’t feel like I can bring my perspective, the organization is missing out on valuable data.”
Ask the tough questions. Examples of this include: Are we behaving in a way that’s going to get us where we want to be? How can we be more effective and what are our baseline expectations? Challenging the group to struggle through the tough questions is another opportunity to improve the team and enable the employees to engage in self-improvement.