5 Leadership Tools To Inspire Employees To Give Their Best

Managers enforce compliance within a specific set of rules. Conversely, leaders inspire us to bring and give our best. Leaders demand we challenge what is known, while helping us break down unknown barriers to organizational excellence. Managers demand all rules be followed, no matter how wasteful and inefficient those rules are. Understanding this distinction is fundamental to increasing the speed at which people and organizations are continuously transformed.

To improve and grow your business, it’s best to create more leaders who want to know and improve what they don’t know. In turn, you will organically create more engaged employees. Enforce compliance, however, you’ll get just what you asked for. Transform your managers into leaders and you’ll need fewer managers, while growing people and profits in ways you never imagined possible.

Here are 5 ideas to help you begin that transformational process.

(1) Constantly reflect upon how subordinates experience your leadership style. Are you leading from a position of control or improvement? Do employees give everything they have or something less? How and why do you contribute to that behavior? Is your leadership style coaching or telling, yelling or doing, empathic or disruptive? Are failures tools for organizational learning and improving people, or tools that destroy both? As you look in your mirror each morning, start asking these questions of yourself.

“Go see things for yourself, experience them in person where they happen: At the value-adding team-member level.”

(2) Avoid your own confirmation bias. Psychologist Jim Taylor describes the confirmation bias as, “The inclination to seek out information that supports our own preconceived notions.” Confirmation bias points us in the direction toward that which we have assumed to be true based on our existing knowledge and experience. On the other hand, learning comes from detecting and correcting errors in our thinking; effectively, learning by doing, not just reviewing the numbers. Go see things for yourself, experience them in person where they happen: At the value-adding team-member level.

Leadership requires we recognize within ourselves, “we don’t know what we don’t know, and what we don’t know, we should know.”

(3) Spend time observing value-adding activity. Watch employees do their job. Does work appear chaotic and disorganized? Is information or material building up within people’s in-boxes, computers, or work stations? How does information or material flow from one step to the next? Does it move and stop, only to continuously repeat the same behavior throughout the value stream? Once again, ask yourself these questions daily. If the answer is yes to any one of them, look for signs of a broken value chain and the resulting broken people needing optimization within that system.

Where information or material waits within your value chain, waste exists. More importantly, your customer is waiting. Get to the root cause of the waste of waiting, test new ideas for eliminating it, then take time to learn how to do the new standard physical or mental work with your team members. Engagement at the value-adding level demonstrates to subordinates how serious you are at transforming yourself and your own business. Do this, and you’ll see a transformation in employee behavior too.

(4) See for yourself whether team members have developed counter-measures to eliminate root causes of problems or whether they have developed work-arounds. Each answer tells a different story, yielding information as to where your culture stands and needs to go. Work-arounds mean processes, people and the system itself need improvement. Effective problem-solvers should be utilized to train and develop others in problem-solving techniques.

(5) Ask team members where their current process breaks down and why it happens. Use enough whys to continue the discovery process until root causes of problems become obvious. Today, most organizations and employees find themselves “too busy to do it right, but with plenty of time to do it over.” Change that up! After problems are discovered, don’t ignore them. Discover and get to the problem’s root cause, then resolve it.

Consider establishing a team that rapidly responds to problems which can’t immediately be resolved at the line level. This team must be specifically trained in problem solving through root cause analysis. Take time to coach and spread similar thinking skills throughout your leadership team and organization. Make the problem-solving skill fun, a reward for showing up to work and doing a good job. Problem-solving shouldn’t be boring; in fact, it should be enjoyable.

These ideas can help any company large or small transform good managers into great leaders.

Colin D. Baird
Colin D. Baird is an operational turn-around and leadership consultant and the Managing Partner of Five Why Leaders. An organization that provides service to companies in crisis. He is also a consultant to TBM Consulting Group, a global leader in operational excellence with management consultants on four continents. Colin can be reached at colin@5whyleaders.com.

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