I’ve seen this story a million times—an otherwise well-meaning leader hinders the progress—or even causes the failures—of an employee, without realizing what they are doing. Eventually, the issues come to a head and the result is finger-pointing and confusion. Leaders undermine their employees every day. Most just don’t know that they’re doing it. It’s a passive form of sabotage, but the result is the same. Undermining your employees is rarely a conscious act. Rather, it is caused by inaction. The three “U’s”, as I like to call them, can be telling symptoms of the larger issue: Being unfocused, unassertive and uninvolved.
Being Unfocused means not having a clear vision of where you are going—or not articulating it in a way that can be translated into operational behavior. Employees can’t see inside your head. Without specific instruction or a clear end goal, employees can and will get lost. If they don’t, congratulations—you’ve hired a mind-reader. Show your employees the destination—and give them a map. Specific processes and procedures are the mark of any successful business.
Being Unassertive means not holding people accountable, not providing objective metrics for success, not giving difficult and straightforward feedback and not giving positive feedback when warranted. A wishy-washy approach to leadership puts employees in a state of confusion, without direction—and without a compass. When you leave too much space, employees will get off track. Anyone can be assertive—even those with unassertive personality traits. Being assertive really just means communicating clearly and in a timely manner. Communicating with your employees isn’t contentious—it’s helpful, and it’s expected.
Being Uninvolved means not being tactical and leading “on the ground.” Many entrepreneurs and other inspirational leaders fall victim to not being involved. While they set the grand vision for the organization, they tend to get bored with the day-to-day machinations that go towards meeting that vision and goals. These types of leaders can be disengaged from employees and the process can easily get off track. If you are a visionary leader who concentrates on the end goal, it helps to install a more tactical leader to take care of the day to day. Both inspiration and tactical execution are necessary for success.
The three U’s are interrelated issues—they all revolve around inaction. Leaders committed to the excellence of their company and employees must get out of the weeds and get down to business. You must be confident—and you must act with intention. This means not just thinking about and setting goals, but doing the work on the ground to make sure your team achieves them.
5 Actions of Intentional Leaders
Implementing a Motivational System
Motivation isn’t just rousing speeches. Intentional leaders implement systems that help motivate employees every day. Whether it’s a bonus structure, a series of goals along the journey or something else, injecting everyday motivation into the company will lead to great results.
Implementing Policies That Reflect Your Culture
You can’t just tell an employee what the company culture is. You have to put it into action. Putting up guardrails around how an employee is supposed to approach their job will help give them direction and purpose.
Implementing a Process to Achieve Goals
There’s a reason today’s cars and phones have GPS. You can’t give employees a destination without giving them directions on how to get there. Goals aren’t achieved by winging it. Putting in a process that is focused on achieving those goals will help both your company and your employees reach the promised land.
Being assertive is a crucial part of intentional leadership. Unless you are assertive about your beliefs and actions with your employees, everything will go off the rails.
A Commitment to Excellence
Every leader is chasing excellence. But “commitment” is the key to achieving it. Committing to excellence means focused, active and intentional actions, every single day.
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