Are You Setting The Direction?

Highly effective leaders have a vision, and they understand what it will take to get there. They know each step of the journey to success.

Highly effective leaders recognise the obstacles on the journey to success, and take responsibility for removing those obstacles, so that the journey flows as smoothly as possible.

Highly effective leaders set and control the direction of the journey from the front.

1. You And Your Team

What would you do right now to improve yours and your team’s work situation? Have you spoken to your team about what changes they would like to see improved? Whenever I asked that question of a new team I was leading, I would get answers like:

  1. Put more metal bins around so they don’t fill up as fast.
  2. New tooling, these old ones keep failing.
  3. Change the light bulbs, they keep conking out.
  4. Get bigger lockers so we can put more stuff in there.
  5. Increase the size of the showers so people aren’t waiting around.
  6. When we do a good job, tell us.

There are lots more answers I have heard from teams that are a more trivial. But, the six above are the most common. The reason I would ask those questions first, is because these answers are a reflection of what their previous “leader” didn’t do for them.

They were managed by a low performing leader who didn’t listen to the team, and didn’t ask them what they would like to see improved. So, the first thing I would do after hearing these answers, was to do as much as possible to rectify them. This would be part of my building a relationship, and building trust with the team.

The things above are not big things to rectify, especially saying thank you when the team does a good job. That should be a given to any leader. A low performing leader doesn’t think that the list above is important, there a bigger things to concentrate on.

2. Influencing Your Team

However, a highly effective leader knows that these little things, are actually the big things according to their team. So, they should be prioritised.

If you have a team in your charge, and you don’t think that the list above is important, then you are going to have a very difficult time influencing them. The list above is absolutely massive. It is the items on this list that are getting in the way of you building trust, and building relationships with your team.

They are obstacles between you, and your ability to influence the team. If you don’t remove these obstacles, this will send a very powerful message. You are basically telling your team “I don’t care for you.” Or, “you don’t really matter to me.”

If you haven’t already, go to your team and ask them individually “How can I help you make your job and the team’s job better?” You might get a few strange looks at first, but explain to them that you want to see things improved.

Tell them that you are willing to do as much as you can to make that happen. If you get some answers from the team that are madness, just write it down. Following that, go through the list with the team and prioritise 10 items.

Next, be the leader you always wanted to be, and go out and make everything on the list of 10 happen. If there is an item(s) that you can’t make happen for some reason, don’t worry. Just go back to the team and explain the reasons why, and discuss another way you can help.

Or, look at the other items on the original list and pick one to replace it. By doing this, you are continuing to build relationships. You are continuing to build trust.

You are increasing your influence with your team. If you don’t explain to them why you couldn’t make something happen, then you are decreasing your influence. Your relationship and trust building will decrease too.

3. Becoming A Highly Effective Leader

As you are striving to become a highly effective and servant leader, you will start to realise the other obstacles that you can remove. The team may have not mentioned them to you, because they might not realise that you can help remove these obstacles.

So what they have done over the years is just work around them. They have gotten so used to working around these obstacles over time, that they don’t even notice it anymore.

A highly effective leader who takes responsibility for going the extra mile for their team, is the only person who can remove these obstacles. One of the most important roles for a highly effective leader is to look for obstacles that they can remove, for both themselves and their team.

When we discussed the leader walking around and asking questions, that is exactly what he/she is doing. They are looking for obstacles to remove, so that they can help to help improve the job, and the working environment for their team.

When a leader removes these obstacles, and it helps the team perform better, it is a win-win situation. The leader will start to perform better too, and the organisation will recognise this. It improves the leader’s star status.

A low performing leader who doesn’t take responsibility for going the extra mile, and is satisfied with getting the job done, cannot remove these obstacles. They live and hope that nobody ever knows about these obstacles, so that they are not expected to help remove them.

The team actually believes that their manager can’t remove them, so they will never talk about them. The manager does not want more work, he/she just wants an easy life, and get paid at the end of month.

4. Avoid Being A Low Performing And Insecure Leader

When I was an engineering production manager in Scotland, our line manager was very insecure. He told us he wanted “us” to improve things, and when we tried he didn’t approve of anything.

He was not a leader at all, and would often talk about people behind their backs. He would even do this when the person’s teammates were in the room.

When we had the morning meetings to discuss the work for the day, he would show up sometimes just to give us an extremely hard time. Usually because the trains had performed badly the previous day.  He would never concentrate on what was going well, he would only ever talk about what didn’t go well.

He was a very negative person. I would sometimes react to this, and suggest ways to improve the situation. However every time I would do this,  he would knock me down. To me he was the obstacle, and he needed to be removed.

What I remember most about this line manager was, he brought me into his office to give me a hard time about my performance as an engineering production manager. The teams and my colleagues actually liked my work, but he didn’t.

Anyway, the trains were not performing well, so he thought because I was the new guy that it was my fault. He said “I brought you here to change things.” I replied “I am trying to change things, but you keep knocking every suggestion I make.”

He said “That’s because what you’re suggesting isn’t good enough.” When he said that, my heart sank, and I walked out of the office. I had never felt so bad.

A highly effective leader would not talk to their team members like that. They would ensure that they are not an obstacle to them. They would help to remove obstacles, so that their team member has the opportunity to improve. They listen to the team, as the team are discussing new ideas, and solutions to problems.

If you’re a highly effective leader, removing obstacles is not your job. It’s your responsibility. Will you help your team, so they can help you?

If you are a highly effective, servant leader then you will realise that you are there to help them. Please take on board that, removing obstacles is not your job, it is your responsibility.

As a team member your job is to have the answers. As a leader it is your responsibility to have all the questions

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

18 thoughts on “Are You Setting The Direction?

    1. Hi Kumponchai,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article useful.

      If you need any further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  1. This is an interesting read about being an highly effective leader. I agree with the point you raised on highly effective leaders taking the lead and responsibility on every instance. Many leaders fail to do this and pass the bulk when things are not going to plan. I hope more leaders start to understand what it means to be a highly effective leader.

    1. Hi Bolupe,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article interesting.

      You are right that a highly effective leader must take on the responsibility of the team, and not blame others when it goes wrong.

      I too hope that leaders read through my articles and take action on what they learn.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. I’m so impressed on how well this article was written and am happy that I came across it. I personally haven’t been in many situations where I’ve been a leader , however I know that there are many young people who look up to me. The context of that may not be the same, but its still important to set a good moral image for them and this article taught and reminded me of how to properly exhibit good leadership skills.

    Keep up the great work.

    Sincerely,

    Aminah

    1. Hi Aminah,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      If you have young people who look up to you and follow you then you are a leader. You do not need to have a position or job title to be a leader. Anybody can be a leader and you most certainly are. Leading the young people by example and being a role model to them is exactly the right thing to do if you want to have a positive impact on their lives. Keep it up.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,
    this is a great article. I was a member or a poorly lead team, and therefore I know how right you are, particularly about, well from my point of view, communicating with team members, hearing them, helping with even small improvements, giving them credits for what they’ve done well….
    Thank you for this great article. I’ll help many.
    All the best

    1. Hi Tanya,

      Thank you for your comment, and for being so open and honest. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable and I really do hope it reaches a lot of people.

      You are absolutely right, communication, connection and lifting up your team members is so important for a leader to do. This will increase their own influence, trust and strengthen their relationships.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. You make some very good points with how a boss can undermine the overall performance of the team by undermining individual people. It just becomes a domino effect from there onwards.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you thinking I made some good points.

      If you had a boss who was undermining you or the team, how would you address it and approach it by becoming the leader within the team?

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. These are great tips for anyone who is in a leadership position. I’ve worked under both good and bad leadership and it is so true that leaders need to take responsibility, encourage employees, show they care and make it a good work environment. When people feel respected and heard, they will perform way better.

    1. Hi Carla,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article helpful.

      You are right, when you feel respected and that you are cared for, your morale goes up and you do put in the extra effort to perform better.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. This is great information. The four points you laid out are so important yet often overlooked. You can’t influence your team if you’re not willing to take responsibility and go the extra mile. I’ve definitely came across some supervisors and managers like this in my career. Thanks for sharing this post!

    1. Hi Justin,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are absolutely right, you cannot influence your team if you don’t show you care, show respect and take responsibility. To influence we need to be trusted, and to be trusted then you must have the previous three traits.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi tom
    Thanks for another great article. I particularly like the quote at the end about the responsibility of a leader. I’ve seen this so many times that the little problems and obstacles that the crew is dealing with can be what sets the tone for their workday and can dominate their thoughts and concerns to the detriment of the work tasks at hand. You are so right that you have to ask these questions, what needs fixing and set about getting them done and keep going until you push them over the finish line. Depending on your kind of organization these little irritants can be very tricky to overcome especially when you need another group that isn’t under your direct authority to assist.
    As you say, clearly these things out of the way is an essential first step in taking on the bigger and more strategic tasks that the team needs to tackle.
    Thanks again
    Andy

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences of seeing problems and obstacles that come up during the workday. A leader is there to remove those problems and obstacles, not the other way around.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for all of your hard work on this article.

    Weak leadership is so common nowadays that it almost seems like a pandemic in its’ own right.

    People that are placed in positions of authority usually have the mindset of overlord instead of team leader. They think the team members are at their disposal.

    I like how you made a point of asking members of a new team you were leading what they wanted to see improved. It is indeed a reflection of what fell through the cracks in their last job. Definitely.

    They are revealing all of their pain points to you. It’s extremely valuable information.

    Your idea of making a Top 10 list, and then knocking everything off that list is brilliant.

    That’s what every good leader should do, as far as I’m concerned.

    Thanks once again for putting this article together. It should be required reading for some.

    Michael

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comment and your very kind words. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable, and I really hope a lot more people like you find my article helpful.

      I think you are right that weak leadership is a pandemic on it’s own. Especially with our world leaders, and how they are behaving during the coronavirus and the racism issue in America.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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