This blog post by Brain Howard was originally posted on his blog site found at www.contextcoaching.org. We thank him for his permission to repost it. Brian is the Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc., a firm that specializes in coaching leaders and pastors . He has more than 24 years of proven leadership experience as a leadership coach, working with high-level leaders from around the world. Brian and his family live in southern California.
Few of us enter our careers already skilled in the art of leadership. We spend our early career years learning (and often failing) to become great leaders. Many never become great leaders, often because they fail to invest the time and discipline to grow in this area. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It took me ten years to learn the following leadership keys. If you study and practice, you can learn these three keys for not failing in leadership starting now.
If you are a leader of any kind in an organization, these three keys are essential to excellent leadership. Ignore any one of these components and enjoy your ride as a mediocre (at best) leader. Commit and live by these three keys and watch your leadership thrive.
- Belief in The Person You are Leading
You can’t lead people well if you don’t believe in them. When you don’t believe in a person you are leading, you will not take the time to invest in him, train him, have hard conversations with him, and do the relational work necessary to see him thrive.
To lead well, you must believe that those you are leading have the character and ability to effectively carry out their responsibilities. If you have hired or oversee a person you suspect or know will never do a great job, you can’t ignore the truth and pretend it will all work out. To keep a person in a paid position he is not qualified or gifted to do is a common but tragic error. Churches often fail in this area because of the pain involved with letting a staff person go. Church leaders fail to make hard staffing decisions because they are aware that the person is a part of the church family and they fear the conflict the decision will create.
Keeping a person in a role he is not gifted to do because of fear is to:
- Waste the resources with which you have been entrusted.
- Rob a person of valuable years of his life.
You will always struggle to lead a team member in the wrong role. A great leader will make sure the right people are on the team and in the right roles.
Ask: Do I believe in this person? Do I believe that she is gifted to carry out her role? Am I willing to invest in her?
- Willingness to Correct and Have Hard Conversations
No effective leader avoids difficult conversations. Conflict avoidance is deadly to healthy working relationships. If you are unable to engage in conflict, then you should do something else besides lead. In fact, the front end of every work relationship is going to involve conversations that clarify expectations and are oftentimes difficult. Patrick Lencioni argues that the absence of conflict is one of the signs of a dysfunctional team. There is no healthy relationship without hard conversations. Training and correcting a person you believe in is healthy and necessary. We all need people who will guide us, teach us, and point out things we can’t see in ourselves.
So many leaders are hesitant to have corrective conversations. They are afraid to micromanage, hope concerning issues will go away on their own and fear conflict. Avoiding that hard conversation won’t make it go away. If you believe in a person on your team, teach him, invest in him, and coach him. Have hard conversations to clarify expectations, lead to his growth, and build a healthy long-term relationship.
Ask: How many hard conversations have I had with the people that I am leading? Do I procrastinate these conversations or commit to them?
- Know that Hard Conversations are Essential for a Person’s Growth, and that if you don’t have them, you are cheating the person
Who will teach, train, and correct a person on your team if you won’t? The only way to be willing to have these hard conversations is to believe they really are best for the person on your team AND for the organization. If you truly believe it is your responsibility to train this person and to protect the integrity of the organizational culture, then have the hard conversation.
I recommend telling a new hire to expect to have 50 difficult conversations in the first year. The first year is the training year. Explain that you will be continually clarifying expectations. Explain that training and correction is essential because you believe in him. You must see hard conversations as critical, or you will rationalize not having them.
Ask: Do I truly believe that I am cheating a person AND the organization if I avoid hard conversations? Want to take your leadership to the next level?
- Invest and believe in those you are leading.
- Commit to having hard conversations when necessary knowing they are essential for a person’s growth.