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March 2014   

Take the Lead: Six Key Elements for Effective Leadership

By: Norb Slowikowski

The highest functioning form of management is leadership, but not enough people know how to manage and lead. Too many managers look at only the bottom line rather than at the correct process you need to successfully get to that bottom line. Utilizing the right process in a forward-thinking way is true leadership. Here are six key elements of leadership that need to be emphasized if your staff and field supervisors are to be highly productive, effective and efficient.

Communicate and Clarify Expectations
Supervisor and employee should reach mutual agreement in five basic areas:

First, the work to be done. Explain the quality standards and set deadlines.

Next, how the job fits into the bit picture.

Third, define the performance factors such as quality, quantity, job budgets, safety and equipment control and customer relations.

Then agree about how and when performance will be measured. It may be through quantitative measures or a series of statements describing satisfactory performance.

Finally, agree on how performance will be rewarded, for example, a pay for performance system.

Let Employees Know Where They Stand
Accentuate the positive. Give your employees positive reinforcement when they do something well. Make sure the feedback is specific, timely and relevant while focusing on results accomplished. Remember: When you reinforce positive behavior, it tends to repeat itself.

Establish a Sound Communications Network
Effective leadership requires a network of communication that is both company and employee centered. An approach to communication that goes beyond basic job information promotes a feeling of being a key team member. This fosters the interest, commitment and closeness that are so important to harmony and cooperation. When people feel valued, they tend to be more productive and enjoy coming to work every day.

Establish a Positive Work Climate
Give people the freedom to do their work without constant interference. Take positive action when an employee makes a mistake; be a coach, not a critic. Provide help and assistance in problem-solving as opposed to always giving the answer. Get them to specifically identify the problem along with the underlying causes. Ask them to provide suggested solutions.

Delegate Effectively
Delegation is sharing responsibility and authority with others and holding them accountable for performance. Delegation is like a "three-legged” stool: each depends on the others to help support the whole, and no two can stand alone. The three legs are responsibility, authority and obligation.

When delegating, the supervisor must know the strengths of their people and delegate accordingly. Supervisors should clarify the expected results and decide on controls and checkpoints. Finally, the supervisor should follow up—check, assess, coach and correct.

Gain Commitment
The word "commitment” means "I promise.” The foreman’s job is to encourage the crew to do their best work every day. This can be accomplished by reviewing the schedule and quality specifications with them; setting production goals—the specific tasks with deadlines; encouraging people to ask for help; offering support and assistance; and giving employees the necessary resources to do their job.

In the end, besides being an effective manager, you must also be a formidable leader by committing to an ongoing process of inspiring excellence in others. The process cannot be broken down to "command and control.” Rather, it’s about marshaling the talents of others to do their best work, day in and day out, while remaining adaptable and flexible to challenges as they arise.

Bottom line: Move forward and implement these six key elements to unleash the talents of your people.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.

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