Improve Your Leadership Skills, Part 2

Norb Slowikowski

July 2005

Every great leader has to start with basics. The foundation for any person in charge begins with the Leadership Mind Set. If we start with the proper outlook before we embark on a project, success is already within our reach.

Understand that you need your employees more than they need you, and believe that people are your most important asset. Take the time to build on people’s strengths, and don’t focus on their weaknesses. This positive approach helps to bring out the best in people, and satisfies their self-esteem needs.

Know where you want to go (the goal) and decide what you have to do to get there (the action plan.) Create a climate where people really want to do their best. Know that success is energy well-directed, and create a "Solution-Orientation.” The key is to focus as much energy as possible in the direction you want to move.

Institute a framework for continuous improvement by knowing what you’re doing, setting specific objectives and communicating those goals, pointing out the benefits for achieving the objectives, encouraging ideas from people for improvement so everyone participates in the solutions, and celebrating the small successes you achieve. Be open to change and flexible. If it’s not broke, break it!

Learn to ask effective questions—they create ownership. Ask the following questions:

  • What do you need from me to succeed on this project?

  • What have you accomplished so far that you are pleased with?

  • Which of the activities you are doing will be easy for you to accomplish?

  • What do you need to overcome the difficult tasks?

  • What ideas do you have that will get us the results we want?

Create a "customer service” attitude with your employees. We can only serve the outside customer effectively to the extent that we serve each other. To the extent that your people feel supported encouraged, nurtured and served, they will serve their internal/external customers. The level of service an employee brings to a customer is a reflection of how well that employee feels served, or how well his/her needs are being met by the organization.

Take the time to implement the following key leadership practices:

  • Be aware of the needs of your people.

  • Understand that it’s your behavior that has an impact on your people.

  • Develop a team mentality.

  • Mobilize the discretionary effort of your people and empower them.

  • Be proactive instead of reactive.

  • Be a model of personal responsibility.

  • Put people first.

  • Have high expectations for results.

  • Encourage feedback, admit mistakes and ask for help.

Remember—real leadership comes from the inside out. This requires several difficult shifts in our thinking. You must let go of your ego-driven need to have your own answers all the time.

Let go of your need for strict control, and trust your employees.

Drop your need to be right. Drop your protective barriers, and learn to be open and vulnerable.

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