5 Steps to Strong Leadership

Norb Slowikowski / January 2017

Teaching people the keys to strong leadership can be tricky because it can be more art than science. Technical skills are knowledge. You can learn that in a step-by-step format. But teaching people how to lead, communicate and be accountable is much more difficult. It’s a different mindset that says to invest in your people and ensure that they succeed. Then, if they don’t succeed, step in to provide accountability. That’s how you manage people..

Implement a Feedback System
The highest functioning form of management is leadership. Great managers synthesize all of these skills into a form of leadership. That’s what separates the great from the status quo.
    
In short, there is an inefficiency in the market—not many people teach how to manage and lead. Too many people only look at the bottom line without taking note of the process you need to get to that ultimate result.
    
With this in mind, here are five steps to strong leadership that need to be emphasized if your staff and field supervisors are to be highly productive and efficient.

Step 1: Communicate and Clarify Expectations
The supervisor and employee should reach mutual agreement in the following basic areas:

  • The work to be done. Explain the quality standards and set a deadline for each task.
  • How the job fits into the total picture and why it is important.
  • Define the performance factors such as quality, quantity, job budgets, safety, materials and equipment control and customer relations.
  • How and when performance will be measured. It may be through quantitative measures or a series of statements describing satisfactory performance.
  • How performance will be rewarded, such as a pay-for-performance system.

Step 2: 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. This type of feedback, like other leadership techniques, is another way of creating ownership for one’s job. Remember: When you reinforce positive behavior, it tends to repeat itself.

Step 3: 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.

Step 4: 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.

  • Responsibility—the tasks to be completed on time with quality results.
  • Authority—the amount of decision-making power you will give an employee.
  • Obligation—the employee’s promise to complete the tasks in an effective and efficient manner.
  • When delegating, the supervisor must do the following:
  • Think and plan first.
  • Know the strengths of your people and delegate accordingly. Select the right person.
  • Clarify the results expected.
  • Decide on controls and checkpoints.
  • Be sure to follow up—check, assess, coach and correct.

Step 5: 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 doing the following:

  • Review the schedule and quality specifications with them.
  • Set production goals with them—the specific tasks with deadlines.
  • Encourage people to ask for help when they’re not sure of what to do or how to do it. Offer support and assistance.
  • Give them 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 “my way or the highway.” Rather, it’s about marshaling the talents of others to do their best work while remaining flexible to challenges as they arise. Bottom line: Move forward and implement these five steps to unleash the talents of your people. That’s the definition of leadership.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email norbslow2@gmail.com.