As we reviewed in the prior post, The Single Biggest Mistake Type-A Leaders Make, leaders are often very effective producers on their own. However, once you make the move into a leadership position, you're impact needs to scale. In fact, if you can generate results beyond your solo efforts early, your move to leadership will happen sooner and more smoothly. I would also add that this topic is easily adapted to entrepreneurs and startup leaders. Employees need the same types of interactions as your tribe, although the vehicles will be different.
1) Build influence.
First things first, you need influence within your relationships in the organization. Your influence factor is your ability to have an impact on the behavior of others. With your new title comes some perceived and real power and therefore some built-in influence.
However, new leaders often rely too heavily on this surface influence to get things done and are surprised when the outcomes are lackluster.
To foster a deeper level of influence with your colleagues you need create trust, buy-in, and engagement. These three elements could each generate a hefty book, but the basics always hold true:
- TRUST: Be honest and transparent. Don't play office politics. Never gossip. Bring concerns up directly and early. Follow through on what you say. Admit to your mistakes. Be accessible and visible.
- BUY-IN: Relate. Ask for feedback. Share experiences. Reserve your veto for emergencies only. Demonstrate commitment. Know the front lines. Learn spouses' and kids' names.
- ENGAGEMENT: Interact often. Be positive. Nurture confidence. Invite perspective. Maintain an open line of communication. Ask questions. Listen. Appreciate.
2) Focus on a few priority projects.
Nothing is more deflating than the inability to complete assigned tasks, except maybe the inability to complete exciting voluntary tasks. Your impact will wane dramatically if you spread everyone too thin or take on so much that you overwhelm your teams.
Recognize that your level of impact on each project is inversely correlated with the number of projects you attempt to lead. Take time upfront, especially as a new leader, to intimately understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your organization. An intimate understanding means that you grasp both the 10,000 foot view and get your hands dirty on the front lines.
3) Invite a variety of talent to your teams.
No matter how much you try not to, there will inevitably be a handful of trusted direct reports and colleagues who you want to involve in every project. Unless you want to lose those assets, don't do it.
Formal teams, such as the executive team or the finance team, should not be the go-to team structure. Their views are biased based on what they have in common and any decisions that impact "others" will fall flat.
Regardless of whether your project campaigns are occurring simultaneously or years apart, always recruit fresh talent. While having one status meeting and managing only a few personalities is easier in the short term, each project's outcomes are further diluted by the number of repeat players. Like yours, their time, energy, creativity, and focus is limited.
Plus, if you are going to create greater and greater impact, you are going to need to consistently source new leaders and engagement from all levels of the organization. Project teams are excellent staging grounds.
4) Continuously source and meld ideas.
You may believe you have the perfect solution, but its not only highly unlikely, it's also a surefire way to kill your influence factor, which means that implementation will inevitably fail.
Always ask for ideas. Whether you're holding a focus group or having lunch with a colleague and regardless of what phase a project is in, ask for perspective and genuinely emphasize the value of their opinion.
As you meld ideas together or act on advice, give credit where credit is due and be sure to include everyone in the celebrating milestones, even if their advice fell flat.
Ultimately, these activities become your full-time job as a leader. They build on one another and generate highly impactful and sustainable results. With greater impact comes greater confidence and momentum to tackle the next priority.