1. Hire smart people— 
Then require them to funnel all decisions through you for your approval.

Okay, you’re an intelligent and savvy business owner, so you naturally hired intelligent people! Job description up‐to‐date and in place? (Expectations established and verbalized upfront?) Check. (If not, THAT’S Step #1!) Then quit micro‐managing and let them navigate the decisions. But keep in mind, part of growing talent in others is allowing them to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Set the expectations and the accountability upfront! When handing off any additional project assignments, discuss the project parameters and the expected outcomes—upfront. Then let them work within those parameters to get the job done. While it may not be the exact way you might go about the task(s), allow them to use their own creativity to accomplish the previously agreed‐upon outcomes.

2. Tell them you’ve got their back—
Then stay unusually silent when they try to get buy‐in from others. 

Yes, it’s great to say you’ve got their back, but do you really? Even when their decision is different than what you would have done? It’s one thing to stay silent and let them explain their plan; but when the dust settles on the conversation, they need to hear you say you are solidly behind them—and back up your words with your actions.

3. Discuss and agree upon mutual deadlines for your team—
Then create a pattern of not holding every team member accountable.

Here is where you can lose some of your best people! Accountability is a big deal. When realistic deadlines are set, your best people will cross the proverbial mountains and oceans to deliver. But when you don’t hold every person to the same standard, even great employees will begin to feel resentful as they watch others neglect the deadline and still get a pass from you. Go ahead‐‐ Do set deadlines (realistic ones). But make sure you are the one who follows through in holding every one accountable!

4. Tell them their input is valuable—
Then state (through your words or actions) that you’ve already made up your mind.

Many times leaders start out with great intentions—to hear the team’s input. But hearing and listening are two different things. When you walk into a meeting, ask for input, then turn around and state that you’ve already made up your mind—you take away the creative incentive for anyone else to think. Once you start overriding all ideas with your ideas, you will lose valuable individual contributions. No one will want to think—or think differently from you—since it has already been perceived as a waste of time which will only get shot down in the long run.

5. Create policies by which everyone has to abide— 
Then don’t abide by them yourself – simply because your title says you can!

When leaders say one thing and do the opposite, credibility and trust are easily and quickly eroded. As past generations used to say, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!” If policies are created for the welfare of all, then all should follow suit—no matter your organizational rank. If you want to be seen as a leader that others want to follow, then walk where your people walk! That’s called integrity and servant leadership.

6. Hold weekly team meetings— 
Then have the meetings that never end due to your failure to compile and follow a written agenda.

We’ve all been there—those meetings that go on and on while you look at your watch and mentally plan how to make your escape!  Leadership begins with the end in mind. Know what needs to be discussed. Get it on the agenda and send it out ahead of time. If you need a longer meeting to discuss priority items, then plan for it. Not only will your meetings start and end on time, but people will actually come prepared to discuss the topics, stay engaged, and effectively and productively get business done!

7. Tell them to communicate with you if they’re facing any barriers—
Then get upset with them when they tell you that YOU are the barrier!

Communication that is consistent, honest, and transparent is one of the most valuable traits that leaders need from their people and need to give to their people. Never over‐look the benefits that can be gained by time spent clarifying questions, prioritizing deadlines, and discussing barriers. And with those conversations, keep in mind that what you are doing might be the barrier. You hired intelligent people who also want to see your organization succeed. Conversations about barriers and changes to the past ways of thinking may actually be what is needed to get you from where you are to where you want to be as an organization.  It is only through an open line of communication that you allow others the opportunity to be successful as they aim to meet expectations, deadlines, and goals. And it is only through honest communication that you KEEP your best people and build the trust needed to work cohesively as a team.„

Kathleen M. Randall

Kathleen M. Randall, CSP, works with businesses whose profitability and customer loyalty is dependent upon the people they employ to represent them. As an organizational communication strategist, Kathleen helps business owners, managers, and customer service employees grow relevant and highly productive skills through interactive training, executive coaching consulting, and speaking presentations.