Think of the tough tests you’ve had to face in your life and you’ll have an idea of the challenge that leaders at every level face in the workplace.
- Few weddings launch troubled marriages. The couple starts out with plans and hopes and dreams and then gets tested with the first job loss, illness, major or a seemingly intractable difference of opinion.
- New parents envision making memories that look more like the 30 and 60 second heartwarming commercials that cover the airways. They rarely dream of jail time, mental illness, sickness or substance abuse.
- The boss hires engaged employees with talent and drive who will be innovative in their efforts to accomplish the mission of the organization and make the vision of success a reality. No one hopes for gridlock, idiosyncratic personality traits, drama, and skill gaps.
What these all have in common is the dream vs. reality approach that keeps us moving forward – however unprepared. This year – why not adopt a dream AND reality approach?
Instead of assuming that compliance and cooperation are yours, hope you’ll get it AND presume that not everyone thinks as you do. Imagine that you have hired adults who have minds of their own and ideas or solutions they think might work even better than yours will. You might have employees who have never been given improvement feedback so they have no idea where the skill gaps are.
Forget about making people do what you want – it’s magical thinking and tends to waste precious time. And frankly, it’s hard enough to make YOU do what you want all the time (It’s the first full week of January – how are those New Year’s resolutions holding up!?) Instead get better at managing your time so that you have the time to invest in developing relationships where you can listen and convey respect. You gain the respect you crave by giving it to others. Pay attention, ask questions, and work to get to a deeper level of understanding. Carve out the time this requires.
Have a vision that everyone can work towards AND carry the flag and tell them your vision often. People will follow those who lead but if you don’t paint a compelling picture of where you are leading them, they won’t. It’s that simple. And no – once isn’t enough. Carry the flag for the whole journey.
Be aware of the problems you face AND stop complaining them. While people want to know where the challenges and hurdles are, focus on what is going right. Most people prefer to be in the company of someone who is upbeat.
Appreciate what people are doing AND make sure that you are not doing it silently! Recognize the value of people and their actions and skills out loud so they can hear you. Everyone likes to be recognized and people are motivated and put their energies where they will be noticed.
I think living by the words of the great Mel Brooks is a very wise way to start out the year – so for 2013, make sure you do BOTH: “Hope for the best, expect the worst!”