When you create a high performance car every tiny screw and nut is there for a purpose, when one goes missing the car may continue to function for a while, but eventually something is going to go wrong. In the same way, it doesn’t matter how senior or junior a team member’s position may be, they’re still an important part of the team.
If an accounts clerk is having an off day and answers the phone to a customer with an invoice enquiry in anything less than the expected tone of voice, that means that customer gets a less than world class service.
A manager who is frequently late or leaves early can have a negative effect on the team. It sets a precedent – and there’s an unspoken message that 100% commitment isn’t necessary.
If a junior member of staff needs to improve, their line manager is in a position to help them to do that. If a manager needs to improve, who will help them?
The argument may be that there is a top dog who is responsible for making sure everyone is doing their bit – the Chief Executive or Managing Director, but who keeps them up to scratch?
Communication works both ways
No matter what your position is in the organisation, the only way to become an inspiring leader is to be open and to accept constructive criticism from the people who work in your team. There are two aspects to this – firstly to encourage and allow people to give you feedback; secondly to keep an open mind and a closed mouth when you receive it.
At first junior members of staff and even some of your senior team will be reluctant to say it as it is, especially to someone more senior. However, this is something that you must encourage everyone to do – at every level. Not just giving feedback to you, but also to other team members, regardless of seniority. That means you aren’t the only one who will have to learn to accept feedback.
It’s easy to see it as criticism – and in some instances it is – but it’s also an opportunity to improve things. Teach your team (and yourself) to deliver feedback in a way that opens the door for improvement.
My take on it is to listen, keep quiet and resist the urge to bite back. Then you can reflect carefully on what’s been said and how it impacts on the team and the organisation – and respond. Letting it be known that feedback that indicates a change is needed should be accompanied by some ideas on how that might be done will put a more positive accent on the discussion.
Often the people with the best insights are those actually doing a particular job. Even if you used to do that job at one time, they’re operating on today’s data and experience. Encourage them to continuously look for areas of innovation and improvement. Recognise that feedback is part of that process of positive development.
An inspiring leader doesn’t shut themselves away in an ivory tower only communicating from on high; they get in amongst it and talk to people at every level of the organisation. Get to know people and they’ll trust you and share their thoughts with you.
An inspired team, working in a culture of open communication and confident in the positive application of feedback, will be inspired to rise to any challenge. Getting people involved in the generation of ideas, planning their implementation and keeping track of results is the fastest way to build a world class organisation. As a direct result, everyone will win.