Leadership can be hard, don't make it harder for yourself.

Staff Writer

Whenever I start to work with a new company on helping to improve their leadership, the first thing I like to do is study them in action and get feedback on how they are perceived as leaders by their teams.

Leadership can be difficult, but I am always amazed by the number of people who make it harder than it needs to be by forgetting some simple basics.

Here are nine things to remember about leadership, that will stop you from making it more difficult for yourself than it needs to be, and help you become a better leader.

1 – As you don’t do much of the actual work, focus on making life easier for your teams, rather than harder.

A leaders role is to increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of their teams to drive improvements. But adding unnecessary bureaucracy, holding long boring meetings – especially those which could be replaced by an information email, or requesting reams and reams of reports that no one is going to read doesn’t fall into this category.

One of my former bosses you to insist on having afternoon meetings that started at 2 pm and would often run until well beyond 8oclock. These were just talking shops, often with him doing much of the talking. There was very little direction setting, decision making or support that was forthcoming. Even worse he forbid the use of laptops as he wanted everyone to be fully present, which meant that many had to work long into the even to catch up on work that had been missed and emails received.

2 – Your team of experts probably knows more about their job than you, so stop telling them how to do it

As the leader you’re not expected to be an expert on everything, in fact, you’re expected to be an expert on leadership and getting the best out of your teams. One of the best ways to do that is to tell your teams what you want, what outcomes you are looking for and then leave them to determine the best way to achieve the goal.

Few things disengage teams more than having their sense of value and self-worth devalued because the boss limits their contribution to just following their instructions.

3 – It doesn’t matter how long you stand behind someone; it doesn’t make them work any faster

Micro-management is a productivity killer, not only that but once you create a reputation for it, people will be reluctant to come and work for you, and many of you’re existing staff will look to leave.

You have to give your teams the space and freedom to succeed. It’s ok to check up on how they are doing, just not every fifteen minutes.

4 – If you give a job to someone who does have the skills, the time, or the tools to do it properly then it’s your fault if they fail

As leaders, it’s your job to put your teams into a position where they can and successful. If they lack some key component, then you need to be addressing it. People won’ accept accountability if either they don’t feel they can do the job, or that they don’t have everything they need to do it. If that’s the situation they find themselves in, then you haven’t done your job.

5 – Mistakes happen, it’s how people learn. If you punish everyone who makes a mistake, then people will stop trying.

Mistakes happen, and we need to be able to differentiate whether they were made out of negligence, or whether there was some reason for it happening. In the case of negligence then maybe you need to take action. In my experience, these cases are few and far between, and you need to be creating a safe environment where people can try new things without the fear of reprisals. Otherwise, you will stifle innovations and risk-taking both of which are key to growth.

6 – Good work/life balance applies to employees as well as management

You need to be taking care of the health and well being of your teams, keep an eye on excessive hours and weekend working.

Don’t create plans that rely on weekend and evening working, because when things start to go awry, and they will, the hours worked can get crazy. It’s also good to encourage people to go home if it’s getting late, especially if you are leaving. Nothing builds up resentment in a team like the boss leaving at 5 or 6 with the team having to do late working to meet the schedule.

People will appreciate you more if you look after their work-life balance rather than just take them for granted.

7 – It costs you nothing to say “good job, well done,” and you never know it might encourage them to do it again

Recognition is one of the best tools in a leaders arsenal, firstly it costs you nothing, second, it’s actually easy to do, and thirdly it will motivate people to work harder. Everyone needs to feel like they did a good job, and recognition lets them know this. Don’t wait until people have done an unbelievable job before you praise them, start by recognizing their effort because when you do that, it won’t be long before you recognize bigger and better achievements.

8 – You’re job doesn’t end once the orders are given, that’s actually when it starts

Leadership is not just about giving the orders. It’s about putting your teams in a position where they can be successful, supporting them on the journey by removing any roadblocks they encounter, and then recognizing them for achieving the success.

9 – If you don’t do the lions share of the work, you don’t get the lions share of the credit.

There are very few things that kill the relationship between a leader and their team than stealing the credit for a good job well done by them. I use the world steal deliberately as that is exactly how your team will see this, and it will have damaging consequences for your relationship with them.

Remember you’re a leader, not a pirate, you’re not entitled to the largest share of the credit.

In fact, I would encourage you to give all the credit to the team not only appreciate that, but they will also appreciate and respect you more as a leader.

Don’t make leadership any harder than it has to be, these simple reminders are not only easy to implement but they will have a very positive impact on both results and your reputation.