The Obligation of Leaders: Three Tips for Success

In our hectic lives, we tend to let our “work” dictate the direction and priorities we focus on during our working hours – we slip slide into the bad habit of letting the routine and mechanics of the minutia control our time and course. I believe one of my top objectives in working with leaders is to help them adjust their thinking and focus on what’s really important. To maximize the impact, I believe that as senior leaders in an organization, our primary obligations are to our direct reports.

These obligations to our direct reports are threefold:

  1. We need to provide a simple, definitive vision of where we’re going and how we’ll get there (our collaborative goals).
  2. We need to make it crystal clear what they’re accountable for and how they will contribute to the organization’s success.
  3. We need to ensure they have the proper time (often this means our time as a coach), treasures (financial resources), and talent (human capital) to successfully execute their obligations.

When we do this well, the results an organization achieves are nothing short of spectacular.

I like to say that a senior leader is very similar to the symphony conductor – they can’t physically play all the instruments at the same time (or even one) and conduct well. The conductor must define the piece the orchestra plays, coach and empower the success of each section, then coordinate all the sections to play together, achieving a common goal: a perfect performance that’s greater than any singular person could ever play.

Just as a conductor once played an instrument, they must now let that go of that and focus on building the symphony. So must a senior leader. The difference is it can become quite easy in business to slip back into old habits, take over for others, solve problems, and get lost in the day-to-day tasks. However, when the leader steps back to focus on their primary obligation, beautiful music can be heard.

I’ve come to believe that helping leaders understand and embrace this is one of my primary duties as their trusted advisor and senior leadership coach.

Here are three tips to help leaders stay out the weeds and propel their teams towards success:

  1. Before doing a task, ask yourself, “Just because I can do this, should I?” If the answer is ‘no’, identify who should be doing that task. Talk with them, train them, delegate the task, and follow up.
  2. Prioritize some quiet time. I’ve written several times about clarity breaks, which involve taking time for yourself to allow your subconscious to help solve the issues you face. It works. Carving out this time and creating the space will empower you to better help your teams.
  3. Walk the halls. Make yourself more available by roaming the common areas of your office. Try to catch your people doing or saying something great and let them know you noticed. This increased communication and check-in will help you to identify where you may be able to offer coaching or help. Remember, always praise in public and criticize in private.

These are three small things that will begin having a monumental impact on your teams. I can honestly say that this hasn’t always been a strength of mine. One trick I’ve found that helps is putting random reminders in my calendar. Something like, “Just because I can, does it mean I should?” or “Clarity break” or “Walk the halls”. Keep in mind that we have to manage ourselves, and repetition is a great way to learn. Listing these “random” reminders can have a hugely positive effect on both your personal and professional life. Nobody needs to know how you got there…but they’ll like the results.

Looking to lift your team leaders? Interested in learning how to expand your leadership? We can help! Reach out to us today for a no-obligation consultation.

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