Our study of managers and what they most want to know about leadership gives us a
rather important insight into their ‘psyche.’ On a whole range of topics, they often have questions about their overall effectiveness, their methods, and their aptitude, as they seek answers to “what they can do to get better at their job, and what it would take to be
Let’s begin by looking at three prerequisites of effectiveness.
Prerequisite #1: Highly Engaged
Recently, I was told about “Back Door Bob.” This was a boss who had a reputation for
avoiding his staff by regularly slipping in and out of the back door to the office. Employees who needed to ask a question, get a decision, or simply discuss something, would have to keep one eye on their work, and one eye on the back door in order to catch him coming in. Because, if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be long before he slipped back out and disappeared.
Bad plan Bob. You may think that people interrupt your work, but leadership teaches us
that “people are our work.” To be fully effective, you need to be available and interested in interacting with others. If you avoid people you’re avoiding your job. So get engaged, be present and accounted for.
Let’s consider the next example.
Prerequisite #2: High Standards
This boss was nearly the polar opposite of Bob in that he was highly available to his team, but lost his effectiveness because he was more interested in control than performance.
The individuals he supervised were responsible for completing their daily assignment of projects. The team was composed of a diverse group of workers who had different certifications and job skills, as well as having general expertise outside of their specialties and primary strengths. Since each project required a unique combination of skills, members were very quick to recognize who on the team could best assist them on a particular assignment. But, their requests for specific individuals to help
were commonly brushed off. The boss didn’t want them making any decisions
independent of his direction. He was entirely consumed by the self-interest of
being the ‘unquestioned’ leader (i.e. not allowing anything to happen unless he
personally “blessed it,” and gave instructions to do it). Oftentimes, his
workers felt his decisions were arbitrary, showed favoritism, and generally ignored
Bad plan. Micromanagement is mismanagement.
Managers need the wisdom and maturity to set high standards of performance, and then get out of the way. Effective leaders release the potential in people to reach a progressively higher level of capability and output. Performance shouldn’t be undermined and sacrificed to satisfy the boss’ own ego.
One final example.
Prerequisite #3: Higher Purpose
At a recent seminar, one of the attendees explained to me how his job was so broad,
and so general, as to give him and his peers little focus. Their responsibilities
were to essentially “keep an eye on things, and investigate wherever he felt
necessary.” His conclusion was that overly nebulous objectives introduce a
certain weakness in performance, causing the team to suffer a loss of energy,
motivation, and commitment.
In that environment, how could one determine their personal and group effectiveness? The problem was an inability to establish a set of identifiable outcomes (metrics),
which would give them some way to calculate their progress and efficacy.
He decided to go back and clearly reestablish their “purpose,” which would help reinforce
why they existed and what they were meant to get done. When employees understand their purpose they have a more profound satisfaction in their work, are more “on-task,” and are more compelled to attain their goals.
Being highly engaged. Having high standards. And serving a higher purpose. Three
essentials and prerequisites to effectiveness that no one should overlook.
Improving Your Effectiveness
If you ask yourself the question, “Am I effective?,” you need some way to judge it. Your organization will in most cases have a set of stated metrics you will be measured on – and your results compared to the standards that have been set.
But, it’s also important to have your own internal indicators (intuitive awareness)
that helps you to see “improvements” that are more easily felt than measured. Figure
out if your company, unit, agency, or team is making progress and becoming more
capable, more qualified, more adept, more … whatever it is that you’re trying
A combination of organizational performance measures and your own intuitive
insights will help you determine if your group is moving forward, backward, or stagnating.
In most cases, progress is success. Once you know what’s happening, you can act
Effective leaders are always striving to move their capabilities in one direction –
– Jerry Strom
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This article is based on *‘The High Points Survey: What Managers Most Want to Know about Leadership,’ copyright 2012, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Download the
White Paper at: http://www.jerrystrom.com/js_high-points.html