Scenario One: A key employee leaves your company. As you begin to assess the work and status of various projects the individual was responsible for, you begin to discover things that are disturbing and quite different from what you thought was being done. Projects were far from complete. You learn of conversations that undermined your leadership and created division within your team. You scratch your head and wonder how all this was happening under your nose.
Scenario Two: You have some long-term employees who have become increasingly and openly resistant to change. In fact, they’re outright ignoring change initiatives. You see it. Everyone sees it. It’s been going on for some time and has become the norm. You feel as though they’re holding you hostage. Your frustration hovers near the breaking point. Then, they quit without notice and open a competing business. You feel blindsided and as you discover the elements of their plot, you wonder how all of this was happening under your nose.
These two scenarios are played out in business every day. They are as commonplace as sunrise and sunset. When they happen to you, the feelings of deceit, betrayal and broken trust can be crushing. You will certainly recover. The question is, how can you protect yourself from this happening again?
Here are six no-compromise strategies to help you know what’s really going on in your company:
- Process what you’re really seeing: Leaders have an innate ability to seemingly see 360 degrees at once. They read body language and voice intonation. They can see when things aren’t quite so right. When leaders really understand what they’re seeing, they are connected to their team and to the company. When they see the good stuff, they need to acknowledge that good stuff. And when they see the not-good and questionable stuff, they need to engage and address it. I’m not suggesting that you pounce on problems. I’m suggesting that you process what you’re seeing and address those red flags expeditiously. I’d rather fix a problem than a crisis.
- Avoid autopilot syndrome: It’s so easy for leaders to be distracted by new projects. Maybe you’re just tired, feeling a bit burned out and want to kick back a little. Businesses can’t run with the necessary level of urgency and efficiency for extended periods when set on autopilot. Autopilot essentially means leadership is not paying attention. Minds wander and things gradually slow down. And if things slow down, they rarely, if ever, pick up speed. Extended periods on autopilot are an invitation for stuff to happen that will take time and energy to clean up. Avoid autopilot.
- Know where it’s at: Checking in is a leadership responsibility. This is the opposite of autopilot. Taking time to check in on your team members to see their progress, where their projects are – and where they’re stuck – is the work of leadership. Think “Weight Watchers.” The focal point of their program is the weekly weigh-in. You either followed the diet and lost weight or cheated and didn’t. Weekly check-ins are a powerful accountability tool. Asking, “Where are you stuck?” is a way to keep it safe for employees to bring up challenges. It’s all about leadership engagement.
- Building trust takes work: All leaders want to be trusted. To gain trust, you must extend trust. I can write volumes on this topic, but things like integrity, keeping promises, transparency, compassion, lending a hand, keeping your ego in check, no double standards, and servant leadership form the foundation of a high-trust culture. Yes, it takes work. Yes, trust may still be compromised. Yes, you must keep working at building trust every day.
- Hesitate and you lose: Problems never fix themselves. A Neilism: “Ignore a problem today and you have a bigger problem to fix tomorrow.” Problems come in all shapes and sizes. Some are due to faulty or poorly followed systems. Others can be highly emotional and sensitive. Another Neilism: “If it needs to be done – get it done.” That’s the essence of no-compromise leadership. Observe, gather the facts and data, process – and then engage. Deal with the tough stuff early and you’ll avoid the surprises later.
- Protect the vision: It’s always about the vision. It’s always about what the company stands for and strives for. As leader, you are protector of the company vision. You cannot delegate this responsibility. It’s yours to own and master. Hold the company vision high for all to see. Describe it in high definition. Give examples of it in action. Keep it pristine. Honor your company’s vision. It’s your dream and it’s worth fighting for. No compromise.
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