Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

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Helping Others Keep Their Job and Build Cache

Volume: December 2008

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com

This holiday season Kris finds himself embroiled in the prickliest economic environment he has ever experienced. He was promoted to upper management of a publicly-traded company two years ago. His career, to-date, has been brimming with great accomplishments. Kris began his career during the recession of the early 1980’s, and he was a junior leader during the economic slowdown of 1991, but this is the first time he has been in a high-profile leadership position during some exceedingly challenging economic times. Kris is struggling with what to do. On the one hand, he wants to project pragmatic optimism about his company’s current situation and prospects. However, he fears that additional personnel cutbacks and belt-tightening are on the horizon. He wants to be honest, he wants to be fair, and he wants to increase productivity – all at the same time.

What to do, what to do? Many of you may find yourself in some semblance of Kris’s situation. You may be confused about just what to communicate, and uncomfortable with driving people for better results.

There are several actions that I recommend you consider. First and foremost is to focus on things that you and your team can control. I have pretty much been a broken record in this area. Trust me, the “control what you can control” band will play on. Other actions to consider involve sharing with your people what behaviors you expect. Two sets of recommended communications follow.

Set one includes behaviors that you expect your team members not to embrace or to jettison if they possess these symptoms.

  1. Leave nay-saying at the door. Negativity is the last thing we need in the workplace right now. Instead, encourage your people to be a positive influence on morale by focusing on actions that will have a positive result. At the same time, be pragmatically optimistic about their work situation, as well as your company’s future.
  2. Avoid gossip. Stressful times are a breeding ground for grapevine material. Implore people to not get sucked in to juicy rumors and delicious speculations. Gossip is always filled with misinformation and is fraught with untruths. Remember leaders, now is the time to over-communicate! Keeping team members well informed of your company’s successes, hurdles, and strategies will result in stunting the growth of the grapevine and increasing productivity.
  3. Don’t be invisible. Challenge your team members to non-intrusively increase their visibility. Help them with ideas such as requesting to work on special projects, serving on feedback committees, or volunteering for community projects. Let them know it is okay to arrive a few minutes earlier than normal, or to stay a few minutes later, as long as they can avoid overtime – unless it is previously approved.

Now, on to behavior set two which focuses on increasing personal impact in the workplace.    

  1. Be collaborative. Establish and reinforce working agreements. Encourage people to reach out to peers, leaders, and subordinates in order to clearly understand their expectations, and to clearly articulate your team member’s expectations of them. Note: The topic of creating powerful working agreements is covered in detail in my book, Leadership Simplified. A training session is also offered on audio or DVD through the Productivity Store at www.leadershipsimplified.com.
  2. Have clear priorities. Request that your team members make a list of their top five or ten business priorities and then compare their list against yours. Any disconnects between the lists are probably the root cause of tension or workplace arguments. In order to reach a better alignment of priorities, discuss the differences and negotiate meaningful compromises.
  3. Smart delegation. Tasks can be assigned in any direction: up, down, and sideways. Encourage your people to look for opportunities to effectively delegate. At the same time, be open to items that are delegated to you. During the delegation process, keep some of the following factors in mind: clear instructions, available resources, your availability, and the issuance of proper authority. Remember leaders: delegation is a means to grow and develop people, as well as to develop yourself in the process.

Now we come to our bonus tip of the day:

Bonus tip of the day: have everyone on your team update their resume or list three skills that they possess that you don’t know about. Review the information. Think creatively about your business or work unit. Are there skills and abilities right under your nose that could be used to broaden your product offerings? Are there new products or service lines that could be created that would offer a complimentary cross-sale?

Leaders, do not lose your creativity or aggressiveness just because we are being faced with challenges. Lead, create, communicate – and include your people every step of the way.

Please think strategically about how to position the aforementioned thoughts and actions in your world. Then, deliver value by helping your team members, helping your organization, and helping yourself.      

Be well, think pragmatically-positive, and don’t drink too much eggnog this holiday season!

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and communication consultant, executive coach, and business planner. His book, Leadership Simplified, as well as audios and video are available at the Productivity Store of www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or at 941-776-1121. 

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