Everyday ABCs Of Leadership

This article originally appeared in the Saratoga Business Journal.

As we build the new normal and reconstruct our economy, let’s take a moment to get back to the basics. Whether you are an owner, foreman, manager or director, there are three things that every leader needs to be doing to make the most of every day. Bring the ABCs to the jobsite.

A – Avoid Busy-ness.

“Quick, look busy, here comes the boss.” It’s so classic it’s almost a cartoon, and yet most of us fall into this trap of “busy-ness” on a regular basis. Is it enough to “keep the guys working?” Well, are they doing profitable work? What do you really know about an office worker’s “production” by walking by their desk? When so many switched to work from home, did you lose a sense of knowing what they were doing?

Do you know what drives the profit in your business?

What key activities should be done each week and who is responsible for accomplishing those actions?

You need information now, not at the end of the quarter. Maintain a weekly scorecard listing the priority activities, the goal, and who is responsible for making them happen.

B – Boss Mode.

You are not leading a social group or choosing a restaurant for dinner. It’s important to make your expectations known. Imagine that you are coaching a basketball team. It’s your job to clarify the rules of the game. Do you really want all of the players running together in a pack playing offense and defense simultaneously? How can your team deliver if they don’t know exactly what’s expected?

Put the needs of the business first when you are working in the business. You will all need to practice, practice, practice. Repeat yourself and your expectations. And remember, coaching and cheerleading are not the same thing. You are the coach. Be specific with your praise, recognition of opportunity, and acknowledgement of effort.

C – Call to listen.

It’s common for an article like this one to talk about the need for “communication.” While true enough, such advice is hardly actionable. The best leaders establish a listening routine.

Your people are much more likely to open up when the opportunity predictably presents itself. Imagine the difference between these two scenes. One leader swoops in like a sea gull. They drop some messy “knowledge” in the way sea gulls tend to do and then ask, “so what’s up? What’s new? And did you see the game last night?” as they check their phone and continue walking.

The other one calls their staff member every Thursday at 8:30 a.m., or maybe they have a standing coffee date. They exchange quick stats or updates, then the leader listens to whatever their employee thinks is important. Smart managers take time to find ways they can improve the work environment, the core processes, and the end results.

As simple as these suggestions may sound, they are commonly not followed. Many of us try not to “be the bad guy” and instead let the players decide on the rules of the game. Somewhere along the line we associated “busy” with “profitable.” And even the most conscious of us can be guilty of being that person who only calls when they need something.

The best leaders recognize that these simple actions yield powerful results in every work environment.