The Unspoken Truth About Leadership
Imagine you’re finally living out your dream. Your business is thriving, profitable, and you’ve got a team to serve all your valued customers. Now put yourself in a typical work day as you’re living out this dream. As a leader, are you…
- Sitting outside by the pool working on your laptop without interruption?
- Staying at a villa in a faraway location teaching your signature program while your team runs everything else?
- On a Zoom meeting with your team listening to how you’re the best person they’ve ever worked with in their entire career?
- None of those things because your team is so good and independent that you rarely even have to check in with them.
- None of those things, but it’s what you’re aiming for.
Here’s the hard truth. You will most likely have opportunities to create those moments and even have some of those opportunities last for a period of time. But for most people, that’s not the reality. So let’s get honest about what it really means to be a leader. Here are a few common myths about leadership and the unspoken truth:
“I need to be freed up so I can lead.”
First off, what does that even mean? I suspect if you’re a parent it’s a little like saying, “I need my kids to take care of themselves so I can parent!” As you know, you don’t get to separate the two. (To be clear, I’m not comparing leadership to parenting.) Leadership is not a ticket to sit back and watch the show. If you’re leading, you’ll find most days you are not freed up. What you’re freed up from in the day-to-day tasks gets replaced with fulfilling your role as a leader. That means keeping a pulse on what’s going on in your business so that your team has the tools and resources they need to succeed. It means creating a business culture with regular check-ins, having hard conversations, celebrating wins, and listening to honest feedback. It means giving to your team in a way that consistently shows how much they matter to you and your business success, so they feel inspired and motivated to go the extra mile. It means putting people first.
“I don’t want to work this hard.”
I’ve yet to meet an effective leader who doesn’t work their backside off on a regular basis. Being a leader often means you work a lot harder than everyone else, especially if you own the business. If you don’t want to work this hard, that’s ok. Good for you for being honest! But here’s what you should know: If you’re not inspired to lead, it’s unfair to expect your team to feel more inspired than the person running the show.
“I need my team to do their jobs and know when to bring me in. Not after things get bad.”
This may hurt a little, but if you’re not sitting down with your team on a regular basis and talking about what’s working, what’s not working, and asking where they need support, this is on you. If you are doing all of those things and your team still isn’t performing, it’s still on you. Why are you working with people who are not fulfilling the requirements of the job? Leadership does not mean you let other people run the day-to-day and then get to blame them if there’s an error. Remember this: It ALWAYS rolls up to you. Think about that for a minute. Now think about how your business is performing. You may find you’re right on track and that’s great! But in most cases, you’ll see at least one area where you can improve.
I’ve been leading and working with teams for more than 20 years. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Leadership means there will be days when you’ll still feel like you’re doing it all. It also means there will be days when you feel like you have the easiest job in the world.
- Leadership is HARD. Not always, but sometimes. Especially when you care about the people on your team. (Side note: You should always care about the people on your team.) If you’re going to complain about it more than you don’t, choose another path. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok!
- Hiring the right people doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong or mistakes don’t get made. We’re human beings If you’re striving for a perfect team, you’re setting yourself up for a let down. Hiring the right people means you have the opportunity to create a great experience together, that translates to a great experience for your customers. Now that’s something to celebrate!
If you want people to succeed, you’ve got to set them up for success.
- Meet with them on their first day (over video or in person is preferred) and go over expectations, the agreed upon job description or scope of work, and provide any relevant information or training to help them start off feeling inspired and prepared about the work and the company.
- Meet with your team on a regular basis to discuss best practices, company goals, and celebrate milestones. Be sure to also set aside time to discuss challenges and opportunities for improvement. Your team sees things from a different point of view because they are in the day to day and can see things you may not see. Use it as an opportunity to get feedback on how you can provide an even better experience to your community and customers.
- Have hard conversations. Challenges, failures, the launch that flopped, that thing “so and so” said, the unanswered emails, client complaints, etc. Separate the emotion from the facts and talk through them. See where things can be handled more effectively and be willing to accept responsibility for your part. (Yes, you’ll always have a part. It’s in the fine print of the worldwide leadership brochure.) Some of the best and most profitable ideas come from the most difficult challenges and conversations. Also, be willing to separate the feelings from the facts, but not your compassion. Always remain compassionate. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about how you’d want them to have a similar conversation with you.
So there you have it. Do these things and everything will run smoothly forever. Of course not! Leadership isn’t an easy three step fix. It’s a process and like any relationship, there are cycles. If you want to spend the majority of your time in a healthy and effective leadership cycle, stay consistent in these areas and you’ll see how quickly it improves your relationships with your team, your company culture, and business results.