Effective management and leadership can be difficult. There are days (and nights) when external motivation or internal inspiration is lacking, and you feel directionless. That is not a luxury you can afford if you are serious about managing better and leading well.
Here are thirty actions you can take to get you back on track. Pick one a day or one a week, depending on how far you feel you have drifted off course.
Share this list, and tell me your favorites.
1. Who will you go out of your way to praise today?
You might think someone is doing a good job, but telling them makes all the difference. Say it. Let someone feel recognized because they matter, what they are doing matters and it’s making a difference. Authentically praising people IS your job.
2. Does your team have the tools they need to succeed?
If you are fortunate enough to have a team helping you achieve your goals, make sure you equip them with tools for success. It could be training, reducing bureaucracy, or an adequate supply of red pens — anything that stands in the way of their success is your responsibility. Always find ways to remove their obstacles.
3. Start caring about your team, your organization, your clients, your legacy. Start to give a crap.
On average, 50-65% of managers do not give a crap. Managers do not care about their direct reports, the organization that pays them, and they do not particularly care about you: their leader. Now, if you are a jackhole like them, maybe you don’t care either and if that’s the case, look forward to the eventual demise of your organization.
If you DO care, start giving a crap.
- CARE – Care about your direct reports, your clients, and your boss. If you Do not, you are doing your job wrong and either improve or resign from your position.
- RECOGNIZE – If you cannot make the time to recognize people who are helping you achieve the goals you are responsible for, find ways to return to be an individual contributor, because you are not demonstrating a basic component of effective leadership.
- ACCOUNTABILITY – The most difficult person to hold accountable is yourself. You make and break promises to yourself all the time. Polish your integrity. Honor your commitments and your mistakes. Instead of passing blame, accept and fix a problem.
- PERSIST – Do not abdicate your leadership when it gets too hard or uncomfortable. Persist. Don’t succumb to apathy when things do not immediately go your way. Persist. Know your true north — keep an eye on your moral compass, and continue driving toward what you know is right, despite any obstacles (self-imposed or otherwise).
There are plenty of strong, effective leaders. Unfortunately, many effective leaders do not hold positional power. That’s okay. Strong leadership has never needed a title. It is most attracted to those who give a crap.
4. Ensure your employees feel valued, so they ensure your customers feel valued because if your customers don’t feel valued, you lose.
Make sure you focus on the right things. When you lead, you serve your customer, client, patient, member, constituent, or user, not the other way around.
5. Either find the time to have meaningful and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with members of your team, or reconsider how you use the word “manager.”
If you cannot find the time to sit down with your team individually and learn more about their needs, obstacles, ideas, and status on their goals, you need to reevaluate where you are spending your time and begin to make adjustments – fast.
6. Roll up your sleeves and genuinely help your team today. Make time to listen, remove their obstacles, and sing their praises.
If you cannot make the time to consider your team, work on your time management skills. If you cannot be bothered, it would be best to reevaluate the utility of your role.
7. Your environment is a mirror of what you have created, Want a different view? Start with you.
You can argue about whether your external environment matches your internal thoughts, or if your internal thoughts create your exterior results, the bottom line is, they are linked close enough to influence each other. If you don’t like the environment you’ve created, change your surroundings.
8. Today, find what’s right (or approximately right) and praise progress.
Don’t cast a blind eye to mistakes, but do not provide them more attention than all the achievements (big or small) you have made along the way.
9. The best of intentions are still only intentions. To make an impact, you have to actually do something.
Don’t stop at your intention – make it happen!
10. Stop doing dumb things.
Find a process or system that everyone agrees has outlived its usefulness and put it to an end. Either stop it quietly and see if anyone notices, or have a big funeral to bury it. Remember, every solution creates another problem, so make sure you upgrade your problems.
11. You are successful when you lead people from “a-ha” to “no-duh.”
At first, people don’t know things. Connect the dots for them and do it repeatedly. Sometimes, you’re caught in an endless loop, and your work colleagues still don’t understand something. When you repeat your message, they will suddenly understand, perhaps roll their eyes and say something like, “Everybody knows that.” Only then will you know you’re successful.
12. Do not get so hung up on your “truth” that you miss everyone else’s reality.
The world is full of disinformation. It’s not a new phenomenon, information is just more accessible. While it is crucial that you live an authentic life and act congruent with your values, don’t insist that your path is the only correct one. Your life values are not necessarily the easiest, or most difficult, wisest or even economically sensible for anyone but you. Don’t be blind to the personal experiences of others.
13. Communicate your plan frequently. Telepathy doesn’t cut it.
If you like planning, you spend a lot of time on your plans — more than anyone else. So it’s easy to forget that other people may have no idea what you are trying to achieve because they are not in your head. Communicate, in many ways over many days.
14. Produce more than you consume.
Do more than expected. Not for the money, for the mind. Share your time, treasure, and talent with others.
Make things easier, clearer, and more efficient wherever you can. Replace a presentation with an infographic, draw a picture to illustrate a concept, or eliminate redundant steps.
16. Work on yourself, too.
You are devoted to efficiency, better productivity, and results. Don’t exempt yourself from the calculation. You may be a hindrance, either through ignorance or intent. Ponder your own motives and skills and make an adjustment to yourself.
17. Make sure your attitude, appearance, and approach are aligned.
Don’t confuse people. Make sure your attitude, appearance, and approach are aligned with each other.
18. Always have an objective.
Act with purpose, every time. When you know your objective and purpose, you improve your execution and are less likely to fall prey to distractions or low impact activity. For every meeting, interaction, and goal, have an objective and work toward its completion.
19. Work through the implications of your actions, preferably while they’re still notions.
Lousy leaders act without thought, or think without acting. Effective leaders strike the right balance.
Every action has consequences; some good, some bad, intended and unintended. Consider your actions without falling into over-analysis.
20. Keep wallowing to 5 minutes or less.
Do not tolerate wallowing in yourself or your team.
- We wallow when we are feeling relaxed or lazy. Lazy does not pay well, action does.
- We wallow in our victory and success, forgetting how short-lived they can be without vigilance and maintenance.
- We wallow in our failures, giving too much oxygen to our shortcomings and short-shift to our ability to persevere.
Do not deny the emotion that brings about the urge to wallow. Acknowledge it, appreciate it, and then get back to focusing on your purpose.
21. Distribute a D.A.M.N. Agenda.
Complaining about meetings is cliché. “They feel like a waste of time & resource.” Blah, blah. They ARE if you don’t run them correctly. If you called the meeting, pull yourself together and act like a professional.
Every meeting run by an effective leader has a clear purpose stated up front; otherwise, there’s no point.
- An agenda accomplishes a purpose. Use whatever format works for your organization.
- Use a continuous format for one-off meetings, standing meetings, client presentations, every time.
- Stating a purpose forces you to be succinct and keeps you focused.
Parts of a D.A.M.N. Agenda
- Dates – of the meeting, and milestones you’re working toward.
- Actions – commitments made or required.
- Motivations – what’s the point of the meeting, subtopics, and who beyond you cares?
- Names – of those invited, who attended, who’s to be informed and who’s accountable for the actions.
22. Properly honor the processes you kill.
When you find inefficiency, redundancy, antiquated process, policies, or practices, take a moment to respect their heritage. Many systems that have worn past their usefulness were at one time designed to solve a problem, speed things up, ensure quality, or some other noble purpose. Don’t simply eradicate a given system and move on, honor its contribution with a ceremony of sorts. Involve the team, perhaps members who created the system, to give it a proper send off. Old systems were once heroes. Appreciate the contributions, while making clear, it’s time to turn the page. Allow people to mourn the loss and then begin anew.
23. Feedback; Make it fast, frequent, relevant, and positively delivered.
Do not be stingy with feedback. Feedback is essential. Make it fast, frequent, relevant, and positively delivered. People tend to hold off on providing feedback as if it were a secret — that’s no good. Holding off dilutes over time, or worse, creates a vacuum. It is much better to provide feedback right then and there. The closer to the event the better. Effective leaders are masters at providing, receiving, discerning, and integrating feedback.
24. A high-performance team won’t be built in one day, but you can start today.
It takes a while to assemble a team, let alone one that is high performing. You cannot randomly throw people together without any structure or purpose and expect brilliance because you’ll get dysfunction. Start with knowing what success looks like for you, then build toward that goal.
25. Culture is created by the behavior you tolerate.
Culture is created by the behavior you tolerate. You can post placards with uplifting words, your memos and speeches can have soaring ideals, but demonstrated behavior is what forms a culture. There are valid excuses for occasional gaffes or one-off exceptions, but it’s a slippery slope. Soon, off-color jokes become commonplace, whining replaces winning, and respect for others dwindles. Every manufacturing process has its defects that are a small percentage of error or waste. Good managers work to reduce that number of waste to maximize the output of the asset. This knowledge should be with your culture. When you begin demonstrating your culture, there will be errors and misjudgments. Learn from them and make corrections. Do not tolerate ongoing infractions because these problems reduce your production. Good leaders don’t forget to guard and nurture their culture nor allow rust or contaminants to ruin their work. Equally, if your leader regularly sullies the culture with their own behavior, look for a new leader.
26. Learn why people leave you.
People move on. Priorities change and conditions ebb and flow. The makeup of your team will vary over time. Pay attention to what attracts people to you: Is it your reputation, your results, your humor, your empathy? Double down on your findings. More importantly, find out why people leave. For the vast majority, it’s because of the boss. Are you or your leaders driving people away? Odds are, regardless of all the reasons you collect, they are excuses covering your behavior. Are you acting in alignment with your purpose, mission, and values? Your retention rate can help answer that question. Pay attention and fix yourself.
27. Get better at setting goals.
Don’t confuse goals with wishes. Goals are not easy. Much effort is needed for setting a goal for yourself or others. You cannot simply command a goal into being. Secondly, good goals are motivating and specific. Vague goals get vague results. Sometimes you announce your goals, and sometimes you keep them close to your vest. Who you share them with matters. How and how often you measure progress matters. How you celebrate along the way matters. No goal, no direction. No direction, no point. Always have a great goal.
28. Pay attention to your personal dashboard
When you manage and lead others, it’s easy to get engrossed with their performance and metrics. Pay attention to YOUR personal dashboard as well. Not only business results, but improvements in your relationships, health, education, etc. Measure the important aspects of your life. It’s the only way you can maintain their importance.
29. Be the one who does not panic.
Panic is the opposite of leadership. Panicking does not help you nor the people who look to you for leadership.
You can be calm, forceful, and clear and still lead. Do not be the hothead, the shrill voice, or the man-baby crying for attention. When a crisis arises, rise to meet it with a detached confidence. This is not always easy, but it is what you do when you are committed to leading well.
30. Measure the right things consistently over time.
Anything can be measured; however, this does not mean everything should be measured. Pick the items (units, calls, dollars, scores, errors, etc.) that are most relevant to your important goal(s) and track them over time (every hour, day, week) without fail. Don’t miss a measurement. Be consistent. Fix your attention on your leading indicators to influence your lagging indicators. Don’t change the goal post if you do not like the trend or results. Look for what’s working. Celebrate successes and keep the trend line moving in the direction you seek.
Also published on Medium.