If six months from now I am giving the same amount of trust to my team as I am today, how well am I leading? This question brings into sharp focus the chief mandate for leaders—to develop, engage and empower others. A strong team made up of actively engaged and empowered people is the path to long-term results.
Unfortunately, the realities of day-to-day life make it easy to get distracted. We get so involved in reacting to the latest crisis or worrying about today's scoreboard that we lose sight of the need to sow seeds for the future. The result is we become depleted and stop growing, or worse, we take two steps back. So does our team.
Five seeds to sow every day.
The belief that leadership is always an “add-on” activity that requires extra time is a fallacy. That is not to say that being a positional leader does not come with special responsibilities or extra activities. The point is that leadership is primarily about who you are. It shapes the conversations you are already having and influences how you interact along the way. This means that even when you are crazy busy, there are always opportunities to sow seeds for the future. The key is intentionality. What follows are five seeds you can sow every day regardless of how busy you are.
1) Pick a habit to practice personally.
Modeling the way is essential to leadership influence. However, if you want to master anything, the first step is to isolate the behavior and commit to practicing it daily to build muscle memory. Pick one of the 12 behaviors of an actively engaged person each day and then practice it deeply—all day. Take active listening, for example. Make a commitment in the morning to ask three clarifying questions in every conversation. The commitment to ask three questions turns it into a concrete goal, which makes it more likely you will follow through. These are conversations that are already taking place. The difference is you are working on how you engage in the conversation. The fruit is you will become a better listener, and your leadership influence will go up.
2) Make a relationship deposit.
Exceptional leaders influence the heart and are intentional to communicate they care. However, it is easy to take relationships for granted. In fact, when we get busy, relationship deposits are often the first thing to be cast aside. Make it a priority to make a meaningful relationship deposit every day (examples include recognition, encouragement, acts of service, listening, etc.). The amazing thing about relationship deposits is they usually cost nothing and take very little time. The fruit of making relationship deposits is trust on the team will go up, and team members will be more engaged.
3) Have an informal coaching conversation where the focus is development.
Commit to have one informal coaching conversation every day where you are giving feedback to help a team member grow. Add it to your daily planner as a priority. If you add it as a priority, it will sharpen your observation skills during the day—the opportunity will become obvious because you are looking for it. The fruit is steady growth in individual team members.
4) Create a culture moment.
Exceptional leaders are uncompromising when it comes to the culture of the team. However, working on culture does not necessarily mean you have to schedule a separate meeting. Instead, be intentional to make it a part of your existing meetings and conversations. This can be as simple as taking five minutes at the start of a daily staff meeting to discuss one of the principles from the Team Trek High Performing Teams model. Each one of these conversations is another seed that is being planted. The fruit is a team that is clear on expectations for how they are to work together, which will translate into high trust, speed and agility.
5) Challenge existing priorities by asking this one question every day.
“How does this activity help us fulfill our mission?” This question cuts through all the clutter and encourages critical thinking about priorities. The challenge for most teams is usually not a shortage of time to do everything on the list. Rather, it is that they have the wrong list in the first place. Exceptional leaders keep the team laser-focused on the right priorities—those that drive customer value and support the success of the mission. The fruit of this question is more engaged and productive team members who can see clearly that what they do matters.
Sow these five seeds every day and watch your team grow. The cumulative impact over the next six months will amaze you.
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