CEO of Vecta Environmental Services and Co-Founder of The Second Story Project. Business owner, antiracism activist, and DEI consultant.
One requirement of effective leadership is the ability to keep your team focused on the road ahead. Your vision provides the road map, while your ability to motivate provides the fuel for your team as they navigate the challenges they face. But what happens when your team hits a roadblock?
On your journey up the corporate ladder, you probably faced numerous similar obstacles, and your ability to overcome them or detour around them likely attributed to your ascent into a role of leadership. Because of this, many leaders’ first instinct is to grab the wheel and steer their team to safety. But if you can resist the temptation to solve your team’s problem and instead help them find their own way around this challenge, you give them the tools necessary to face those challenges still ahead. By empowering your team to overcome the roadblocks in their way, you will LIFT them to new heights.
The LIFT Process
I believe the primary role of a leader in any organization is to help their team members reach their highest potential, and every effective leader will have their own method of achieving this. Some are visionaries who move their teams forward with the power of their vision of how the world can be; others can motivate their team members by the sheer power of their charisma. Fortunately, you do not have to be Steve Jobs or Winston Churchill to help your team reach great heights. In fact, by following these simple steps, you will empower your team members to overcome any obstacle put in their way.
This might seem obvious, but effective communication requires active listening. Some great leaders are great orators, but all great leaders are great listeners. Given the pace of business today and the nonstop demands on our attention, you must dedicate time and effort to listening to your team members.
• Make time. I think having an open-door policy is great, but it can also lead to people coming into your office when you really need to focus on other things. If a team member comes to you at an inopportune time, make an appointment when you can be free of distractions.
• Be present. Many of us have become conditioned to immediately respond to every text, email or phone call. If possible, turn off your devices or at least silence them. Let your employee know you care about what they have to say.
• Ask questions. Asking for more details or more information tells your employee that you are listening and interested. It might also help your employee see aspects of the issue that they hadn’t considered.
Identify the real problem.
We’ve all heard the expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but what if the squeak is really just a symptom of a larger, more serious problem? By the time an employee comes to you, they’ve probably already tried greasing the wheel, so your job as a leader is to help them look a little deeper to identify the real underlying issue.
• Be clear. Help your employees separate facts from opinions, emotions from reality. Find out exactly what problem your employee is hoping to solve.
• Get personal. If it hasn’t already been stated, ask your employee why this issue is important to them. How would resolving this problem help the employee or the organization?
• Change perspective. Help your employee see the issue from the perspective of all stakeholders involved. How is this issue impacting their teammates, clients, suppliers, etc.?
Focus on solutions.
Now that you have been able to help your employee identify the real issue, it’s time to empower them to find solutions. By focusing solely on things they can do, you empower them to take charge of the situation and their life.
• Spot their role. When I find myself stuck, I try to remind myself of a question I first encountered in Jerry Colonna’s book, Reboot: Leadership and The Art Of Growing Up: “How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I claim not to like?” Helping your employee see their role in their current dilemma is a great way to point them toward solutions.
• See the solution. Having your employee envision what success might look like opens them up to a wider range of solutions. Lead them down the path of discovery with questions such as, “What might happen if you did that?” and “How would that help?”
• Set limits. Understand that the employee can only change their behavior, so limit solutions to the things that are directly in their control.
Once your employee has plotted their path, help them take action. Start by setting SMART goals. This means setting goals that are:
• Specific: Outline concrete steps they can take to move toward a solution.
• Measurable: This makes it easy to determine whether the goal has been met.
• Attainable: Small, achievable goals will contribute to great successes.
• Relevant: The goal should be an action the employee can take that helps move the team forward.
• Time-bound: Set a realistic time frame to achieve the goal. Too short of a time frame will make it unattainable; too long will make it harder to measure.
Then, schedule a follow-up. As soon as your employee starts taking action to resolve their current issue, new issues will arise. To stay focused on each challenge, schedule follow-up meetings to track progress.
The path to leadership involves a continuous series of obstacles and challenges to navigate. Once you obtain a leadership position, it is natural that you want to solve all of your teams’ problems. By resisting this urge and showing your employees how they can take command of their lives, you equip them with the tools and skills necessary to overcome their own challenges. By following the LIFT model, you can elevate your employees to their highest potential.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
CEO of Vecta Environmental Services and Co-Founder of The Second Story Project. Business owner, antiracism activist, and DEI consultant. Read Chad Kalland’s full