Leading Tips

Contributed by The "Original" Mike Smith

Hold a great expectation - Nothing ensures success of a project or program more than an attitude that it will be successful. If you, or the group you are leading, has any doubt as to the successful outcome, stumbling blocks become boulders. Turn those potential stumbling blocks into stepping stones by taking the time before you begin any project to visualize and verbalize the successful out come - “We can do this!!”

Explain the “Why” - The foundation for motivation is motive or reason for doing whatever it is you are doing. As the leader, it is vital you share that reason with your entire group. The sooner you help your followers arrive at the same motive with the same intensity you share, the sooner you are all on the way to the successful completion. Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” Visualize and verbalize the “why.” Humans are goal driven beings so the most successful leader is constantly reinforcing the end picture.

Be seen and heard - A message cannot be effectively delivered and therefore, not effectively received, when the group members cannot see or hear the leader. Standing on a box, chair, bench, etc., to get yourself in line of sight for everyone, commands a certain attention. When they can see you and know you are talking to them, you have a better chance of them working to hear you. Make that hearing as easy as possible. A great message poorly delivered is not HEARD. Leaders must be heard.

Give clear instruction - Try as we might to be succinct and clear, we often fall short when in front of an audience. To insure your effectiveness and clarity of delivery, try these tips: A) Time permitting, write the instructions out and edit them. It is best to write them out without concern for length and then to edit them into the powerful shorter version. B) Less time to prepare? Gather one or two trusted friends and bounce the instructions to them to test their clarity. C) If you have no time at all to prepare, end your instructions with a phrase like, “ What are your questions, comments or concerns about what I have said?” This should open the floor for those who may not have understood the instructions.

Always treat questions with respect - That treatment will engender an atmosphere where questions are accepted as ok and good to ask, thereby insuring your followers will not be hesitant to ask questions and ensure understanding before they begin any task. Remember the old saying, “Ask a stupid question and look stupid for 15 seconds but don’t ask, and you may be stupid for a long long time.”

Model what you want - Too many of us give instructions in words only. Often without emotion or body language as support. It is no wonder we are disappointed in the outcome of the activity. Human beings are most afraid of appearing silly or dumb. If an activity has any risk at all of making us look like that, we are reticent to get actively involved. As the leader, you must demonstrate the behavior you desire to provide a visual reference for your followers. Once the behavior is seen, there is little problem emulating it. Be first to do what may be risky.

Begin low risk and lead to higher risk - The fear of being laughed at or perceived as clumsy or dumb, is so powerful a force, a leader must be aware of it and work with it to help the followers over come its immobilizing effects. Not only do you need to model what you want, but you need to bring your group to higher threat opportunities by building their confidence and trust in you and each other. Simply begin your project with simple low threat activities. Accomplishing these will provide the spring board you need to reach for an even higher risk activity. Confidence and trust are the foundations of followership. Build them.

Process what you do together - Doing for the sake of doing is not very satisfying. All groups form for reasons. Since you have explained the “why” in the beginning it is a good idea to reinforce the group purpose by evaluating the event or activity upon its completion. Anything worth doing is worth evaluating. Make sure that process includes the praise for the work and workers necessary to help them know how good they are and an opportunity for them to provide their observations.

Humans love to hear themselves talk and they are experts on what they think. The smart leader learns to provide a forum for those opinions and to listen to them.