3 Actionable Leadership Habits That Get Results

Published on
April 13, 2017
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The role of the leader is not one that can be given, it must be chosen. While there are many people in leadership positions, many are better suited for management than leadership. There are many behaviors that define great leaders in our world, and while the achievement of great leadership is clear to us when we see it, the journey to becoming one is far more murky.

The Leadership Habit consolidates our 30 years of leadership development experience, partnering with thought leaders to create compelling, actionable content and training a million managers and leaders around the world, into a guide that clearly defines the 30 leadership skills that develop the ten core competencies that define the leadership habit required to become one of the greats. Make the choice to develop these three simple leadership habits to set you on-course to becoming a great, influential leader in your organization.

1. Recognize & Reward

What gets recognized gets repeated. As leaders, we all know this is true, but in the day-to-day chaos of the modern workday it is difficult to remember to recognize and reward great work.

When individuals and teams work above and beyond expectations to achieve great results, celebration and recognition is how great leaders encourage continued commitment to the organization’s goals and mission. Celebration and recognition is how excellence is encouraged over time and how it stays strong even in times of high production volume and stress.

Employees want to feel appreciated; they want to feel valued. It instills a sense of commitment and improves morale. Often when leaders think of rewarding employees, they think in terms of a bonus, a raise, a promotion, or some kind of gift. Organizations spend billions of dollars a year worldwide on reward programs that, in the long run, do not work. They may work in the short run because people will work hard to win that incentive program, but it will not have the lasting effect of higher productivity and motivation.

Reward and recognition are far more effective when you get into the habit of recognizing in a timely manner the specific actions that deserve praise. Recognizing specific actions is one of the keys to effective recognition.

Most often, public recognition is the most powerful and impactful way to recognize excellence. Another option is to write a handwritten “Thank You” note and possibly include a gift card. A handwritten note is a simple and effective recognition method that most people appreciate and only takes a minute to do.

What are the benefits of consistent, specific recognition? Surveys tell us that most often people leave bosses, not companies. Recognition is a simple, effective way to improve morale and lower turnover. With lower turnover and higher morale, productivity and engagement increase. Good behaviors get duplicated and repeated as employees are recognized by managers. If you can make the small effort to figure out who deserves recognition and why, and then recognize those individuals, others who experience the impact and benefit of it will begin to do the same thing.

Actionable Recognition

Perhaps the most important part of recognition is to start doing it right now. Set a goal to write a certain number of thank you notes every week or month. Depending on the size of your team, this may be 5 per week or 5 per month.

When writing your notes, answer these questions:

  • Who deserves recognition?
  • What, specifically, did they do?
  • What, specifically, was the impact of their action?

Following this outline will ensure that your recognition is specific and impactful, helping the employee understand exactly why their action is being recognized and rewarded so that they continue to do it going forward. Get in the habit of writing your goal number of thank you notes and you will find, over time, a happier, more engaged and motivated team.

2. 360 Degree Accountability

At its core, accountability is about integrity. Individuals with a high level of integrity are better at holding themselves accountable for their decisions and actions. Leaders must be able to hold individuals and teams accountable for completing tasks and achieving goals. But, perhaps most importantly, they must be able to hold themselves accountable for the decisions they make that often have a much greater impact on the organization and stakeholders involved.

A leader who models integrity and accountability for their team finds holding others accountable much easier—and this is what we mean by 360 degree accountability.

When people are accountable for their own decisions, work, and results, the productivity and effectiveness of an organization greatly increases, and differentiates a winning team from an average or failing one. As accountability becomes a routine part of workplace processes, on-time and quality execution generate energy for the whole team and organization.

An often overlooked yet critical aspect of accountability is the regulation of production expectations and deadlines on a team. Leaders must be able to set realistic production expectations for employees, and then hold them accountable to achieving those expectations. Without realistic consideration for their capacities or time, employees will become drained and their drive for achievement and accountability burn out. When your expectations exceed the capacity of your team to execute, accountability and responsibility break down. If your team feels as though there is no hope for being able to achieve the results you are driving, the system begins to shut down.

Employees who know the task, but not the purpose, may be indifferent to project expectations and timelines driven from the top. People are naturally more inclined to be accountable when united by a clear vision of the results and potential impact of their contributions. By first inspiring others to see the bigger picture, leaders create urgency, energy, and focus to achieve results on schedule and with quality. Inspiring employees to personally invest in the success of new initiatives is achieved by including them, even in little ways, in the decision-making process and in establishing expectations and timelines.

Actionable Accountability

Are you accountable to organizational values when you decide on actions that affect others? This simple exercise will help you develop the habit of holding your decisions accountable to your organizational values.

  1. List the stated values of your organization.
  2. Describe in writing how each value should influence decisions made on your team, by you, or someone in your organization.

3. Model Energy and Passion

Leaders have two responsibilities related to growing themselves. The first is to develop self-awareness to recognize necessary personal improvements and the importance of continuous learning. The second is to demonstrate personal growth and effective self-management of time and energy. The demonstration component is crucial for building teams committed to growth. You owe it to yourself and your team to show the importance of personal growth as a means to better job performance and fulfillment.

In our world where 75% of people feel disconnected from their jobs, imagine how raising your passion for work and, in turn, influencing others to be more devoted to their own work might increase the productiveness of your team. This passion starts with self-awareness, continuous learning, and management of your personal energy and time.

Is your thinking getting in the way of your performance and success? Self-awareness relates to the tone of the conversations that you have with yourself and your internal response to external interference. People tend to worry and get consumed by a past or future event over which they have no (or little) control to the point that they cannot concentrate on the present. Recognizing and then reducing your internal interferences will free you to grow, develop, and perform better as a leader. Most interference comes from fears. Fear of being judged by others, making a fool of yourself, and being rejected. And most of all, a fear of failing.

A key element to personal energy is having a purpose. As you progress in your career to lead larger teams and deal with more complex issues, you will regularly face conflicts and negative issues. Having a mechanism to aid in your daily maneuvering is key to enjoying the journey. Recommit to your purpose and do not allow small obstacles or negatives to pull you off course. Do not ignore these issues, but do put them into perspective without allowing them to zap your energy.

As a leader, your commitment to lifelong learning and development is essential to your own success and to modeling behaviors that encourage development of your team and in your organization. Continuous learning involves proactively developing and improving skills and knowledge. Never stop learning and readily volunteer for new challenges.

Leaders who hope to generate enthusiasm for learning new things in their team must model great performance and continuous improvement daily. If you want your employees to be more passionate about their jobs, demonstrate your passion for your job even on tough, stressful days.

Actionable Modeling Energy

Leaders and teams need to feel like they have a win to fuel personal energy. Sometimes, when there are so many conflicting priorities, you do not feel like you are winning or getting anything accomplished, which affects your engagement and energy. Try this exercise to help provide focus and alignment within the team:

  1. Gather your team together first thing in the morning on Monday on a weekly basis.
  2. Have each team member bring the most important project or task he or she must accomplish that week. Each member can only submit one item. (Although we all know that we all have more than one thing we will accomplish during the week, this exercise is meant to bring focus to the most important task.)
  3. Assign a scribe and ensure the scribe notes the name, week, and task that each team member submits for the week.
  4. The following Monday, have each person report on his or her actions and then commit to the current week’s actions.
  5. At the end of the team reports, take a couple of minutes to say a few words about the upcoming week—words of appreciation for the hard work, focus, and energy for the upcoming week.

Developing results-driven leadership habits is a journey that will not conclude overnight. You must commit to continual growth and to developing and honing your leadership skills not just through reading and learning, but through actionable application.