Whether you realize it or not, you influence. You are a leader to someone, even if you don’t have people that report to you, people look up to you or use you as a litmus to gauge themselves off of, whether you realize it or not. I’ve been thinking about this lately, as a “manager”, as a husband, a father and most importantly, as a Christian. What exactly are my values? Could I cite them or write them down? Well, I’ve been up for a few hours icing an injured shoulder so I thought I’d give it a try and document my beliefs, values and systems I not only believe in, but use on a daily, decision-making basis. Most of these are not original, I doubt you’ll find anything uniquely profound by my axioms but I found it to be very gratifying to put these on paper and read over and remind myself of my “makeup” as a leader and influencer both in and out of the office, let me know what you think of them.
Take the time to listen (without distraction) to your team members. Make the conversation your top priority, log any action items, needs or questions you’re unable to answer and close this out as soon as you can. Focus on developing your team members. Make career development AND self-development a frequent conversation and you will have employees who are more satisfied and will be willing to work harder and follow you through the fire.People are human
Very obvious but easy to forget as the pressures of goals, initiatives and deadlines put pressure on our lives. Give people time, give them your ear but most importantly, give them grace and remember that we all fall short of the glory of God.
Work done well is more than a reflection of your character
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24). My desire to glorify God and to inspire others to desire to know Him by representing and glorifying Him through my daily work. If my work and the work that I inspire others to achieve is done well, it will be noticed by our colleagues, customers and spread throughout the organization. God is honored when the products we create and the services we provide are excellent, based on the simple values of care, competence, and consistency. We are to care about the welfare of our colleagues and customers. We are to pursue a high level of competency to enable us to deliver high quality products and services and we should be consistent in our pursuit of excellence.
Work is a blessing with multiple rewards
God’s purpose for our work goes so far beyond meeting our financial needs. There is a parable in Matthew 20:2-5 that tells the story of 3 workers, each given the same responsibilities but each starting at different times of the day (e.g., 8am, 11am and 2pm). It reads, “He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” In this story, each worker was paid the same even though some did more work than others. Was the purpose of the job to do the same amount of work? No, but everyone got paid the same. This is a familiar setting in any corporate environment and when you have your heart set on the quality of your work and the opportunity to serve, then you know you are aligned.
Iron sharpens iron
Proverbs 27:17 explains to us that, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. This verse reminds us that we will benefit when we fellowship and disciple with one another. This is easy to practice in the workplace as we are constantly learning and constantly reshaping our goals, targets, etc. Sharing our struggles and best practices with one another, despite our tenure, will help identify strengths, opportunities and outline a roadmap to success that we might not have discovered on our own.
Effective leaders are willing to pay
Without going into detail about Jesus’s crucifixion by man, we can at least know that He knew what was going to happen and He still carried out for the sake of something greater. While this is an extreme overshadowing of what a leader can do in the workplace, it is still worth remembering to evaluate your staff, are they informed? Do they know the goal and agenda of your dept.? Are they comfortable and willing to carry out the goal even though it means things will get uncomfortable?
As a leader, I ask myself if I’m willing to stand up when one of my team members falls down? In order to do this, I have to take responsibility on the education, preparation and execution of my team and their work. If I can stand behind any of those things, then I know I am ready to answer for them when the time comes.
When you find great talent, do what you need to in order to encourage and support them. Treat them justly and do what’s right for them and the organization over what’s right for you personally. Give them opportunities to excel and succeed and air cover if they fail. Be willing to take “personal” risks for the right employee. In the truly great companies,promoting employees is a sign of a successful manager over moving employees out of the company.Cultivate Humility
Willing to be the last and the least (this is something Christ has emphasized over and over again. Yet, most people have a tough time with this). Ego often gets in the way of a servant leadership mindset. When we realize that it’s not about me, our position or power but about the people we serve, we will be able to lead (and more importantly, model leadership) in an effective, lasting manner.
A good leader is one who is willing to be vulnerable. I trust my team, therefore I am transparent with my needs, fears, feelings, and professional growth in such a way that it edifies them and helps them grow in character and confidence. Through this transparency, I gain and keep respect from my team by being appropriately accountable about (and because of) my vulnerability. The additional benefit of this is that my team trusts and models this behavior with me and we have a deeper, trusting work relationship where we know how to hold each other accountable so that we can succeed.
Walk the talk, stand up for your beliefs and values and have the courage to face the realities that come with this mindset. This, in addition to surrounding yourself with honest and critical individuals who will lovingly correct your course when necessary, will set you up for success as well as modeling the behavior for others to follow. In the end, you will have a team challenged to strive for excellence, a life-long learner and an eager student with the need for constant self-development.Serve the servant
Do you hold a title or are you a leader? I have to remind myself of this from time to time but the most memorable time was when I first became a team manager for Tier 2. It was a busy day, we were getting hammered in our service levels and I was taking phone calls and helping others at their desk with some of their longer phone calls. At one point, I took over a phone call for the T2 Advisor and another manager came by and was giving orders to his team, cutting lunches and telling them to hurry and end the call so we could take the next one. When he told me to give the customer a case number and end the call, I did so but asked why wasn’t he helping to take calls or at least jack in like I was and give helpful advice on controlling and ending the call? He explained that he was a manager! I apologized and went back to helping my team take calls and offered more help to the manager if he needed it.
We are not simply put into our position as a manager to give orders, yes, that is part of the job, but that’s not what is going to drive the results that keeps us successful. We are to serve our teams by assessing their needs, doing what is best for the company to help us succeed and let our employees know that we are here for them, to help them succeed. When your employees understand this and they know that you are in their corner, serving them, helping them succeed, they will work harder and with more respect than you will ever know.
Just like a car needs gas to run, you have to know what “fills your tank” and remember to fill it from time to time so that you work hard and finish strong. As a Christian, it is important for me to connect with God continuously and it’s just as important to understand what fuels your team, what makes them run so that you have a strong team. It’s likely going to be different for everyone in your team, but a great exercise is to ask them! Ask them what excites them about coming to work? Ask them what motivates you to want to work and do the best that you can? You may not be able to cater to 100% of their desires, but when they know that their leader cares for and is aware of their motivation, it will be the beginning of a fruitful relationship with your team that ends in respect, hard work and accountability.
There are many great leaders outlined in the Bible to learn from, many who took extreme risks to speak up or stand out. All of these leaders were willing to let their actions draw others but they also felt fearful (of failing or persecution) just like we would as leaders when we have an idea or goal to pursue. While an effective leader will practice listening, collaboration and delegation, you will more importantly be expressing initiative through your actions. Use this as a reminder to not be afraid to make a decision or move forward on an action as long as all of your other pieces are available.