“If you’re listening to this, you are the resistance. Listen carefully, if we attack tonight, our humanity is lost. Command wants us to fight like machines. They want us to make cold, calculated decisions. But we are not machines! And if we behave like them, then WHAT IS THE *POINT* IN WINNING?” -John Connor, Terminator Salvation

General George S. Patton once said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Excellent advice when leading your team. In this incident, I had an opportunity to see this philosophy put into action.

Observations In Outstanding Leadership

During a road trip west back in 2007, I stopped for a few days to see my sister in Long Beach, CA. While there, I spent a couple of mornings at the local Long Beach Starbucks reviewing documents from my Dale Carnegie Instructor Refresher training.

On those mornings, I sat close to the back table where the store manager was performing her store review with her area manager. They did all of the usual stuff like sales numbers and marketing promos. They also discussed the people working in the store, which they referred to as partners.

I had seen the process used before to develop outstanding leadership qualities in regular managers. We used it regularly in our Leadership Training for Managers program [check it out here]. The store manager, Carolyne, was exceptional. During this process, she identified a unique personal endeavor that was outside the scope of work for each of her partners. She also identified several strengths that each individual possessed. And she described her process for rotating her people through different positions, challenging them to use their skills to  solve new problems.

During my time as a sales rep for Dale Carnegie Training, I had spoken with, interviewed, and heard from many managers and supervisors. Some of them took the attitude that their people were supposed to perform their tasks because it was a part of their job description. One person was a human resource rep who stated, “…Why should management show them appreciation for a job we are paying them to do?”

To Develop Outstanding Leadership Capabilities, Take a Different Perspective of your Team

If we take a worker’s perspective, we see a person who has a certain skill set which they’re selling to the highest bidder. They are interviewing potential purchasers, called employers, and they will receive a number of bids, called job offers. They will then make a decision based on the highest bidder.

Here is something to remember; commerce isn’t always measured in dollars and cents. I know many individuals who have walked away from very lucrative jobs because they wanted less stress, more time with their families, a new challenge, and sometimes, a little more appreciation from the boss. As we say in the Leadership Training for Managers program, you lead people and you manage processes. You can’t treat people like machines.

So if you’ve got team members who are watching the clock every day and doing just enough to keep from getting fired, maybe it’s time to look at the way your management team is incentivizing them. That includes recognition and appreciation programs.

An Awareness Training Exercise to develop Outstanding Leadership

Try this. Sit down, right now, with a pad of paper. Legal pads work well for this. You will need a separate sheet of paper for each member of your team. For each individual, write down:

  1. Their name.
  2. Five strengths you see in them. These are personal traits you might compliment them on.
  3. Two processes they can do to strengthen themselves.
  4. One thing they are passionate about outside of work.

You can use this exercise as a management tool when you get in tomorrow morning. You can also use it right now to reveal where you can improve yourself as managers.

Carolyne took a personal interest in her people. Did they love her for it? I don’t know. I’m willing to bet that some partners didn’t like it when she gave them tasks that forced them to do things that they weren’t comfortable doing. But I’ll also wager that they respected her for it and appreciated her when she praised them.

Some of the best managers that I have worked with were not necessarily the ones who were “nice”. They were the ones who challenged me. They made me stretch past my comfort zone, and showed appreciation for an all out effort.

This goes beyond simple effective management

This is the realm of outstanding leadership and it’s there for those willing to step up and make it happen.