Why being ‘predictable’ will make you a great leader

When you watch a magician or a comedian and the punchline is too obvious, it gets boring. In these situations, you want to be surprised, amazed and fascinated. The next step on stage shouldn’t be predictable. This is what brings in an element of excitement and gives you a good night of entertainment.

As predictability is often associated with boredom, some people hesitate on how to act once they are in their first management position. As they don’t want to become a lame duck in leadership, they might try to react differently to similar requests or at least keep their potential reaction a secret.

Unfortunately, this will lead to insecurity within the employees. As they don’t know how the reaction will be, they need to prepare for all kind of answers which costs a lot more time and energy in preparing meetings with the boss. Most likely, they will reduce the interaction with the boss as it is too energy consuming to enter the uncertainty on a regular basis. Neither trust nor a relationship can be build.

So how does a predictable leadership style look like?

You need to define for yourself, how you want to be as a leader. This requires some time and reflection. For sure, you can change during the course of your career. But first, you need to know who you are and how you want to behave. Here are some questions to think about:

  • How approachable do you want to be? Can people enter your room any time? Do they need an appointment?
  • How will you listen to their requests?
  • What is your first reaction? How quick are you to decide?
  • What are your values?
  • To what degree will you bring in emotions into the workplace?

There is no right or wrong in the style that you choose. But your people need to know what your boundaries are. For example: if people start entering your room at any given time, and all of a sudden you rebuke randomly one person of your team for doing so, you create uncertainty that the team can not solve. It is your responsibility to let people know how interaction works for you. You become predictable.

Predictability means that you know what your boundaries and rules are. You communicate them in advance and act accordingly. This builds trust between you and the team as they can rely on you and your word.

The same is true for handling decisions. You need to know how long you will listen to an idea and how you will react. Maybe you are someone who will never decide on the spot. Let your team know. Then they have the chance to bring in matters of decision in an early stage, giving you the chance to think and decide over time.

Predictability is also relevant towards your ‘mood’. You need to decide, what type of mood you will bring to your workplace and how much it will influence your decisions.

In every area where you do not act predictable, your team will need to start guessing what kind of a day it is for you. And every time, you bring your team in this situation, they will need an extra portion of energy to do their job. Usually, this destroys trust.

Therefore, if you know who you are and communicate well towards your team, you will build trusting relationships through predictability. And these trusting relationships are the fuel for good working environments where people love to work and even like to go the extra mile.

Why focussing on your people will bring your business from good to great

„A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected“, is commonly quoted. In business, this principle of human behavior can bring companies, projects and teams from good to great. And as business leaders thirst for greatness, they are looking for techniques of how to trigger the apprecition-button of employees in order to get the result.

But human beings only feel appreciated when they sense it is about them as an individual. We have quite precise antennas to determine whether someone likes us as an individual or only the contribution we can bring to the P&L.

Therefore, it is true that people who feel appreciated will contribute above expectation level. But this principle cannot be turned into: I use appreciation so that I get more contribution for my project. This is called manipulation.

True appreciation requires real feelings, interaction and interest towards the people you are leading. This appreciation is not tied to an expected outcome. As a leader, this can be hard sometimes as you are investing in people and in the relationship with them without seeing immediate ‚results‘.

Results of a leadership style that incorporates real appreciation play out in the longterm, e.g. positive reputation of you as a leader among the team (hence, free in-flow of applications without long hours at recruiting events), laughter and good mood in team meetings (which has carry-over effects in client meetings that become much easier), extra-miles without complaints (that secures the next deadline without you having to work all weekend)

Even clients will realize when your team truly likes you and when collaboration is based on trust, appreciation and – when grown for a long time – friendship. This is the game changer. These moments will catapult you from ‚some consulting company‘ to ‚preferred partner‘ – as the client likes to have motivated people around who bring in a good atmosphere.

Appreciation is a root cause for those moments. But only when you invest in your people without aiming at the financial goals, you will get the results that make all the difference – even financially. It‘s a paradoxon. Think about it for a while and you will see, it is true.

How to be hated by your team easily

Delegation is key to any management role. Wrongly used, it can break trust and kill the fun at work quickly. Find out how delegation can work in your favour.

“I am looking forward to my promotion as I will be a mentor by then and I can delegate all the tasks I hate to the people assigned to me”, my conversation partner announces proudly. My faces freezes as I am thinking of all the young professionals who will get ‘the tasks he hates’. I am wondering how he has been treated in his first professional years that he actually believes that he should fill his leadership role like that.

A colleague comes to my mind who once said about his boss: “Well, now he just delegated the shit he doesn’t like to me and leaves.” In that situation, I knew the task and the boss – and I came to a total different conclusion. It was a normal delegation of a task appropriate in size and timeline towards the grade delegated to. Nonetheless, the personal story of that colleague was that he got ‘the shit’ and in turn, he was convinced that delegating the unwanted tasks down the line is part of the freedom a higher hierarchical position inherits.

But how to delegate appropriately?

For sure, delegation is a key part in business and as people develop in their leadership role, delegation is a very essential part. This is not only true for the one delegating but also for the one receiving work. As a rookie, you need leaders who assign tasks to you in order for you to grown. Let’s have a look at some hypothesis regarding good delegation:

Delegate only task you would do yourself

This topic doesn’t refer to your willingness to do it but rather the necessity of the task. It is a ‘Does it have to be done?’ consideration. Some tasks probably never will be fun, e.g. keeping track of the to do list. But they are serving a certain purpose and you would do it if no one else was there. Assumably, you have done it in the past and everyone in your area of expertise needs to do it sometime.

When delegating these tasks, bring in empathy. Explain why the task is relevant and what it contributes to. You can be honest in saying that this isn’t the coolest task of all times but make sure that you bring in appreciation for your team member.

Delegate with a learning curve in mind

From my experience, young professionals are eager to learn. They want to explore new things, understand the big picture and become experts in their jobs. As someone delegating tasks, you can make use of that eagerness by explaining how the to do is contributing to the learning curve.

Maybe taking meeting minutes is the job at hand. Even in the most boring meeting, there are learnings. Regarding the document, you could teach how good meeting minutes look like and what needs to be included. Regarding the meeting, you could highlight the roles of each attendee, the interaction between the people and how moderation techniques contribute to an aspired outcome.

It requires some creativity of you and walking the extra mile in terms of not only delegating but also creating a learning opportunity. But the results are phenomenal as people will like to work with and for you.

Delegate with a readiness to give feedback

The privilege of delegating tasks comes with the responsibility of giving feedback. Feedback is relevant for a good quality result. In addition, feedback contributes to the learning curve of the person you work with.

If you regularly shy away from giving feedback, it is a good moment to reflect. What is hindering you giving feedback? What assumptions around feedback to you believe? Are they true? Giving feedback is essential and if you don’t take that responsibility, you cause major trouble in your team – which is invisible to you most of the times.

Delegate with a heart that cares

Overall, delegation is working well when you actually care about the people you work with. Noone wants to work with you if they are used for tasks you hate. But if there is a sense of ‘care’, most people will not only work with and for you but even walk the extra mile.

Why leading a few is harder than leading many

When people think about leadership, very often they envision a large group of people. Getting up the career ladder results in many people in their department – corresponding displayed in the income. But is this the place to learn leadership?

From a personal perspective, I learned the most of my leaders when I have been one-on-one with them or in a small group. In these moments I was able to connect to them – and sense what drives them. They shared their heart more openly and I could understand their reasoning and decisions. Yet, they were still my leaders and I was aware of the hierarchy involved.

Same is true for my teams today. In a smaller setting, no one can hide. Not even the leader. There is this ‘scary’ part in there where one is getting vulnerable. As a leader, it can feel very shaky when admitting weaknesses. It needs a lot of trust in a team to speak your mind openly. But if you manage to create that space, trust grows, people start blooming and the learning curve gets steep. These environments are the base for open honest feedback – be it wholeheartedly praise or words for growth.

Creating that team environment needs time and work. As a leader, you are responsible for the team spirit. You decide how much you share and in what tone you set out meetings. Generally, people mirror your behaviour. Give them time to build trust and see you consistent behaviour. Once they have seen you being authentic and trustworthy even under pressure, they will open up and bring in their share, too.

To give you an example: I always start my meetings in a good mood. Smiling and smalltalk is setting the tone – even in stressful seasons. Attendees learn quickly that ‘good mood’ is to be expected and soon after a series of meetings, they come in with the same smile. Once that point is reached, I don’t have to give much energy anymore, because the tone is up and everyone enjoys that style of a meeting. But it still requires consistency and effort by me to keep going and lead in the way I want to be mirrored.

How a ‚well done‘ feedback kills your career

“I only got positive feedback for my slides”, the new joiner smiles at me proudly. He just had the first project weeks with his new manager and the slide deck was the first deliverable he contributed to the project.

As much as I am happy for young professionals to get positive affirmation, I am wondering whether feedback should also include the parts what can be changed!? People contributing in projects without getting feedback that puts them on a learning journey, will stay good but won‘t get better. And as the only-positive-feedback continues, they are assuming that they were lucky this time at best – and, at worst they are learning that they don’t need to develop.

I am wondering if managers are aware of the result of their behavior!?

I understand why someone refrains from giving challeging feedback – it requires thought-through argumentation, love, wisdom, energy and a vision for the person who is being feedbacked. The easy way out is a „well done“ with no further comment. The young professional is happy. The one giving feedback doesn’t have to think. Easy. Yet, there will be no growth.

In consequence, the young professional will only grow to some degree – and that very slowly. So, although a „done well“ sounds pretty to the ear, it keeps you away from growing. And your peers, who get the challenging feedback, will outgrow you soon. They will get the promotion earlier and have the more interesting career with more challenging topics. And that only because they were trained in a harder way and did not get that easy „well done“ too often.

If you want to learn and become really good in a skill, you need to find people who feedback you openly and precise. You need to know what you can enhance and how this can be done. If you only work for people who tell you everything is fine, you are not growing. Maybe you are good enough for your current position, but how do you train for your upcoming levels?

Even worse, you don’t learn how to feedback others yourself. Truth is, giving feedback is harder than receiving feedback. You actually have to think about your opinion. If you have to tell a person that he/she needs to change, you even need to give guidance why the change is necessary and how the change could look like in order to be more successful. Giving feedback puts you at risk to not be liked, too.

Take some time to analyze where you are in all of this. Do you get enough challenging feedback to grow? Do you develop people by giving thought-provoking feedback?

Successful team leads focus on these topics

It’s a never ending discussion: should you focus on strengths or weaknesses when developing yourself and others?

What is your opinion? How do you develop yourself? And in consequence: how do you develop your team?

Research shows that 20% of your team will disengage from their work, when you as their manager focus solely on their weaknesses. While only 1% disengage when you focus on their strength (see Strengthsfinder 2.0 from Gallup, 2007, p. IV). There is just one thing that is even worse than focussing on weaknesses or strengths: ignoring your people completely. Research shows that 40% of your staff disengages in their work when not being developed at all.

But what are strengths, you can find in yourself? What are the focus areas you could search for in your team?

Here are some examples – pulled together from classical ressources like Johari adjectives, strengthsfinder or MBTI:

  • Straight communication
  • Analytical correctness
  • Love for detail
  • Ambition to win
  • Stick to rules
  • Focus on deadlines
  • Good time management
  • Feeling for team atmosphere
  • Vision for project setup
  • Courage to speak up
  • Persistence in argument

All of these strengths bring in positive and negative situations within a team. Your job as a manager is to find the right spot where each person can shine.

Same is true, if you feel unhappy in your current position. Maybe you cannot work according to your strengths and you need a change. Analyse who you are and what you need – and then find the place where you fit in.

It’s just a small nugget to give you food for thought. Dig deeper through the named sources if you want to develop yourself in this area.

Meaningful Team Calls – but how?

No one wants to be boring – and yet, we are faced daily with dead-boring meetings. Here are some ideas to freshen up your style.

Since my team works all over the country, it was a virtual team from the very beginning. For the first six month we only met 30 minutes a week online. But when the first meeting in person came up, everyone hugged each other as if they had known each other for a long time. Somehow relationship, trust and team spirit grew in those 30 minutes sessions for half a year. Here are some ideas of what worked well:

Engage everyone!

Teamcalls can have the tendency of having one person speak and the others listen. Even if the moderator doesn’t want it to happen, it is not easy to get everyone involved. Therefore prepare everyone to contribute and hold everyone accountable. Give everyone a platform to speak. I am convinced that this is the only way, you will build a relationship between the people calling. If one person always is silent, it will be awkward for everyone else and step by step everyone will draw back. Growth starts where everyone gives and gets.

As a moderator ask a question and give each team member 1-2 minutes to share an answer. Here are some easy questions to getting started:

  1. What was your highlight last week?
  2. What was your latest success?
  3. What is on your lunch plate today?
  4. How are you doing?

Camera on

Especially in the first meetings, this is key. You need to see your teammates. Your brain needs time to match voices with faces. You can share irony and jokes much easier with facial expressions.

Once your team knows each other very well, you can leave the camera off every once in a while. But from experience I highly recommend to ask everyone to turn on their cameras.

Your voice is a melody

You know those calls where one person speaks like a robot for minutes and no one listens!? Don’t be a robot. Articulate well. Bring emotion into your voice. As a moderator it is your responsibility not to be boring.

If you are unsure whether you are speaking boring, ask your teammates. Be open for feedback. And if you don’t have the talent of a good moderator (which is totally fine), find a teammate who has that gift. You don’t have to do everything yourself. But you have to create a platform on which others can perform.

WHY are you doing the call

In order to be successful in building a virtual team, you will need to know why you are doing the call. What are you aiming for?

Let’s talk about the moderator. That is either you or a teammate. That person needs to bring in enthusiasm, dedication for the set up “call”, interest in people and a passion to build this team.

If you are that person, be aware that no one will motivate you. You need to motivate yourself. You need to know why you do that call. Whatever energy you bring in that call, it will influence the success … meaning: if you are dead-boring … your calls will be dead-boring and your team won’t grow. Same is true for cynicism – if you do this call because you have been “forced” to do so and you cope your unwillingness in your moderation with cynical words, you won’t build a team. People will be rather astonished why you even called them in the first place.

Therefore, be very clear and precise why you initiate a call and what you want to accomplish.

Keep the teamcall small

In order for everyone to participate, start a call with 6-8 people. It is possible, to do the described concept with more people, but it gets harder as you need to keep up the interest in the call. And as only one person can speak, people will be silent for more than 10 minutes before it is their turn.

Rather split your group in smaller teams – when you aim for team building and growing relationships between people.

Have an agenda

Do you know these awkward moments when there are 20 minutes left and the only thing on the agenda is “any other questions”? And no one speaks…

This is neither cool as a moderator nor as an attendee. Therefore be prepared with an agenda. The engagement question I shared in the beginning of this article is just a warm up. After that you need to bring relevant and interesting topics. Ideally you involve your teammates in this.

Align with them beforehand who shares what experience within 3-5 minutes. Who did what training? Who shares the content of a cool TED talk? And lets discuss the latest news within our company.

Love your people and have fun

Most of all … just have fun calling your people! If you want to grow a strong team, bring in your personality and emotions. These calls are not about facts and figures, the next big win or strategy. It is about growing relationships – in order to have a network on which your business can grow. These are the invisible lines in your company where people share their ideas, when they don’t quit on you because the competitor wants to pay +10% and when they go the extra mile on no charge because they care about the team results.

Most likely, these aspects aren’t complete. But they are a start. Feel free, to test and try and add your own aspects and ingredients. Please share your addition thoughts and success stories.

Build the workplace of your dreams

„You can do this“, a glimpse of encouragement runs through her mind while she is facing her challenge. Despite her fear she lifts her chin and takes the next step. „You can do this“, she recalls the words of her friends and family. Confidence rises. „I can do this“, she speaks out loud and takes the leap.

Independent whether you need to make a decison, want to face your fear or take the next step in your work, encouragement will always lift the weight of insecurity and worry. Life gets easier when you have the courage and vision for the path ahead.

Same is true in your working environment. Each day you face new tasks, projects or people. Having a voice of encouragement around will increase your mood and things will work more smoothly.

Encourage [en-kur-ij]

To inspire with courage, spirit or confidence

Dictionary

Encouragement literally means to inspire someone or oneself with courage. By speaking words of encouragement to someone you actually speak courage and confidence in that person`s life. For people these positive words are like water to a plant. It is a necessity to grow.

The beautiful truth is that you can be an encouragement to your clients, colleagues and bosses. Every day you can decide whether you want to water the souls of the people around you. By speaking words of encouragement people around you will start blooming – giving you the possibility to work and live with people that are happy and courageous.

I am convinced that you can build the team of your dreams when you start speaking positive affirmation to the people around you. Be aware: It requires you to take control of your thoughts and words. If you think shit all day, probability is high that you will speak shitty, e.g. destructive comments or gossip. But if you master your thoughts and direct your words to the uplifting of people, you will see an effect in the people around you within weeks.

Same is true for your boss. People in leadership roles hear very seldomly positive talk. This is due to their role; when all is well, they won’t get involved in the matter. But when there are problems, they are the adress of escalation, leading to a lot of negative topics on their table. Ideally they are mature enough to handle the negativity; reality is that they often push down their negativity on the team. Take advantage of such behaviour and invest encouragement into your boss. Be the one with joy at work and give your boss a good time talking to you – which doesn’t mean to avoid the hard topics. It just means that you speak hope and confidence when it is appropriate.

Who will you encourage today?

This is how to build a great team out of nothing

What do you think is needed in order to have a great team at work? Does it evolve by accident or has it been built by purpose?

Your answer to this question is very relevant and will influence your leadership style and mindset. If you are convinced that a great team evolves by accident, you will never invest in people but rather be jealous of functioning teams around you – telling everyone how “lucky” they were having such a team. But if you are assuming you can build and influence a team, you will act and speak differently.

As a house is built with an architectural plan, I am convinced that teams can be built on purpose as well. And even if you enter a functioning team, it needs maintenance to stay strong. Let’s have a look at some major aspects:

Select People

You don’t need many people – start with 2 or 3. Select carefully upon mindset and values. Be clear which values are important to you and which mindset you want to have in the team – and then look for people who align with you.

Personally I am a great fan of a “can-do-attitude”. People who think in solutions rather than in problems are part of my tribe. I have found that ideas develop much quicker when throwing them into a room of people who want to contribute to the solution instead of nagging of all the disadvantages. Nagging requires zero talent. Thinking strategically ahead of how things could work shows creativity and is fun to discuss on.

Write yourself a list of what you need to see in people in order for you to invest in them. And then be selective. Not everyone needs to be part of your tribe. But if you have the right people, you will enjoy every meeting!

Accept timing

Building a team requires time. You will need to invest a lot over quite a long time. If you have the vision, you are the one walking in the front. You need to be the example and role model – and your people have the freedom to adopt everything that inspires them. This freedom is so very important. And it is also the reason why you need to find the right people first.

Everyone is free to make his/her own choices. You want to be such an appealing example that people freely follow. And that needs time.

It also needs rituals. A regular meeting or call. Set up projects and events where everyone can contribute. Take care that the people in your team meet on a regular basis. For a virtual team this could be a weekly call. For a team that works on a daily basis it might be the break out session on the rooftop terrace of your office or the monthly bagel breakfast. Just make sure that the interaction is not only evolving around content driven work, but involves personal aspects. These personal aspects will lead to finding out similarities – and when people see a part of themselves in others you create that stickiness that leads to strong teams.

To get away from content driven meetings you can start with some small talk or an inspiring question. Here are some ideas:

  • What did you wanted to become when you were a child?
  • Who is your favourite music/movie star and why?
  • Which book do you recommend to the group and why?
  • Which food should be all taste?

Have a plan

If you are the builder of the team, you need to have a vision. Why are you building the team? What do you want to achieve?

There are tons of reasons: you want to develop a certain product or set up a service; you want to develop people and bring them to their next level; you want to earn a lot of money and with your team you earn more than working alone; you want to have fun at work with your team.

It can be all of them or a few. The only important thing is that you have a plan. This plan will lead you through tough times when you have trouble finding the right people or if you have selected a person that is not contributing to the team spirit.

I am convinced that this list is not sufficient. What ideas would you like to add?

A compliment a day keeps burnout away

They are doing an experiment: walking to people and tell them that they are beautiful. The result is captured on video and the faces are stunning. Everyone smiles. Shy. Proud. Happy.

Watching these clips even makes me smiling. Seeing happy people resonates within me and I get happy, too. Can you relate? When we smile during the day all of the sudden the tension of a moment is gone and life seems easier.

What if we could use this effect at work?

Last week I could see this effect on my colleagues, too. I actively looked at my colleagues’ reaction when I had the chance to speak support, hope and encouragement in their lives. They all smiled.

Getting in contact with someone who has good and honest intentions for us opens our hearts and gives us a moment of relaxation. Having those moments at work gives back energy and people can progress in their day more energized. All that is needed is you. This one person that is watching out where to spend the next honest compliment or the next story of hope.

Let’s do a challenge this week: Find one person a day that smiles because of you.