Yes, leadership development can cost money. Most of us believe the returns are well worth it, and I’ve had the professional pleasure of working with many of you in improving the skills and behaviors in your leadership staffs. Plus I do this stuff for a living, and I like getting paid.
But you know what? Most of the more significant things that leaders can do are free.
That’s right. Gratis, free of charge. No sales tax, shipping and handling, or any other spurious expense. What, then, can we do to take advantage of this FREE leadership development? Nothing more than some simple effort on your part.
Without going into ad nauseum detail, suffice to say that there are three very simple things that a leader can do to set him/herself apart (positively) from the pack:
- Ask for input. Even when you already think you know the answer. Here’s the funny thing, and those I’ve worked with have heard me say this countless time: ask frequently for others’ input.
If you ask all the time, people don’t get offended when you don’t “take” their suggestions each and every time proffered. If you only ask once per year, that person will fully expect you to use their input in a meaningful way… after all, why would you finally ask if you weren’t going to take it?
Besides, keep on asking, even if you don’t believe you’ll get a meaningful response. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut every now and then, and who knows? Maybe that employee will just get lucky…
- Say please and thank you. Face it — no employee with the brains of a rock believes when their boss “asks” them to do something, it’s really a choice… what does it hurt, then, to always — ALWAYS — say “please,’ and “thank you?”
At the end of the day, you’ve got the business card. You can always be a jerk and say “do it my way.” Just don’t lead with that.
- Admit mistakes. Freely. And don’t water them down with that passive-aggressive crap, like “I probably shouldn’t have done that, but…” or “In hindsight…” Call it like it is — I SCREWED UP! I made a mistake, and I hope to do better. Then LEAVE IT ALONE!
Credibility can skyrocket when leaders accept full (not conditional) responsibility for their actions.
Warren Buffet, the Gandhi of all investing, recently apologized to the world for buying a poor-performing stock. He didn’t blame the subsequent losses on the market, the mortgage industry, or the government. He said, “…I have been dead wrong. The terrible timing of my purchase cost Berkshire several billion dollars.”
Several billion dollars?? If Buffet can fess up to a mistake costing more money than the GDP of 90% of all the world’s countries, surely we can own up to some near-trivial misstep during our regular workday?
These three things — all by themselves — can help leaders stand out from the mediocre masses. You’d think it was pulling teeth, though, since none are as common as they should be.
Make them common with you.