With effective leaders at the helm, any business can achieve great success. The challenge is that many individuals work their way up to a management position without any leadership training, mentoring or support. Worse still, sometimes these managers haven’t always seen ‘best practice managers themselves.

To reach a senior position, an individual may have considerable industry experience, advanced technical knowledge or innovative thinking. They may be highly self-motivated and may have trained hard to gain relevant qualifications. These are all valuable traits, but they do not prepare the individual for managing and motivating others.

Characteristics of a Leader

As an executive coach, I have worked with a number of teams on change management, dispute resolution and enhancing business performance. Through 1:1 interviews and group sessions, I gather insight into what is working well and where to focus in order to facilitate a positive outcome.

I have worked with confident and respected leaders, as well as those who have struggled with people management and responsibility (we all doubt ourselves from time to time, without letting this on to the world). In order to rate your manager, we have focused on core traits that a leader should possess.

Leadership Qualities

According to psychological research, good leaders share a number of qualities including:

  • A commitment to clearly defined and articulated goals
  • Confident communication skills including active listening
  • A keen interest in the skills and strengths of the team
  • Open-mindedness, yet the ability to be decisive
  • Taking responsibility for actions

We would like to explore these in greater detail.

The Benefit of Clearly Defined Goals

It is no secret that the mind shows greater focus and determination when we are working towards a goal. If we can see what we are aiming for, it gives purpose to our actions and gives us the necessary drive to take steps in the right direction. The important thing here, is that we understand the genuine reason as to why that goal is fundamentally important to us – i.e. our underlying motivation for this goal.

When the management team are working towards goals, this must be clearly communicated with the team. Everyone needs to understand the benefits of achieving this goal and have the opportunity to share ideas on how they can contribute. The team need to feel listened to and know that viable suggestions will be considered and, where appropriate, acted on. Its also important your team understand the motivators behind some of those goals too. We’re all more motivated when we know what we are working so hard for!

Are you and your team working collectively to a shared goal?

If you would like to find out more, Sebastian J. Goerg from Florida State University has explored the psychology behind ‘Goal Setting and Worker Motivation’ in greater depth.

The Power of Communication Skills

In hierarchical systems, it is common for orders to be directed from the top down. If the team feel that leaders are not approachable, do not listen to or respect their opinion, it is reflected in their work. The team will typically do what they are told and nothing more. Innovative thinking, productivity, the quality of work motivation and job satisfaction are hindered.

Strong communication skills are a two-way process. Meetings should be focused, but include genuine opportunities for everyone to contribute. As managers tend to be distant from the daily operations and customer contact, the team can offer a valuable perspective on the business, which can inform positive change. This also applies outside of the meeting, as its often those ‘quick’ conversations that lead to the bigger misunderstandings and often lead to conflict in the workplace.

Are you and your managers good at two-way communication?

Developing a Skilled Team

Building a strong and collaborative team is the route to business growth. Confident managers understand that a range of abilities are needed in order to achieve goals. They are keen to get to know the experience and skills within their team and will openly recognise these strengths and help individuals to develop and build and these strengths.

They look at ways to allocate tasks and roles based on skills, not strict job descriptions. Rather than being threatened by the ability of others, they will consider the training and development needs that will build an individual’s confidence and competence. They will demonstrate trust and respect by enabling the team to work with a level of autonomy.

Are the skills of you and your team recognised and developed?

Adopting a Decisive Management Style

Whilst it is great to have two-way communication and autonomy, a leader has to keep everyone on track and working towards the collective goal.

At the same time as being open to new ideas and fresh approaches, they must be able to make decisions, sometimes unpopular or difficult decisions, in order to keep everything on track. Whilst it can be helpful to seek the views of others, they have to be prepared to make a final decision and act on it.

Are you and your managers confident with decision making?

Taking Responsibility for Actions and Outcomes

The ultimate responsibility for the team lies with the manager. When things go well, they should openly praise the team or the individuals that contributed to that success. When challenges arise, they should be handled with discretion, support and agreed actions.

At all times, the approach should be solutions-focused. When issues occur, attention has to be paid to what can be implemented in order to turn things around and reduce the risk of a reoccurrence.

Are you and your managers good at shouldering responsibility?

Equipping Managers with Leadership Skills

If your management team lack some of these core skills, they may benefits from some form of support, they may simply need executive coaching to boost their development. Our approach is to help individuals to uncover a leadership style that is authentic to them and their personality, in order to benefit them, their teams and the organisation.

By investing in Business Performance Coaching, a company can benefit from the ripple effect of building the confidence of managers. As actions are successfully implemented, it is common for the team to show greater engagement, positivity and productivity. In short, everyone benefits.

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