What makes this book stand out?
Many concepts and quotes in this section come straight from research we have conducted. The quotations are medical student answers to our research survey questions on the topic of leadership and mentorship in medicine. This is the product of a combined 30 years of experience with testing grounds in the Marines, operational leadership gold mining in Alaska, over 10 combined years of medical school and residency, and our specific research conducted on mentorship and leadership in the medical setting.
Is this applicable to people outside of healthcare?
Why is leadership and mentorship in healthcare so important?
Leadership and mentorship are required in the medical world. New residents and attendings are given the responsibility of patients as well as training students and staff for their development and for the sake of effective patient care, yet it is not a focus in medical school. Often attendings and residents are left with full teams of other residents and students without formal training or practice. They are left to figure it out on their own, often as a trial by fire. The development of this guide was born out of necessity. Based on our experience, we believe that medical students wish that some of their clinical mentors and teachers were more invested in their education. This guide seeks to share techniques to help you be the most effective leader and teacher possible in the medical field. All too often it seems like an almost impossible task to manage patient care requirements for residents and attendings, let alone still effectively leading teams in the hospital and educating those you are responsible for. There is a potential to really make a difference in the life of your more junior team members, whether they are medical students or other residents. This is possible through effective leadership, mentorship, and teaching. There are very few resources specifically designed for attendings and residents on this topic of leadership, mentorship and teaching, and therefore we wanted this guide to fill this void. The most impactful way that healthcare professionals learn is through the mentorship and teaching from others more experienced than themselves. This process of imparting knowledge is vital for bestowing the wisdom, learned lessons and skills that often come at a cost either to patients or personal sacrifice. Also, being skillful at imparting knowledge and mentoring can help you grow in your career and mold you into a more effective leader. On a larger scale, better mentors in the medical system could mean that the efficiency of the healthcare system as a whole improves. There is very little effort, if any, in the medical education system to help develop one’s ability to impart knowledge and help those that are less experienced get to the next level. A significant portion of physicians’, nurses’, or any other medical professionals’ job is going to be educating those that are following in their footsteps. This also impacts the staff around you. Poor leadership impacts all the staff around you and it doesn’t take a research paper to prove that excellent or poor leadership can impact patient care.
Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on people.
An example took place on my Friday nights of volunteering in the emergency room. My job was to clean beds and transport patients to various sections of the hospital. I vividly remember the emergency medicine physician that was one of the few individuals who did not ignore me and decided to help me understand the basics of an EKG. I remember going home from the experience excited for the future because of that one individual. All through my undergraduate years I remember thinking that if I were a medical student I could really change the world for people in need. I remember telling myself that if I got into medical school I would find students in undergrad to help reach their dreams of getting into medical school. All too often some may feel hurt by going through the educational process without feeling supported and uplifted by those in the ranks ahead of them. It takes diligence and a commitment to help those below you when you get to that next step, especially when you may have had a bad experience going through it yourself. The point is, you can be highly influential and impactful in people’s lives in a mentorship situation. It is important to know that when you are actively practicing and improving on your ability to have a positive effect on someone’s life is when it is more likely to happen. Your role as a leader, mentor, and teacher is critical for leading effective teams for the sake of patient care.
Mentoring is defined as, “An experienced person in a company, college, or school, who trains and counsels new employees or students” (New Oxford american dictionary). It can also be defined as efficiently developing a less experienced individual to perform at a higher level. In the medical field this means taking someone less experienced than yourself and having them come alongside you and getting them to the next level from wherever they were at.
Who do I mentor? Everyone you work with, it is not an agreement with a medical student to meet every few weeks (although it can be). It should be much more than that. It should involve taking an active role in improving the lives of those around you. This is in a sense a type of service-based leadership, doing one’s job in a way that enhances the ability of those around you to learn from your experience.
What is the main take away about mentorship? Be active, and mindful about what you are doing. It is a common mistake for people to mistake motion for productivity. It is about being mindful about the task and goals at hand in order to be efficient and productive. How often have you found yourself reading a book and not remembering anything from the last few paragraphs? Your eyes were going through the motions but you were not actively engaged. The same thing goes for mentorship, there will be a quality difference between those who have students follow them around while ignoring that they are there versus working in a way that amplifies a students ability to be engaged.
Mindset moving forward
You can have a positive impact on all those around you. You can improve your leadership and management skills. You never know what awesome things people and students are capable of. Never underestimate others or yourself.
What if I am not good at leadership and mentorship?
Leadership and mentorship is a skill, just like any other task in medicine is a skill. It can grow and be developed. It requires practice and personal development. It should be encouraging to us all that we can continually improve on our ability to be an effective leader and mentor for our teams.
Leadership can be learned.
There is a portion of leadership that comes from natural ability and there is a significant part that can be learned. The military seems like one of the few organizations that focuses on teaching and developing leaders. Organizations within medicine should take the military’s focus on leadership development as an example and begin to prioritize it as an integral part of medicine.
Good leadership is rare and is not always what people think it is. The common misconception is that leaders have to be loud, narcissistic, and commanding isn’t accurate. Many character traits that are advantageous for leaders commonly fail to impress others and bosses up the authoritative ladder. Good leaders should have excellent character. They should be humble, teachable, self-aware, coachable, adaptable, slow to anger, strategic, and even a good follower… and the list goes on.
According to Ben Horowitz’s research, one of the most common reasons why employees quit their jobs is because they hated their managers or boss. They quit their jobs also because employees felt like they weren’t learning anything or developing in their careers. This isn’t an isolated reason. How many times has your lack of joy at work been tied to poor leadership?
Leadership can be learned, but it seems that few organizations and individuals treat it like a subject to be focused on. Developing and optimizing leadership to help employees grow is not something that is commonly addressed in the medical setting. In medicine, even more so than companies, there are unique roadblocks and challenges that can be the difference between life and death, not just hitting the bottom line for investors in a company. So why do medical schools and hospitals fail to prioritize leadership development? There is a lack of discussion around developing excellent leaders in medicine, and my goal is to change that. We should be talking about how to teach leadership and how to develop effective cultures for the sake of patients, med students, residents, and employees.
How to make these changes effective in your own life?
You become like the five people you are around the most. The more you think about these concepts, review them, and put them into action the more likely that the concepts will stick and integrate into who you are. When going through this book, write down six things that you will see every day and work on them. Put them on a notecard and place it somewhere you are going to see it everyday. There is no magic bullet apart from being intentional..
Any of the bulleted lists in this book were created from surveying hundreds of medical students in the midwest at a single medical school. The research paper from this survey data is currently being written for publication. This book is a preview into some of the responses and data obtained from the project.
Leadership concepts may seem straightforward, but it can be very difficult to implement. Oftentimes people may know the right answers, but not realize their actions are the opposite of what is best for their team. Just like medicine, leadership is an art.
“Leadership is about helping others realize their potential and inspiring them to work with you to achieve a shared vision for the future.” — Kathy Mazzarelli, CEO, Graybar
“Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it, all else is footnotes.” — Hans Vestburg, CEO, Verizon Communications
“Leadership is a combination of legitimacy, personality and management skills that make others want to follow someone’s direction.” — Pierre-André de Chalendar, CEO, Saint Gobain
“Leadership is helping people succeed, inspiring and uniting people behind a common purpose and then being accountable.” — Paul Polman, Former CEO, Unilever
“A leader focuses on both the vision of the future and the possibility and the hard realities of the present and the lessons learned of the past, a person who inspires others, someone who is a walking symbol of humility.” — Bernard Tyson, Former CEO, Kaiser Permanente
“As a leader you must trust and empower your teams. Give them a clear direction, explain the purpose of the company and give them the means to do their jobs. A leader must also empower people and help them grow and build on their strengths while practicing to improve on their blind spots.” — Isabelle Kocher, CEO, Engie
“Leadership is showing up and stepping up at a time when people need you and doing the right thing, no matter how hard it is. I remember my former boss said to me that there’s a right thing to do and there’s an easy thing to do, and very rarely is the right thing to do the easy thing to do.” — Keith Barr, CEO, InterContinental Hotels Group
“Leadership is about the ability to drive results, set the vision and share it, create an environment of success, and remove obstacles.” — Judy Marks, CEO, Otis Elevator
“A leader is someone who can think strategically, simplify the strategy so everyone in the organization can understand it and communicate that strategy simply, enthusiastically, and in a caring way.” — Ajay Banga, CEO, MasterCard
“The most basic definition of leadership is you set the destination. You come up with a strategy to get to that destination and do your best to align and supply the resources to make that happen.” — Mark Hurd, Former CEO, Oracle
“Leadership is helping believe in a better tomorrow or a better outcome than you have today.” -Marissa Mayer, Former CEO, Yahoo!
“Make setting audacious goals a fundamental belief. Do things, as John F. Kennedy famously said, “not because they are easy, because they are hard.” Leadership stands for progress, empowerment, empathy and trust. At a time of too many cynics who throw up their hands and cry, “impossible,” I employ optimism, the only free stimulus in this world.” — Bill McDermott, CEO, ServiceNow (Former CEO, SAP)
“Leadership is getting people to willingly go someplace they wouldn’t go themselves” — Tom Wilson, CEO, Allstate
“I define leadership as making a positive impact on people; employees, shareholders, customers, business partners and the public at large.” — Levent Çakiroglu, CEO, KOC Holdings
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” Douglas MacArthur
There are 4 focus areas of leadership that include your own personal performance, planning, execution, and improvement.
Great leaders are confident. This is very different from arrogance. They are able to rally their team around a vision of the future that doesn’t exist yet. Even when the odds are stacked against them and the goal seems impossible, a leader will provide hope.
It takes bravery despite fear to make tough decisions. The best leaders have the ability to be decisive even when the facts aren’t clear.
Leadership is about people. Your entire job is to motivate people towards the vision and goal. You need to have empathy for people and have the compassion to listen to the needs of others to be a great leader.
Be a person of integrity. A leader is being watched every day by the team. They will see every inconsistency in the leader’s behavior and actions. What is accepted by the leader is embraced by the team. A leader without character will have a team without integrity. Your actions will build the culture of the teams and organization you are in.
Adopt and implement exemplary characteristics.
There are too many qualities that accompany great leaders. You must actively engage yourself in applying them, because often they don’t come naturally for people. You know what they should be, write them down, think about them, and apply them. Many people unconsciously let their ego get in the way of truly becoming an excellent leader. Don’t let this happen to you.
Be excellent at what you do.
Leaders must be excellent at what they do. Leaders don’t have to be experts in all things, but they should always be learning and pushing themselves towards excellence.
Be intentional about how you come across to people. Have a perpetually positive mental attitude and demeanor.
Team members will automatically know how leaders are responding to the surrounding circumstances. Leaders are closely scrutinized. Be intentional about how you respond, how you react, and how you come across to your team. Being self-reflective and intentional about your demeanor is the only way to start making changes. Remember people will match your mood, follow your example, and they will see how you interact with your environment. Always assume you are being observed.
Never talk poorly about another person.
This discredits you and breaks down trust between you and your team. It will leave people wondering when they are going to be the one you’re talking about.
Also termed, “Extreme Ownership”. This means that when things go wrong even if it seems far removed from yourself, you must still take responsibility for the outcome. You are capable of changing more than you think. Too often people try to place the blame elsewhere. Point the finger at yourself and say that you could have improved and done better. The quality of leadership is the difference between a good team and bad team, no exceptions. If you don’t take responsibility for the outcome, who will? If someone drops the ball on your team, what training or preventive systems could you have had in place to have prevented that poor outcome? There is always something that the leader could have done. It is your job to anticipate, train, and ensure that the teams are accomplishing the mission. (Jocko)
Be humble. Prioritize your character. Build trust.
Always be humble. You are not expected to know everything. Ask for help and explanations. This will help you establish credibility. This isn’t a free pass on pushing yourself to know the details of the job. Push yourself to learn the job. Study hard. Have discipline to keep your learning curve at a steep slope, don’t let it level off. Prioritize the type of leader you want to be. Have integrity. This means follow through on your word. Tell people like it is. You succeed when your team succeeds. Be genuine, treat your team with respect, be early, have a good attitude, be realistic, be available and accessible, follow through on your promises and what you say. If you say you are going to do something then do it.
How do you incorporate all these personality skills, communication skills into your interactions?
Go through each leadership topic and develop your framework. This means reviewing your personal situation and trying to see how you could have applied these points in your own interactions and life. Continually improve. Seek further information. Alot of leadership information is repetitive, but what is helpful is to see it distilled down into simple concepts that are easily applicable and to see examples of how these concepts can be applied in real life.
Avoid saying any combination of, “Because I said so.”
This goes back to your team needing to know the why behind what is going on. It may seem obvious because you as the leader are constantly thinking about this, but you need to be deliberate about communicating constantly about the why. You can beat your team into submission, but it will not work in the long term. Eventually things will fall apart.
Balance management with leadership.
There are scenarios that require you to step in and make things happen. If your teams think you are delegating to get out of work. Then you may need to step in and accomplish the one thing that no one else wants to do to prove a point. Leaders obviously can’t spend their time doing these tasks, but you need to show your team that you aren’t afraid to step into their shoes.
You don’t always have to be talking. Listen to people. Be in the moment. Don’t silence opinions that are different from your own. Don’t be upset when people may not agree with you. Listen by being present in the moment, don’t interrupt others with the thoughts in your mind. People can tell when you’re lost in them. Here’s a quick system to help:
- Tell yourself that you are open minded.
- Pay intense attention to the space between words.
- Do not interrupt.
- Think about what has been said, be comfortable with silence.
- Start by using mirroring statements or summarize what you heard.
- Then focus on the most pertinent points you want to make by asking, “what are your thoughts, tell me if I’m wrong about this”.
- Keep listening
Never penalize truthfulness.
If your team comes to you with really bad news, never penalize them. Thank them for bringing it to your attention. If you react negatively, next time they will avoid bringing you the information altogether.
Reward ideas from your team.
If you do not go out of your way to reward your people that bring ideas to the table, they will stop sharing them. The lack of at least acknowledging and thanking the person for the idea brought forward can eventually lead to that person not speaking up again. It is okay to turn down ideas, the reward doesn’t have to be going with everyone’s idea. If you turn down someone’s idea, do it tactfully. “You’re probably going to say ‘I told you so’, but I have to try it this way for now, please do not stop bringing things up.” If someone brings up an idea and you can see the flaws in the plan, go with your team’s plan even if it might be less efficient. Their next plan will be better because of the time investment.
Leaders need to take care of themselves. Self-compassion.
You need to have a constant monitor for yourself as well. It is easy to become burned out. Reflect on what you are doing in your day and prioritize down time to reflect. Leaders who are in the fray day and night become narrow-sighted. They can get caught up in small thinking and not seeing the big picture. Practice self-compassion.
Leaders should be consistent in their interactions with others. Avoid overreacting. Treat people consistently well. Don’t show favorites. Be predictable when it comes to high quality character traits and handling difficult situations with a calm demeanor.
Be Aware of the Power of Incentives.
Sometimes you are giving people reasons to act a certain way and you have know idea that you are doing so. If the boss has an explosive reaction to learning bad news or attacks the messenger then they have created an incentive to withhold future information to avoid a “blow-up”.
Risk management. Anticipate. Plan for the What if’s.
This means looking ahead at what might happen and already having a plan in place ready to go. It is like playing chess, always planning three moves in advance.
Risk management is organized anticipation. It is seeing the landscape and environment and making back-up and contingency plans. Be proactive about seeing how things could go wrong. Even when it seems like a waste of time, you should have contingency plans in place should something go wrong that your teams will be able to run with. Your team leaders should be involved in taking them time to picture how things could go wrong and based on that making plans on what should happen should those things come to place. Stretch your ability to anticipate, even for black swan, unknown events and disasters. Be able to answer what the triggering event should be that the contingency plan takes place, who is in charge of that plan, what resources should be allocated. Don’t get caught up in constant speculation and making poor decisions with limited data or knowledge. The whole point of risk management and anticipation is to have a plan in place in case something happens. Have that back up plan.
Keep things simple.
So many aspects of business, medicine, and everything in between has someone making things much more complex than they should be. Keep your plans simple. If a plan requires many steps, break it down in simple pieces. This even happens with product development. The engineers think all the bells and whistles should be integrated into a product so that they lose sight of what really matters. Keeping plans simple is also very important when you are in action because there are so many things that can change that might require the team to pivot. If the team has too much of a rigid, highly detailed plan, it may be difficult for them to make adjustments as needed. Keeping plans and strategies the optimal amount of simplicity will help your team remain agile while still focused on the goals at hand.
Prioritize and Execute. Have a strategic focus.
Having a lot of good ideas is fine. Having so many ideas that your people don’t really understand what to prioritize is a problem. Often it is easy for the leader to become distracted by so many people and projects pulling for their attention. It is important to make decisions with the end goal in mind so you can choose the most vital course of action and prioritize it.
Planning. Plan to review performance.
Planning is an art in itself. The plan should be detailed, but not so detailed that changes can not be made as necessary. It is important to know what the goal is. What the end state of the mission is. Know why the mission is important. If you can’t answer these main three questions then you should question what you are doing and whether it is even helpful.
Don’t become complacent.
It is so easy to let your guard down when it comes to standards or doing what you know inside to be right. Don’t let yourself or your team be lulled into thinking that being complacent is okay. If you are complacent your team will be as well. You have to set the standard for yourself and your team will see that standard.
Never stop Learning and improving.
Your willingness to learn and to see new viewpoints will help you gain trust with your team.
Trust your instincts.
Be as well prepared as possible, plan for the “What-Ifs”, and then follow your instincts.
Seeing the bigger picture, Purpose, Vision, Detach
Don’t be distracted by your surroundings so much so you forget to look up and out and around you. Translating the vision and helping your team stay focused on the mission is your job. It is easy to get started down a path that takes you in the wrong direction when your team’s mission is not very clear and your priorities are in place. This is especially important when things become chaotic and busy, it is easy to become lost, headed in the wrong direction. Seeing the bigger picture seems simple, but it is commonly missed. Too often the whole point is missed. Understanding the purpose behind things and keeping the real purpose in the forefront is an important skill to develop.
Leaders are always optimistic about the situation. There is always one thing you can do to win.
There is always the next best move that you can make. It is your job to be calm and have clarity to make the next best decision. Always be optimistic for your team no matter what the circumstances are.
How to handle your own mistake?
Be honest. Be humble. Self Compassion. It is easy to get caught up in doubt and fear, but leaders need to move from self-doubt to clarity and action. This is not being easy on yourself, it is just being mindful and acknowledging how you feel, identifying that other leaders are facing similar challenges, and being kind to yourself. Ask yourself what your best and most ideal mentor would say to you about the challenges that you are facing, or what you would tell a friend. This practice will help you be a better leader by building resilience, integrity, and compassion towards others. (HBR https://hbr.org/2020/11/self-compassion-will-make-you-a-better-leader)
What should you do when you are a new leader?
Train hard. Be humble. Be honest. Earn your teams’ respect. Be as prepared as you possibly can. Know your gaps in knowledge and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make good calls.
You need to have discipline and self control as a leader. This means that you can lead by example. When you are on mission, you are prepared, well-researched, all your equipment has been checked and you are on time. Modeling the behavior expectations you require from your team. It is very easy to slip and to start cutting corners. It takes an active mindset of discipline to maintain an unnatural state of constant preparedness.
Leaders should also be good followers.
You should be a good follower. This means you should be able to learn from others, putting your ego aside and doing whatever needs to be done to help your supervisor.
Focus on freeing up bottlenecks.
In many projects, tasks, missions. The team needs to focus on how to relieve bottlenecks. Part of the leader’s job is to make sure the team is focused on identifying bottlenecks and coming up with their own ideas on how to improve them.
Experiment. Be flexible. Adapt. Be a follower and leader.
Leadership is an art and science. There will likely never be a 100% correct answer. Which means you have to take the information available to you. Sometimes you have to go collect the missing puzzle pieces of information, and then you have to make the best decision you can. If it doesn’t work. Try something different next time, make it happen. Sometimes as new information comes in, you have to pivot and change direction. Keep going, find what works.
Develop your knowledge and skills. Don’t become complacent.
Focus on your own growth too yourself too, you need balance. You can’t ignore your own learning.
Be genuine. Give Feedback. Ask for Feedback. Self-awareness.
Check your ego. When giving feedback do so in a way that communicates that you actually care about the individual’s success and learning. Use a high ratio of positives to negatives. This means aim for positive reinforcement with what they did well and address what needs to be improved for next time. The “bad” doesn’t have to be sandwiched in. People just need to know that the leader actually cares. Try open ended questions, like how do you think it went? Any good learning points for next time? Oftentimes people can self-identify what needs improvement. Foster this mentality and fill in the gaps with positives and then add in negatives that might be missed if needed.
Developing your workplace culture.
A culture is more than just a quirky workplace. Leaders need to set the tone and deliberately set the expectations of the most important thoughts, actions, attitudes that will help the team accomplish the mission.
Professionalism and balance.
No one person on the team should be favored over another. Be close to your people, genuinely care about them, but do not be so close to one subordinate that other team members question your priorities or loyalty to the team as a whole. Having a professional mindset makes it okay to be genuine as well. It takes a careful balance to lead and also genuinely care for your people.
Don’t underestimate people.
Don’t underestimate what your people can accomplish. Build them up. Train them. See what they are capable of. You as a leader are not so unique and special that someone you are in charge of may be better than you at something. In fact, this is a good thing. The stronger your people are the better it is for the team as a whole.
Finding the best people.
Find people that are driven by purpose and that are talented. This means focusing on character and ability without neglecting one or the other. Your job as a leader is to recruit and let people do their thing.
Know your people.
Genuinely seek to know the people on your team. This doesn’t take much explanation. When leaders genuinely care and remember people and work to know the names of their team members it builds social capital, develops your team’s culture, and communicates that you care.
Know your environment, build trust and relationships
First you must be able to be self aware of your environment. This includes the people, the machines, the buildings, really anything in your surroundings can have an impact. This includes knowing yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses. Building trust with the people around you is absolutely necessary. You must observe where students are within their learning, know your team and their motivations. You can’t build trust without first trusting others. This doesn’t mean throwing out tasks on people that you know may not be equipped or trusting everyone without a firm reason to. It means you must know your people, and develop trust in them to accomplish what they need to. This is why mentorship, training others, knowing where they are at and meeting them at their level. Start assigning tasks based on their level of training, their level of understanding, their level of confidence and work to develop them. Build your trust in them and then trust them to accomplish their tasks.
How to make changes. First you need trust and respect.
Leaders that have the respect and trust of their people can make changes more effectively. Focus on relationships first before you ask.
Stick up for your team. Never let your students or team take the hit from something going wrong.
There will be times when people or circumstances threaten your team members. Even when they might have caused the circumstance in the first place. You have to stand up for your team. This goes hand in hand with taking responsibility when things do not go right or as expected. We’ve seen attendings let residents take the fall for things that were a result of the attending’s decision making.
“If you have a problem with someone on my team, you can talk with me privately.”
“That was my fault, I told them to do that.”
Check your ego and take responsibility for your decisions. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Stand up for your team. Put the burden on yourself when things go wrong. If someone outside your team is demeaning to one of your team members you need to put an end to it. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you don’t speak up, you will lose credibility.
Be constantly improving, Leadership is not black and white. Seek out mentors, see what works and doesn’t work. Understanding your environment and people is important because not all scenarios require the same leadership style. You must be adaptable, and in order to do this it is helpful to have tactics that have worked and examples in your own mind of how leaders in your life would handle a particular scenario. Seek out the best examples and incorporate their strategies and tactics into your own database. Leadership is the one unique thing that can translate across all industries and scenarios. Leadership is all encompassing and doesn’t know boundaries. You must know yourself, your vision, goals. Self-reflect and be humble. This is the best way to approach a new leadership position.
“Decentralized Command”. Delegate. Use your team and know your team. Use balance. Set expectations.
They say that one person can only be effectively leading 5 to 7 people at a time. This means that leaders should appoint other leaders to oversee larger groups. This allows you to be able to focus on the overall strategy and maintain the course to complete the mission. You must know your people well in order to tailor missions according to their experience and personality. Don’t place people in positions over their heads to where they could fail. You must balance delegation with a mentorship mindset. Help them grow. If they are not confident, build their confidence with missions that will allow them to succeed. If they are overconfident, in a safe way stretch them beyond their capability and let them be humbled through an experience that is way over their head. You must know your people. Use delegation as a teaching method. Often the frontline people will know the problems better than you do. Being a leader does not mean you will be the creator of the plan. Also when your team members come up with a plan they will more likely have buy-in to their own plan. As a leader you may have a better solution that is more efficient and faster, but if the team member’s plan isn’t bad and it will still be effective, consider going with their plan anyway. Your people need to be able to make a decision based on their assessment, the mission objectives and goals, and what they think the leader’s intent is. (Jocko)
Enhancing your team’s functionality and capability, by building trust.
Start developing your team by getting them through the phases of learning appropriate to their experience level. This requires that you know your team well. Have them progress through a stepwise ladder of experience. Have them watch, then guide them through the task, have them do the task solo, then let them teach the task. This process is a trust building exercise and is based on their performance. People should take a step backward or forward according to their ability in accomplishing the tasks. Your job as a leader is to help facilitate this process. Let the process happen, but be vigilant of your team as they take on more responsibility. Let them decide when they need to communicate if they run into problems, and only step in when absolutely necessary. If they do not communicate that the task was beyond their capability, they may have to take a few steps back on the ladder to allow trust to be rebuilt. Remember that this applies to leadership development as well. Always start preparing your team to be able to function without you by developing future leaders through this stepwise and graduated process.
Standardize repetitive processes. Free up time for creative solutions and increased efficiency.
Leaders are always watching for inefficiencies in their system. They identify them and find the right people to improve that system. Often this means that as a leader you may not have the best answer, but showing your team that these inefficiencies should be identified and addressed is vital for always improving. Standardize repetitive tasks and keep them as efficient and organized as possible so work isn’t doubled. There may be significant push back from some team members about this. It takes effective communication to tell the team that this is the problem and inefficiencies at hand, we can do better and these are the potential benefits. Let’s give this a good effort and try this new method and keep working to make our team more efficient.
Communicate and lead up and down the chain of command.
When you are a follower, be an excellent follower. This means coming to your boss with solutions and plans of what you already are planning to do. Do the thinking ahead of time and be confident in your plans and reasoning. Build trust with the boss, make their job easier. Be the go to person when they need things done. Get things done no matter how trivial and make it happen. Identify what you can take off their plate of responsibilities and communicate tactfully.
For your subordinates keep the purpose and the “why” laid out and communicated in a consistent and clear manner. Explain the why behind decisions. Remember that you have had a lot more time to think about your own thoughts and that it takes some time for the team to catch on. Keep communicating the purpose of why you are doing what you are doing. (Jocko)
Communicate frequently and effectively.
It is easy to think that your peers and subordinates can read your mind. Just because you have been thinking about a subject or problem all day doesn’t mean that someone else has. You need to be communicating and being transparent with what is going on with the team. This ties into keeping the mission at the forefront and explaining the why behind what you are doing.
Be efficient with yours and others’ time.
Meetings do not need to happen if they are not helpful. It is so easy for people to act busy and it helps them feel better, even though they may not be getting anything done. It is easy to fill your day with “filler” activity, but you always need to review the time you are spending and ask yourself if it is truly at capacity regarding efficiency. A great example can be taken from studying. So many students constantly read and re-read their notes. It is a very passive way of studying, they are not actively forcing their minds to recall details. It is a very inefficient way of studying to just read passively over material. In the same way we should be asking if we are just being too passive with our time? Are we just filling it with meetings or tasks so that we can check the boxes? Are the tasks we are doing actively helping us accomplish the mission? It seems simple, but the application can be difficult.
Cover and Move. Teamwork.
Your teams have to have the mindset of working together to accomplish the goal. Avoid silos. Avoid pointless team building exercises. Each section of your team or business needs to know the overarching mission and purpose behind what they are doing. All too often different departments and people silo each other off and just focus on doing their own thing. This means that departments and team leaders will need to build relationships and be humble. It is about setting your ego aside and breaking down barriers to teamwork. Battle the bureaucracies that make bottle necks for other departments or people. Have difficult conversations to clear up frustrations and have humility for the sake of the whole organization and large scale team mission.
Leadership is closely tied to mentorship. In order to enhance your team’s capabilities, or scale in business the leader needs to be mentoring people. This means developing others’ leadership skills. Leaders need to enable their teams to lead for the sake of efficiency and enhancing your capabilities as a team. As a leader you can not micromanage everything. Be who you want your mentees to be. Oftentimes it may seem so straightforward because it is what you do everyday, but new learners often can’t pick up the nuances of what happens around them. They need guidance to even see what is happening around them. Create teams that are constantly improving and mentoring the next leaders.
Place your team first.
Leaders prioritize the team and its people first. Sure poor leaders can get away with mistreating people. They can step on others on their way to the top, but it isn’t sustainable. Leadership is about placing others first for the sake of accomplishing the mission.
Respect your team members.
Check your internal biases and combat them. People will pick up on hidden meanings in your actions and words if you don’t keep your thoughts and mind in check. You aren’t fooling anyone. This applies to age, race, sex, background, even previous performance records. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Treat people well. Treat them with respect.
Engaging Your Team with Humble Confidence.
Don’t always seek reinforcement for your decisions. This is different from running a plan by your team to get input. If you know your plan is sound and needs to be done a specific way, you do not need everyone’s approval for it. Expect some team members to challenge your thought process. You don’t want to surround yourself with “Yes-men”. Answer questions freely. Take personal responsibility for the outcome. Listen well. It is okay to adapt the plan if your team members have concerns. This change in plan does not make you weak. Do not feel threatened when your ideas are challenged. If one of your team members has a good alternative to the plan then thank them and acknowledge them. Your team will respect you for going with the best plan possible. If your instincts tell you to stick with your plan and shut down the new ideas from your team, explain the reason and “why” behind your decision. Remind them that you will take full responsibility for the outcome, but that based on your experience. If the plan doesn’t go as expected and your team was right all along, then acknowledge your mistake to your team and move on.
Prioritize your team and employees first.
Taking care of your team and employees in a way that is genuine will help them take care of their customers or patients more effectively. People who are constantly beat down at work and feel like they are being repressed by the administrators ruling over them will not do as good of a job, especially in the long term when working with customers and patients.
What to do when your team doesn’t have buy-in.
Give them responsibility to make a plan. Give them a reason to be involved. You would check-out too if your creativity was stifled and you were told what to do at every move, essentially micromanaged. Even if the plan isn’t as good as yours. Go with their plan. It is okay to pick through the parts that will absolutely not work, but if it is a well-thought out plan and get the job done. Go with it.