Leadership principles

Barneys Leadership Principles.

After all the reading, talking, and contemplation I have done on leadership over the years, these are the principles I personally hold to be true as a leader.

Leadership is communication.

To quote James Humes: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” As leaders our ability to communicate effectively will determine how much we can actually accomplish. A truly good leader needs to have truly good communication skills. Each individual has different communication styles and a leader needs to be able to adapt their style to whoever they are communicating with. My first mentor, Melissa Carlson used to say “a good leader is a chameleon.” She is a wise lady!

You need to figure out if the person you are talking to is a direct or indirect communicator, a visual, auditory or kinesthetic communicator, an introvert or an extra vertical,an internal or an external processor, a global or sequential thinker - and then adapt your message accordingly. The ability to empathize is huge. If you can empathize, you can understand where the other person is coming from, adapt to their style and get your message across to them. People need to hear a message 7 times before they really “get” it. Hearing a message doesn’t just mean being told it, it means seeing it, it means having it pointed out when it happens.

The ability to get your message across is only half of communication. The other half of course is listening. Listening is an underdeveloped skill in many people. When you practice active listening you show you are actually interested in the person and what they are saying. When you practice active listening you also hear what they are really saying and not what you think they are saying. When you practice active listening you do more than just wait for your turn to speak. When you practice active listening you may even learn something! I asked someone high up in the company who was extraordinarily good at being present how he did it. His answer was “I just listen.” If you listen to the other person you will make them feel special - and they will want to do things for you!

People are basically good.

In Douglas McGregor's “Theory X\Theory Y” model of management, I believe theory Y to be true. I believe people want to work and do a good job and that you should trust them to do this. As a leader it is always better to tell a person what to do but not how to do it. Let them come up with the solution.Trust that they can do it. A feeling of empowerment is a big motivator for people.

I believe that you should trust your people to use their best judgement. By all means set some boundaries but let them exercise judgement within those boundaries. People live up (or down) to your expectations. If you trust your people to do the right thing then that’s generally what they will do. One important thing about judgment is that people's judgement is only as good as the information they have. It is your job as a leader to make sure your team is as informed as possible.

Praise improves.

Feedback is important for personal growth. People need feedback early and often so they know what they should continue doing and what they can improve on. They need to know what they are doing right so they will do more of it. Feedback should be given as close to the event as possible. Do not wait for your next 1 on 1 to give feedback, do it the same day if possible.

Praise is also a really good way to improve a person's performance. The great philosopher Unknown said: “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” Dale Carnegie said “Give someone a fine reputation to live up to.” Research conducted by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada found that on the most successful teams the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback is 6 to 1. Do your utmost to maintain this ratio with all employees (both low and high performers.)

This doesn’t mean we should avoid giving constructive feedback on a person's performance - people won’t improve if they don’t know there is room for improvement. What this does mean is people need more feedback on what they are already doing well than what they can do to improve. A good leader has to give feedback to poor performers. If they don’t do this, the whole team will fail eventually. The best way to give this feedback is firstly as soon as you recognize an issue and secondly by tapping into your excellent communication skills. I can’t emphasis enough that leaders have to address performance issues - these problems rarely just go away. Everyone has the potential to get better.

Together Everyone Achieves More.

It's a cliche but it’s true. A good team is invaluable As Helen Keller said “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” The team is more important that the leader. A good team will succeed in spite of a bad leader. A bad team will fail in spite of a good leader.

A good team needs all the components of GRPI in place (Goals, Roles, Processes, Interpersonal Relationships.) Each member of a team needs to be bought into its goal and “rowing in the same direction.” Each member of the team needs to know what their job is on the team. These jobs can be formally assigned or informally determined over time - but either way, people need to know what their job is. Each member of the team needs to know the Standard Operating Procedures. Again, these can be formally determined or they can evolve over time.

Lastly, the team needs to be able to work together. When a team first comes together they will go through Bruce Tuckman's “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing” model. This can’t be avoided. This model will also be repeated on a smaller scale whenever a team leaves or joins the team. It takes time to get to the Performing stage. It is important to be aware of this.

If you want to make a change on the team you need to get everyone bought into it. The best way to get people to buy into a decision is to include them in the process. Having the whole team take a personality exercise like DiSC, Big 5 or Myers-Briggs is a great way to help everyone get along better. As soon as you understand why some acts the way they do, it’s easier to work with them. It also allows you to leverage other people's innate strengths.

Jim Rohn said “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” If you have one bad apple or one toxic person on the team they will drag everyone else down. You need to deal with the bad apples. Help them improve or help them find something more suitable.

No trust, no us.

Teams needs to have trust. A team has to trust it’s leader. How do you gain trust? Well, some people give trust and then take it away if you break it and other people need you to earn their trust. Either way, the best way to keep trust or earn trust is by saying what you mean and by meaning what you say. ‘Saying what you mean’ means being honest. ‘Meaning what you say’ means doing what you say. Everytime! Trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy.

As well as trusting the leader, the team needs to trust each other. In the book the “Five dysfunctions of team” Patrick Lencioni says: “Remember, teamwork begins by building trust.” I believe a big reason that trust on a team is so important is because it allows people to make suggestions. Continuous improvement is important. Good ideas can come from anyone and bad ideas can be the seeds of good ideas. People have to feel comfortable making suggestions without worrying if they are good or bad.

Trust on a team is also important because it allows the team to address issues with each other, be it performance issues, personality issues or whatever. Unaddressed issues will not just go away, they will grow. It’s important that the team can address issues with each other.

Actions speak louder than words.

You have to do yourself what you want your team to do. If you want your team to be pleasant to their customers, you have to be pleasant to them. The team is more likely to do what you do than do what you say. Do what I say not what I do doesn’t work. You have to walk your talk. You have to lead by example.

Behind every behavior is a reason. People don’t do things for no reason. You need to find out the “why” behind the behavior before you can change it. You need to get the context for the behavior before jumping to conclusions. If someone isn’t doing what you expect them to - find out why. Remember - their reason may not make sense to you, but to them it is very real. You have to deal with their reality if you want them to change.

If you want to predict what someone is going to do, don’t look at their words, look at their habits. What do they repeatedly do? I like to say “you are what you repeat.” 40% of a person's daily actions are habits. If someone has behaved in a certain way or done something three times in a row - they are likely to do it again. The time was a chance, the second time was a choice, the third time creates a chain.

Influence is more powerful than title.

People either do things because they want to or they do them because they have to because someone “important” told them they have to. If someone is only doing something because a person with a more senior title told them they have to, they won’t give it 100%. If someone does something because they want to they will be much more willing to do it, they will give it more effort, they will encourage others to do it and they will do it when you aren’t watching.

How do you get someone to want to do something? By influencing them! The great thing about influence is as well as using it on people who work for you, you can use it on people who don’t work for you. You can influence people on other teams, you can influence people who are senior to you and you can influence peers. How do you influence people? First you give them a WIIFM. Tell them what’s in it for me. Give them a personal benefit for doing what you want. Next, you make sure they have the tools to be able to do what you want. Then you tap into the power of peer pressure and make sure other people who are close to them are doing it too. You get people other than you to encourage them to do it. You make sure they have some reward for doing what you want.