I’ve often talked with folks about the most destructive leadership tool in their homes, which in my mind is the microwave – mostly because it suggests to us that everything can happen quickly, and when it comes to leadership this just isn’t true. But when we’re talking about the most important leadership tool, I find that many people ignore or walk by it regularly without giving it the glance they ought to.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a seminar, a church service, a workshop or something like it, where the speaker is making a point and the person in front of you is elbowing their neighbor. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, they’re talking about you.”
Or maybe you’ve been in that setting where the person looks at their neighbor with a long glance. Same message but without the words. Ever seen it happen? I know I have.
What’s really going on, at least in my mind, is that the person doing the elbowing is making one thing clear: they’d like everyone else to change, rather than change themselves.
What’s the most important leadership tool in your home?
I wish I could tell you that it was the couch. But we know it’s not true. While a couch provides comfort, it doesn’t really drive the decision-making and action often required of leadership.
You know what does? The mirror.
When a person truly spends time looking at themselves in a mirror, and taking a healthy assessment of their own leadership style, approach to people, results they’re seeing, and more – that’s when the mirror does its work.
If you don’t know yourself, and you’re not ready to make changes to yourself to improve, then it’s likely that you’ll never see the real fruit of your leadership efforts. The blind spots in your rear view mirror will catch you off guard.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting you take your mirror to work with you. But I am suggesting that learning to embrace the mirror in your home will help you build the kind of culture that will keep employees following your lead.
Ownership, Accountability & Self-Assessments
In every meeting that you’re in, there’s a moment – particularly when something hasn’t gone right – when the people in the room start looking to blame someone or something. To model and demonstrate ownership (and accountability) at that moment means three things at once:
- Explicitly state that there’s no gain focusing on blame. The truth is that a lot of people do this – right before they start blaming someone or something. You not only have to say it, you have to mean it.
- People need to see the connection between ownership and introspection. Most people understand ownership and accountability but rarely see the introspection and self-evaluation that often proceed it. Taking people thru an exercise where we evaluate what each one of us (not others in the room) could have done better begins to help them make the connection. And they need to see it start at the top.
- Leaders need to pair self-assessments with accountability. More often than not, a nice boardroom conversation is where things end. Leaders should make sure the impact and effects of the meeting outlast the meeting. The best way to do that is to build systems of accountability (even during the meeting).
Most importantly, leaders need to show those they lead that they’re focused on their own introspection, their own ownership, and their own accountability. Not holding others accountable – which will come after this. But it starts with staff realizing the high bar and standard that a leader holds themselves to. It’s modeling at its finest.
Without that, systems of accountability just feel like structured scapegoating.
The most important words a leader can use with their team
No one lives under the superstition that their leaders are perfect. They realize that they’re real and that leaders worth following are constantly learning. To demonstrate that, leaders need to lead with these ten honest words,
“Here is an area where I could use your help.”
When staff know that you know you don’t know everything, and realize you’ve done your own internal assessment and can ask for help, they’re more willing to embrace the same behavior for themselves and ask for help.
That’s the kind of culture you want to develop if you’re looking to build a team that’s constantly learning, constantly improving, and constantly achieving.