Guest Article: Get Better Daily

By Guest Writer: Art Petty

Art Petty helps executives and firms develop the emerging leaders critical for their future in this era of change and uncertainty. His clients include executives and teams in electronics, retailing, manufacturing, government, not-for-profit, and finance. Art has written multiple books, including Leadership Caffeine—Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development, Practical Lessons in Leadership—A Guidebook for Aspiring and Experienced Leaders, and Leadership Caffeine for Project Managers. Additionally, Art has served as the Leadership and Management Expert for The Balance (formerly About.com), and he has published over 1,300 (and counting) articles on his widely covered Management Excellence blog. Art teaches management courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels at DePaul University.

Original article published here.

Developing as a leader doesn’t follow a straight line. It’s different for every individual. Focus on getting better at this job daily.

Here are five ideas to help you jump-start this good work.

1. Get In the Game

Time, place, and circumstances play a big part in everyone’s development. Insert yourself into the fray and become part of the solution to the problems holding people and teams back.

Look for communication or process issues. I call these gray-zone problems. Everyone sees them, but no one knows who owns fixing them. Be that person. Learn to lead in the gray zones.

2. Study the Leaders In Your Environment

The style and character of the leaders around you are critical factors in your growth. We learn a great deal by observing other leaders in action.

Learn from the great leaders. Study them. Look at what works and experiment with their approaches and make them yours.

Learn from the lousy leaders. Study them. Look at what doesn’t work and commit to never doing it that way.

3. Accept that You Have to Experiment to Grow as a Leader

While you don’t want your team members to feel like lab rats, you must experiment with your approaches and tactics to see what works for people and your situation.

There are nearly infinite variations of how you engage, communicate with, coach, support, and develop your team members.

Experiment until you get it right.

If no one is walking through your open door, shift your communication approach. Flex your communication approach to their needs.

If individuals look like they want to march on you carrying torches for that Monday 8:00 a.m. team meeting, change the time and day.

If you haven’t asked them how you are doing, start now. You might have to ask them 47 times before you gain meaningful input, but if you’re working hard on growing trust and treating people with respect, they’ll eventually relax and share nuggets.

4. Let Them Help you Define the Experiments.

I learned over time to experiment with roles and structure.

I gave people a voice, and we worked together until we got the sides of the Rubik’s cube to line up.

Never stop experimenting. If you do, what worked yesterday or even today is bound to kick you in the teeth tomorrow.

5. Learn and Live the Universal Formula for Leadership Success

It turns out, getting good at this job of leading isn’t all that complicated. There’s a formula.

Make sure everyone feels respected.

Respect begets trust.

Trust is the basis for performance.

The formula is simple, just not simplistic:

Respect + Trust = Performance

Live this daily!

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I checked, and your job description doesn’t put you in charge of making people better. It’s all about you working on yourself to get better. Put most of your getting better energy into working on you, not them. They’ll view it as a sign of respect. It’s up to you to complete the formula.

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