Your ability to negotiate, communicate, influence and persuade others to do things is indispensable to everything you accomplish in life. The most effective men and women are those who can competently organise the cooperation and assistance of other people to accomplish goals and objectives.
Of course, everyone you meet has different values, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, cultural values, work habits, goals, ambitions and dreams. Because of this incredible diversity of human resources, it has never been more difficult and yet more necessary for diplomatic leaders to emerge and form these people into high-performing teams.
Fortunately, leaders are made, not born. You learn to become a leader by doing what other excellent leaders have done before you. You become proficient in your job or skill, and then you become proficient at understanding the motivations and behaviours of other people. As a leader, you combine your personal competencies with the competencies of others into a smoothly functioning team that can outplay and outperform all its competitors.
When you become a team leader, even if your team only consists of one other person, you must immediately develop a whole new set of leadership skills. To determine what these skills are, you need to consider the genesis of high-performing teams.
Teams generally go through four phases as they evolve toward high performance: forming, storming, norming and performing.
The forming stage is very important, perhaps even critical, to the success of the team. Your ability to select the proper team members to accomplish a particular task – personal or business – is the mark of the superior leader. If you select the wrong people in the first place, it becomes almost impossible afterward to build a winning team, just as it would be impossible to win athletic championships with unskilled or ill-suited players.
In the forming stage, the team members come together and begin to get a feeling for each other. There will be a good deal of discussion, argument, disagreement, personal expression of likes and dislikes, and the forming of friendly alliances between team members.
This stage, especially the discussions and conversations that take place, may seem time consuming, but it’s indispensable to developing a unified group of people that you can lead. One of the most important qualities of a leader is patience. And patience is never more necessary than when you’re going through the early stages of assembling your team.
The second stage of team development is storming – a shortened form of “brainstorming.” During this stage, the group, whose members are now comfortable with each other, begins the hard work of setting goals and deadlines, dividing up the tasks and getting on with the job. During the storming phase, people learn about the contributions each member can make to achieve the team’s objectives.
The third stage of team development is norming. This is when norms and standards are established among the team members so that everyone feels secure and confident in his or her place. All members know what’s expected and how their performance will be measured. They also are aware of the responsibilities and obligations that they have, not only to the job, but to each other. Your ability as a leader to promote the norming process is critical to the team’s success.
The fourth stage of team development is performing. In the final analysis, your ability to get results is all that really matters. Your lifestyle, your rate of promotion and level of rewards, and your respect and esteem among your co-workers and bosses will all be determined by your ability to perform and to get others to perform.
You can foster this quality by asking the question, “What are our values?” or “What do we stand for?” People will contribute the values they consider the most important. As they do, you or someone else can write them on a flipchart. The values will usually be something like: integrity, excellence, quality, caring about people, profitability and harmony.
2. Shared objectives.
Everyone must take the time to discuss the actual reason for forming the team and the chief results that are expected.
Leaders can see the big picture. They’re absolutely clear about what they want to accomplish and what it will look like. They have the ability to articulate this vision in the minds and hearts of others and to get everyone, no matter what their background or personality, working together in harmony toward the realisation of that vision.
People can’t hit a target they can’t see. Again, even though it may appear time consuming, everyone needs to have ample opportunity to discuss and agree on the ultimate goals desired before work begins. The more thorough the discussion of goals and objectives, the more effective the team will be when it begins working.
3. Shared activities.
Everyone knows what they’re supposed to contribute to achieving the team’s goals and objectives. They also know what each of the other members is expected to do. All the work is clearly divided up among the team members, and everyone knows their role in the process.
4. A team head who leads the action.
You become the role model for all of the others. You go out in front. You continually look for ways to make it easier for your team members to do their jobs. You accept complete responsibility for achieving the overall goal. You start a little earlier, you work a little harder, and you stay a little later. You set careful priorities on your time, and you always work on your highest value tasks. You never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. You always put yourself out in front and go to bat for your people in every circumstance. You are a leader because you continually lead.
5. Team members who continually evaluate their progress.
They’re always asking themselves, “How are we doing, and how can we do better?” When they manufacture or sell products in the marketplace, they ask their customers for ongoing feedback and evaluation. They set incredible standards of excellence and are constantly striving to be better.
Whenever they have problems, misunderstandings or difficulties within the team, they reexamine their values, their goals, their activities, their assignments and their responsibilities. They’re more concerned with what’s right than with who’s right. They’re more concerned with winning than with not losing. High-performing teams run by excellent leaders are determined to perform in an excellent fashion. All members know that their ability to work together in harmony and cooperation is the key to all of
The wonderful thing about becoming a leader in your work and personal life is that you can practice the skills of influencing and persuading others toward a common objective. You can promote the principles of excellent teamwork by establishing your values and goals, determining your activities and then leading the action. And you can improve yourself by continually evaluating your performance against your standards.
One of the marks of excellent people is that they never compare themselves with others. They only compare themselves with themselves and with their past accomplishments and future potential. You can become an even more excellent person by constantly setting higher and higher standards for yourself and then by doing everything possible to live up to those standards. The more proficient you become at getting the results for which you were hired, the more opportunities you will have to get results through others. And your ability to put together a team and then to lead that team to high performance will enable you to accelerate your business and fulfill your goals faster than ever before.
What A Grade 1 Sticker Business Taught Me About Business
It’s the very fundamentals that are frequently overlooked amid ambition and “blue sky thinking” – yet, these remain the most crucial element of any business.
When I was a kid, my father believed that instead of getting pocket money, my brothers and I should learn how to make money. Stickers were the school craze when I was in Grade 1, and we wanted a collection for ourselves, so Dad said if we wanted to buy the stickers, we needed to make the money. So, logically, we started a sticker trading business. Dad gave us the start-up money and took us through the basics of business.
We had a cash float for purchases, and learnt about cost price, mark-up and selling price – very basic accounting. We kept recycling that money, making extra and using it to buy more stickers. Then we worked out that if we increased the mark-up, we’d make a bigger profit – so why not make the mark-up as big as possible? The obvious happened. Our prices were too high, and we lost customers.
Valuable business lesson learnt, we came back down to a mark-up that other kids were willing to pay for.
More lessons to learn
Then people came to us and asked if they could take a sticker today and pay us tomorrow. We saw no reason not to trust them. Guess what? They didn’t pay us back. We had bad debt on our hands. When we sold out of stickers, we had cash-flow issues and couldn’t buy more stock. Dad was there to help us out, though, so we received another capital injection to get back off the ground. And this time, if we did extend credit, we loaded it for the privilege of “buy now, pay later” – another lesson learnt.
We ran a proper ledger for the business, tracking our inventory, sales and profit. Even if our “bank” account was a piggy bank, we had a clear record of what was going on. When I look back on it, none of what I learnt was irrelevant.
Today, I run a leading financial services company with billions of rand running through our bank accounts. Even though the finances of the business are run on a much larger scale, the principles of business – those basic principles that we learnt trading stickers – still power our company. And when I see entrepreneurial ventures failing, or when friends come to me for advice because their business is struggling, it’s almost always because they haven’t got these basics right.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that if you don’t fully understand how the money is being made, walk away. Whether you are dealing with stickers or financial services, the business principles should be straightforward: money coming in, money going out, and profitability.
Every day, I look at an Excel statement of my company’s forty bank accounts. Every day, I look at the cashflow, and unusual big-ticket items get a note so I know what’s going on. It’s just like that Grade 1 business, only on a bigger scale.
Once the other kids saw the success of our sticker business, they started to want to get in on the action, so they came to market with their own competing products. At first, we were able to innovate as the competition squeezed our margins and started to impact on our profits. Eventually, the whole situation got completely out of hand and the school banned sticker trading for profit.
While I didn’t become a sticker magnate, the lessons I learnt in Grade 1 remain central to every business I am involved with – get the basics right.
How To Handle A Director Who Always Says No
Diverse opinions on a board is a good thing — but is it boosting your business, or hindering growth and decisions?
Do you have that director on your board who always says ‘no’? Regardless of what the issue is, regardless of the context, who raises it or whether or not it is indeed a good idea, their response is either a simple ‘no’ or an elongated perspective on why they disagree? It can even feel at times that they are actively working against the company and against the board. Although they obviously do not see it that way.
Experienced directors will have multiple war stories related to this subject. Aspiring directors should be aware of how to approach these situations when they arise and how to avoid becoming the subject of such stories.
Develop a culture of trust, candour and professionalism
A board’s conduct must be characterised by trust, respect, candour, professionalism, accountability, diligence and commitment. It is the board’s collective responsibility to build this culture and to engage with one another in a productive and effective way.
Dissent should be welcomed when it is constructive and engaging. The idea of being the ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sake of it however, is not the best way to approach this. Dissent should be based on a real belief that the issue has not been fully debated or creates a real challenge for the company going forward.
If you have a director who genuinely believes a different path is right for the company, hear them out and engage in the discussion. In my experience, this often opens up an issue or changes a detail that when taken as part of the whole, improves the decision-making outcome for the board and the company.
Related: Contributing In The Boardroom
Remove the politics from the boardroom
At the heart of this issue is often politics. Politics between directors, who are also shareholders or executives. Politics between the ‘new guard’ and the ‘old.’ Regardless of the genesis, politics really do not have a place in the boardroom and directors who engage in it should be called out by the chairman or another senior director.
In local government I have heard stories of councillors who always vote ‘no,’ so that whenever something goes wrong, they can say “I told you so,” and show the public why they should be re-elected. But that is indeed politics. The boardroom is a very different space. It is private and discussions should be confidential.
Board rotation, a simple solution
While the removal of an errant director should never just be left to resolve itself, there is a simple solution that can support the easy removal of the most difficult directors. The challenge is that it requires forward planning prior to the appointment of any new director.
Directors should only ever be appointed for a predefined term, with automatic rotation at the end of that term. This does not stop you from reappointing a director for a further period. It is, however, always easier to ask someone to consider a further term than it is to tell them that their time has come and they should resign from the board.
Having a predefined term for a director essentially ensures an automatic resignation period. A simple rotation policy for directors is not just good governance, it is a practical step you can take to provide a way out of a sticky relationship.
Ultimately the board as a whole must address issues that detract from the board fulfilling its function as and when they arise. A rotation policy might provide an effective backstop. A high-performance board is one that will tackle the issue head-on.
Read next: How Diversity Drives Board Performance
The Power Pose: Using Body Language To Lead
Use the way you move and stand and interact with others to become a better entrepreneur and leader.
In 2012, the power pose became a global sensation. A Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy hit a staggering 46 million views and became the second most popular Ted Talk in history. The premise was simple – hold a powerful pose and it will not only affect the way you behave but it will even change your body chemistry. Since the talk, the power pose has met with heavy criticism and been labelled as nothing more than pseudoscience. Fortunately for believers, they were proven right. Amy Cuddy released further research this year and it fundamentally proves that this bold stance works exactly how she said it did back in 2012.
The power pose isn’t something that you’d adopt in a meeting or around the office but the science behind it shows how important it is to pay attention to your body language as it can fundamentally change how you are perceived.
Notice how you are noticed
People spend a lot of time reading one another’s body language and the way a person stands or holds their hands or moves can influence how others see them. It’s very natural to judge someone else’s posture, but what about the way they are judging yours? Few people look at how their body language is affecting the way people engage with them.
So, what are you supposed to do?
Fake it until you make it
Want to know how can you adapt to become a better leader? You can fake it.
The power pose isn’t the only way to change your mood. Research has shown that whether you laugh naturally or put on a smile and make yourself laugh, your body still releases the same levels of serotonin.
Whether you are really laughing or just pretending to laugh doesn’t matter – they both have the same impact on your demeanour.
Change how others see you
Think about the pose that every athlete adopts when they win a race or achieve something that’s been physically taxing. They hold their hands outstretched in the air. Even blind athletes hold the same pose. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s a physical manifestation of success.
Now consider the defensive pose. The tight hunched shoulders or inward curve of the spine. These poses immediately make a person look nervous, afraid and lacking in confidence. Like the porcupine curling in on itself for protection.
The same ideas apply to daily business life. While the power pose and the athlete pose are not necessarily a team activity, ensuring that you hold your body upright and with confidence means that you’re conveying an attitude of strength. You come across as confident and capable and positive. You are ready to take on anything and overcome the odds.
By contrast, if you are hunched and withdrawn, you come across as nervous and lacking in confidence and these are not the qualities you want associated with you as an entrepreneur and a leader.
Body language for entrepreneurs
- Shake hands like a hero. The way you shake hands with someone is very significant in terms of establishing equality. Be even, be firm but don’t pull people towards you or turn their hands under your own. This makes them feel like you are trying to establish dominance.
- Create an atmosphere of openness. Maintain eye contact, say hello to people with warmth while holding a strong posture. A warm and open greeting is essential to establishing trust.
- Do the power pose for two minutes before any meeting or interview. This will get those chemicals stirring and make you feel confident and in charge.
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