Having had the opportunity to be around great leaders, from the football field to the board room, I quickly realized there is no secret sauce to being a great coach and leader. However, great coaches and leaders all share something in common: they form great habits and exhibit them on an everyday basis.
I have come to believe that leadership and coaching are essentially two sides of the same coin; the bottom line is either you’re leading well or you’re not.
A good leader should always take stock of where they stand in their leadership role and where they can improve. There are a few traits that go into being a great leader, servanthood, setting transparent expectations, and finding ways to grow one’s skills.
Effective leadership has always been needed and desired in the business world, however its especially crucial now given the recent challenges experienced from the pandemic to the transition to a more remote workforce.
Great leaders are a lot like farmers, they don’t just plant seeds and walk away, hoping that everything will thrive. They are hands-on every day; they feed daily, track growth, remove weeds and parasites, they do everything they know to do to cultivate success within their operation. Farmers serve the crops that will in turn serve them, they develop expectations for the end game, and they consistently search for ways to grow.
Let’s dive into some of the traits that can empower us to be better leaders and cultivators of human talent.
During my tenure in the NFL, the great teams and their members found ways to serve one another. They each made sure they took care of their responsibilities and tasks, but they were constantly thinking about how to help their teammates. When they serve, it was about helping others while adding value.
Servant leadership is a powerhouse leadership style that will transfer your culture and impact your bottom-line.Marcel Schwantes
Marcel Schwantes, founder and chief human officer, at Leadership from the Core, stated that servant leadership is a powerhouse leadership style that will transfer your culture and impact your bottom-line.
As a leader, we should do more than what we are paid for and asking ourselves the question, “are my actions saying that I want to be involved, how can I best serve the members on my team with no hidden agenda?”. Teammates never have to beg great leaders for their service; great leaders have a willingness to serve. They see a need and they do what they must to address the need. It’s never them desiring to look good for themselves, but it’s always about helping the team look good. The best leaders I have encountered in great organizations were not just involved; they were committed to each other.
Personally, I was able to build humility through the experience of servanthood, helping other teammates achieve for the team. As teammates we did an excellent job with blending in with each other.
A great team is not unified because every player plays on the same team, a team is unified because they are operating in harmony towards the same goal. Servanthood births harmony! A good leader coordinates this harmony like a symphony conductor and their own service is their baton.
The questions we should be asking ourselves are how we win, and how can I add value to others; because when you add value through servanthood to your people and team it can drive performance for the team and organization.
If you don’t have an open, two-way, dialogue with your employees and team members, you may be setting them up for failure!
A great coach always lets his or her players know where they stand regarding the things they need to improve on, things that they are doing well, and where those results meet or miss their expectations.
It’s important to track and measure their success against those transparent expectations in real time. As players in the NFL, everything we did on the field was recorded, tracked, and measured. Through film study and engagement at practice, very quickly a coach could let us know what we were doing well and the things we could improve on to ensure we were meeting expectation. Conversations around expectations gave the player a chance to discuss any concerns they had or ask for help to ensure they are in position to thrive.
James Brook, an expert in leadership and psychology, wrote about why expectation setting is such an essential tool and how a lack of clear expectations not only undermines performance and results of the team, but also impacts negatively on engagement, relationships, and teamwork.
How is your organization able to track your employees’ performance against expectations? Do you know exactly what you need to coach them on individually or collectively, do they know your expectations? If the answer is “no,” than you and the organization are positioned to fail.
Open, transparent, clear conversations about expectations needs to be had and in so doing will provide actionable information to both the employee and leadership. As a leader it’s not just about shifting your thinking, it’s also about being able to shift your communication with your team, providing clear, transparent expectations.
Developing Team Skills and Finding Ways to Grow
Searching out new skills and ways to grow can have an enormously positive impact on your career and organization. Consider it one of the most important duties that you’re in charge of, developing new skills while finding ways to grow.
It’s easy to say that your employees are not listening, and it can lead you to feel like you’re not being heard. Think about it, we go to school throughout our childhood often through college and our early adult years. Throughout this time, we take classes, learn about different subjects, and are pushed by different teachers to develop. However, many people stop actively pursuing new skills, or developing existing ones when they graduate and move on to the workforce.
Personal growth is one area we really do control and there should never be an excuse that gets in the way of doing that. Steven Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, drives home this point in habit seven, “Sharpen the Saw.” This is not always fun and exciting, because at times it’s going to expose the things we don’t do well. It exposes us to our struggles and weaknesses. But that’s what it takes to continue to grow. As we continue to develop and learn new things, we should also grow out of old habits. Growth keeps us evolving because we are constantly changing. The key is actively and deliberately seeking new ways to grow individually and then as a team.
Your growth and your will to get better is infectious. In my personal experience, it was almost impossible to be complacent or stagnant when my leaders were always taking it up a notch, adding new skills to their bag, and getting better in the things they already did well.
At the end of the day, either we are regressing, stagnating, or progressing.Edgar Jones
Our instinct is to keep up and not be outdone. Therefore, when the team sees us in a state of constant evolution and growth, they will almost inevitably follow suit. New methods, that can make success come quicker or easier, keep the process fun and fresh. At the end of the day, either we are regressing, stagnating, or progressing. Great leaders are aware of this and are always fighting for progress. Are you?
Schwantes, Marcel. “10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science.” Inc.com, Inc., 1 Sept. 2016, https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/10-convincing-reasons-to-consider-servant-leadership-according-to-research.html.
Brook, James. “Setting Clear Expectations: Leadership Essentials.” Strengthscope, 16 Nov. 2019, https://www.strengthscope.com/setting-clear-expectations-leadership-essentials/.
Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash