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How to Stop Managing and Start Leading

So many leaders are stuck in the day-to-day tasks to keep their teams moving forward. But how do you inspire bigger changes that maximize growth and engagement? This article includes 4 strategies you can use now that will begin shifting your tendencies to just manage, into a passion to lead.

  1. Stop managing mistakes, instead raise and set expectations. Do you find yourself constantly trying to repair mistakes and reprimand employees who make them? What is the impact on your team? On morale? You may be thinking that you have no other choice, you must correct mistakes and you have to make sure they don’t happen again. You’re right, however there is a better way. It may seem counter-intuitive, but try raising your expectations. This doesn’t mean to just expect more and then get disappointed when no one is able to deliver. It means to start with a clear expectation, exactly what you want/your end-goal. Communicate the expectation and make sure everyone on your team understands it and why the expectation is important (how it feeds into the big picture). As the leader you are responsible for both ends of the communication: clearly articulate your expectations and ensure every team member received and understands. Beyond communicating expectations, be available when your team needs guidance or support. Clarity of purpose and knowing they have your support, will invariably inspire your team to commit, work hard and achieve the goal(s).

  2. Communicate, but more importantly, listen. Most leaders know how important communication is in their team dynamic. Open and clear communication is one of the most important things you can do to build trust and help people see you as a leader. Communication is delivering messages (speaking) and listening. The most essential piece is listening. Active intentional listening to understand, not to respond, is a learned skill. As with every skill you want to develop and excel at, active listening is something you’ll have to practice. Listening to your team can give you important insight into how to lead them. The more you listen, the more comfortable they get sharing. Which can lead to new ideas, new processes, stronger relationships and in the end greater productivity. Listen more than you speak. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” –Epictetus Greek Philosopher

  3. Empower your employees. Encourage them to try something that may be a stretch for them. Give them new responsibilities. Present personal and professional development opportunities and encourage them to take advantage of them. Give credit when a team member has input or comes up with a new process that helps the organization. And most importantly, give them the opportunity to get exposure to the leadership in the company. Some managers worry that empowering their employees will take away their own growth opportunities, but leaders know that the better your team looks, the better you look. Real leaders develop other leaders.

  4. Be a good coach. Managers tell their team what to do. Leaders coach their team so that they can work and lead from their strengths. Think about conducting a strengths assessment for each member of your team (CliftonStrengths has a good one). Map strengths for each member so they all see where they fall, whose strengths compliment whose, where the whole team may need to work together to get certain tasks done, etc. Then coach them. Where can you put your employees so their strengths shine? How can you help them develop their strengths even more? Take every opportunity to praise them when a job is well done.

Being a leader isn’t easy, but the rewards are great when you go beyond managing and embrace leading Leadership is a skill, not a title. There is a leader inside every person. Anyone that has a passion to be a leader can be a leader, it just takes drive and commitment to develop skills, and a heart to serve and lead others.


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