the ceo magazine, leadership qualities,
Ilene Marcus, Author, Managing Annoying People: 7 Proven Tactics To Maximize Team Performance

How can leadership be a better job?  As a boss, all eyes are on us whether we like it or not.  Our key responsibility is to embody the soul of our company’s efforts; to display the values and commitment of our brand proposition.  That’s our job no matter what is going on in our head, our personal life, or with our feelings.  When we are distracted, reactions become visceral.  Acting on instinct is usually primal.  If you can’t identify the emotion, especially in a business setting, your expressions signal your customers, funders, board, and team.   What do they signal?  That’s the billion-dollar question.  What do your reactions convey to those you are leading?

We all know the scenario, in today’s workplace real-time analytics are closely monitored, millennials take too much time to manage, budgets are tight and being connected 24/7 is mandatory.  Time is the most precious commodity and as a leader there is never enough (if there is, please call me directly and let’s discuss your secrets…).  To be an inspired leader, always the goal, you must feel invigorated, enthused, and energized.  Yet all too often I hear from CEOs, I’m completely drained.  If you have these feelings, even slightly, chances are you are allowing your employees to suck your precious time.  It’s OK, we all know you truly value your staff.  The question is how can we change this relationship dynamic so you can make leading a better job?

Let’s be crystal clear about the power dynamic in the boss-subordinate playing field. The power struggle is not about anything covered in an antidiscrimination clause. One player is the boss, and one is not. Whoever said in the sandbox, “You’re not the boss of me,” was wrong when it comes to workplace structure.  Working in close quarters, on a new endeavor or on a hefty project changes the dynamic.  We enjoy the peer-to-peer relationship with our colleagues, the creating, the discussions.  We forget about the “all eyes on us” phenomenon.   And then it happens, a decision point, a judgement call and all eyes are locked on you.  As the leader, you intuitively separate yourself from the pack.

What is that skill set? That line you know when to draw and when to cross.  That line is deferential leadership.  The ability to be part of and yet elevated.  The team member who regardless of status always has the 10,000-foot view.  Who instinctively steps ahead.   Who grasps every situation through three lenses simultaneously – strategic, tactical, and messaging, the one who steers the path.  Who gets team members to understand what they may not intuitively know and helps them make it their own.  The person everyone wants in their room for their wisdom and relevance.

Leading becomes a better job when the distractions and distractors are minimal.  When we don’t have to spend time on rote process.   When we don’t have to lose focus and clarity to switch gears and address employees who suck our energy.  That’s when the work gets annoying.   Annoying in the business context is unexpected.  It’s not a traditional business term.  And yet, the result of annoyance is that it takes time away from our priorities.  Anything that takes time from driving our agenda without exception is a business concern.  

To make leading a better job, to counteract the annoyances, you will need to go inside yourself and fix distractions so they are minimal and you can do your job.  

  • Find It and Fix It

Don’t focus on what your team isn’t giving you.  Focus on what you may not be giving your team.  You are the glue, the common element.  What skills are not in your toolbox that keep you from sailing through managing your direct reports and galvanizing team productivity?   It may be a simple issue such as timing.  We always have team meetings in the morning and I am at my best in the afternoon. It may be very complex. Such as you have the wrong people around the table, divergent technology, or have not fully differentiated your value proposition. You need to spend time finding it and then get your toolbox in motion and fix it.

  • Permeate your Ideas

Your ideas are not evolving and permeating throughout your organization. The vision and context are set by you.  Your team acknowledges it.   They accept it. They don’t build on it or tweak it.  Not bad, if you are striving for average.  The true gold is each employee owning your idea.  That’s what we are looking for in a benchmarked workplace.  We want each member of our team, to hook into our ideas and run with them and make them more relevant, smarter and better.

  • Bring Back the Joy

Focus on alignment throughout the organization to ensure all staff actions and activities loop back to core vision, mission and activities.  Hold onto your key driving agenda and work on it every day. What got you started is what makes you happy.  Translate that passion to your employees by showing them what matters to you. 

Now What?

Gain awareness about the aspects of leadership that drain you.  Do a skills inventory and map it to the toolbox needed.  Pay close attention to how you react to each team member.  Note who zaps your energy and start changing the dynamic by using new tools.


About the Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is founder of Aligned Workplace, and author of MANAGING ANNOYING PEOPLE: 7 Proven Tactics To Maximize Team Performance.  For more information, please visit www.AlignedWorkplace.com.

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