1. Have a Vision
Know where your group or organization is headed and be able to articulate it well. Be able to paint a vivid picture of where you are heading. Develop the ability to describe your vision in 30 seconds (the classic elevator pitch), 3 minutes, or 10 minutes depending on the need.
Coach’s challenge: Make it a “shared” vision. Your group should know, use the vision to guide choices, and communicate with it. It should not just be you using it.
2. Be More Strategic
Is your head down focused on what’s immediately in front of you? Are daily demands almost always occupying 99 percent of your time? Lift your head up and look forward. Think at a higher level than just what needs to get done today. The future starts not next year, not next week, but now. So it deserves your attention. Regularly think about the bigger picture for your work.
Coach’s challenge: Each week, ask what’s most important for your area? Identify what is most strategic and take action in that direction.
3. Effectively Get Work Done Through Others
Be very good at delegation. It is essential for accomplishing big things. It takes the work of others. The best leaders delegate effectively. They delegate the right things to the right people at the right level. They take time to figure out what needs to be delegated and to whom. They consider it part of their job. And they don’t keep all the good “stuff” for themselves.
Coaches Challenge #1: Be disciplined about your delegation. The next time you say,
“I just need to do this myself,” stop in your tracks. Identify several items others should take on. It is always easier to just do it yourself, but you’ll never get out of the trap.
Coach’s Challenge #2: Delegate for development. Know where your people are headed, what they are looking to achieve. Tailor your delegation toward this.
4. Be More Self-aware and Always Grow Your Professional Capability
Think of this sports comparison: All of our beloved Boston sports figures (yes, I bleed Boston blood on sports) work to improve their game. They practice, practice, and practice some more. They are tops in their game and yet they practice. Heck, we expect them to. Leaders need to do the same. So what professional development goal are you currently working on? When was the last time you sought feedback (notice the word sought)? The best leaders have an accurate and up-to-date view of strengths and weakness. They are always working to improve their game.
Coach’s challenge: Pick a key leadership development competency (there are seven other listed here, for starters!) Get some feedback on it and then determine steps you can work on.
5. Be Results Focused
Having an action orientation is great, but action is not enough. Great leaders are focused on results. It is critical to adopt a results focus so your activity is directed at the end result.
Coach’s challenge: Every so often, look at what your are doing, and evaluate if it is focused on results. Where it isn’t, adjust!
6. Get Good at Dealing with Conflict
The best managers excel at productively dealing with conflict. They work through it, resolve issues, and get all parties moving forward. Plus, conflict is going to happen. It just is. So the Zen thing to do is recognize this and embrace it—not shy away from it.
Coach’s challenge: Observe interactions for two weeks. Notice effective and ineffective approaches. Think about how to adopt the effective ones to your situation. Then practice using them.
7. Ask Great Questions
Answers are needed, no doubt; Questions, however, can change the game. How often do you ask good questions? How often do you engage in a discussion with a great framing question? Simply put, most of us need to ask better questions.
Coach’s challenge: Look at your upcoming meetings. Determine three key questions you should ask in each. Write them out. In the meeting, ask them!
8. Make High-Quality Decisions
Making decisions is easy—heck, you can flip a quarter to pick between two choices. I would not recommend that, though. Making high-quality decisions is the trick and much harder. Making decisions is one of the most important actions leaders take. Decisions set the course of activity for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. Be great at decision-making.