Here is a summary of my top 10 leadership rules (in no particular order) that I have been living by.
If you try your best to consistently implement these, then I can guarantee you success in leading your team. Your team will be highly motivated, enjoy work, be loyal to you and follow you on whatever journey you want to embark on.
1. Treat your team the way you always wanted your boss to treat you.
Have you had a boss who shouted at you and put you down when you made mistakes? If you have, think back: did that experience make you feel good? You probably wanted your boss to discuss the mistake calmly with you, to help you learn how to avoid it in the future. It is that simple. Think back to those times and make sure you treat your team the way you would have wanted to be treated, not the way you were treated. Be better than your old boss.
2. Only make promises that you can keep and be willing to go all out to fulfill those promises.
This is the number one contributor to building trust within your team. Most of us had bosses who promised they would give us a financial reward if we achieved a goal, only to never follow through with it. How much do you think the team trusted them afterwards? With every promise you make, especially the first ones, your team will be watching to see if you deliver. Make sure you do whatever you can to deliver and they will start trusting you.
3. Listen to your team, be present, and don’t interrupt.
Listening and truly being present is a great way to show your team that you truly want to hear their opinions. Don’t be that boss who interrupts a team member a few sentences in and tells them that it is a bad idea. Give them the respect they deserve and hear them out. You don’t have to agree, but you must listen and show that you value their input. If you don’t, you will end up with a very silent team.
4. Always start by trusting your team 100%. If you don’t, how will they ever trust you?
Trust goes two ways. When taking on a new role as a leader, trust your team’s comments, inputs and the info they provide and don’t second guess every little bit. You will be creating a much more trusting environment where the team excels. You will need to separately deal with those who abuse your trust. However, better to trust 100% and have a trusting team culture, than to not trust your team in fear of the one person who might abuse it.
5. Always recognise and reward your team’s successes, small and big. Don’t underestimate the power of “thank you”.
People like recognition for their work, so make saying thank you a habit for small and big things. While working towards a big goal, such as improving the quality of the work your team does (long term project), make sure that along the way you celebrate small wins. This could be the implementation of a new process or a good example of quality work. Like this, you will keep the motivation of the team going and your team will reward you for it with higher engagement.
6. Define your team’s “why”: it needs to be worth fighting for and so simple you don’t need to explain it.
Make your team’s “why” very, very clear. This will make your team even more driven to work on the “what” and the “how”, as they understand the purpose of doing them. Your team’s “why” could be something as simple as “build a better internet”, followed by the “what” and “how”. A team without a clear purpose will only do the bare minimum, whereas a team with a very simple purpose will go above and beyond.
7. Be the umbrella that protects your team from corporate noise, allowing them to focus on their priorities.
Once you have defined the “why”, “what” and “how” for your team to achieve great things, it is now your duty as a leader to make sure you protect the team as best as you can from everything else (often requests from headquarters).
Some examples of noise in large corporations are: too many new initiatives, useless reporting, ineffective meetings and unnecessary emails. Protect your team so they can stay laser focused. Every request you fail to protect them from, is energy lost on something that isn’t contributing to your team’s goals.
8. Learn and practice being a great coach and mentor: these are your most valuable tools.
Your team might already be great, but they can always be better. Coaching and mentoring will help guide your team to become even better at what they do and prepare them for future roles. Why not try and find a young talent in your team (or the company) and start mentoring or coaching them through their challenges?
Not only will this help your team’s performance, but it will also help you with employee retention. At the same time, you continue learning about yourself and how you can be a better mentor and coach. Remember, people want to work where they have opportunities to grow.
9. Create a safe environment, where people can be themselves and feel encouraged to speak up.
Like Steve Jobs said, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” It is your job as a leader to encourage a team culture where people can speak up and everyone’s ideas are heard. Like this, you are creating an environment where the team has the best chance of coming up with great solutions.
10. Don’t take yourself too seriously, joke around and have fun at work.
Everybody wants to come to a workplace where they can have fun. As a leader you are the one setting the tone, so don’t be shy to wear a funny costume for the next company party or share jokes in the office. By not taking yourself too seriously, the atmosphere in your team will be a lot more relaxed and fun to work in. You will also seem more approachable and hopefully been seen by your team as a normal human being and not a scary, dictator-like boss.
We are all human beings and you won’t be able to follow all these rules perfectly every single day. But what will set you apart is trying to challenge yourself every day to do your best.
Good luck in leading your team to greatness!