Ever wonder why team members fail to follow through even though you have made the same request time and time again? Ever wonder what it would be like to have a team of people that just DO what needs to be done, rather than wait to be asked? After studying the connection between leadership, performance, and accountability for a few decades now, there are certain characteristics that seem consistent in every high performing, high producing business, even dental practices. When these habits are part of the owner’s daily ritual of leading his/her team, the team members give their hearts and souls to the vision, the patients, and their teammates.
There are four cornerstones that every leader must develop to be effective and have effective people on your payroll. Take the LEAD:
L – LOVE
You must understand that this practice is only one facet of your employees’ lives, and that when they leave the office, they have another team that is waiting on them at home. You must develop a genuine interest in the lives of your team members. Be empathetic when they are having difficulties, celebrate the successes of their children. This does not mean that you have to become “best friends” with your employees, it simply means that when you take an active interest in what is important to them, they will take a more active interest in what is important to you.
E – EMPOWER
I sincerely believe most people are capable of more than they are allowed to do in most cases. Owners fear giving over too much “control,” or they fear the mistakes that may arise from having someone less familiar take on a new task. As leaders, we must understand that mistakes are part of learning, part of developing new skills, and being able to add new value. Empower your team members to take on new tasks and let them know you have faith in their ability. Train them and let them practice this new skill. Be okay with a few mistakes, and when a mistake does occur, don’t overreact. Simply bring the mistake to their attention (lovingly) and then ask them to make the appropriate correction. By allowing them to make a few mistakes, you calm their fears of failure and increase their confidence, thereby increasing their willingness to take on more.
A – ACKNOWLEDGE
The biggest complaint most employees have is that they are unappreciated: that the smallest mistake brings major focus but when they do something well, it goes unnoticed. When we fail to acknowledge small steps of progress, small contributions, we teach people that those things are not important. We teach them that there is no reward in working hard. Understand that performance is largely based on how individuals feel about themselves. You must actively look for things to acknowledge them for, things they can feel good about. Look for ways to make your employees feel significant and important. The more important they feel, the more valued they feel, the more they will contribute and the better they will perform.
D – DELEGATE
Trust and assume that you have great employees who are ready, willing, and able to take on new tasks and responsibilities. Give them the opportunity to add more value by delegating things that you do not HAVE to do. Don’t assume that just because it may be a complicated task, or something with which they are unfamiliar, that they would be unwilling. Give them the chance to surprise you. Free up more of your time so you can focus on patient care and allow your team members to do more. With appropriate monitoring and team meetings, you can follow up as often as needed to ensure a job well done.
LEADership is an art, and a skill that must be crafted over time. As with all things, practice makes perfect. Begin to sharpen your LEAD with your team members and you will be amazed by the changes in their attitude, their performance, and their overall value.