Jun 122012

If You Lead Them They Will Follow

When I left my last real job (one that pays you every two weeks) over seven and one-half years ago, some fellow employees came to my office to wish me well. They expressed their well wishes: “good luck,” we will miss you,” it won’t be the same without you,” etc.

A couple of employees came up to me and said four words that had a powerful impact on me. These four words have stayed in my mind all these years. They were “take me with you.” They wanted to go with me to my next job. They did not know where I was going and neither did I, yet they wanted to be a part of my next team, my next venture. Their words resonated with me. What had I done to deserve such a wonderful compliment?

We can all earn the respect of individuals we work with if we demonstrate leadership and show we respect them and care about them. It is a simple concept, yet so many people in positions of leadership fail to act in ways that unleashes the power their employees.

It begins by putting faith in people. When you put trust in people they do things you, and sometimes they, did not know they could do. If you give them the flexibility and train them well they will rise to the occasion every time, wanting to contribute to the success of the organization.

It is also important that you support them. Sure, they will make mistakes, but if you support the individuals and allow them to learn from their mistakes, they will try new and innovative things without fear of repercussion. If they are afraid to make decisions, it will not benefit them or your organization. Indecision causes more stress in individuals, leading to missed opportunities.

Leadership is not easy. It takes consistent action over a sustained period, especially if you go into an organization where the employees have been neglected, ridiculed, and disrespected. Before they come out from under their desks (more importantly their minds have to come out of hiding) you have to convince them you mean what you say, and that they can hold you accountable. Turning an organization around is not something you can do on a dime. It is not like turning a jet ski; it is more like turning a luxury liner. It is a slow, steady process.

Part of the turning-around process is giving positive and constructive feedback. You have to recognize the wrong like you recognize the right. Not everything goes right all the time. It is important to acknowledge defeat when it occurs, but just as important to acknowledge the fact that you will survive. Of course, if there are too many defeats that is a different matter. This is a time when coaching should be considered, since knowing how to give feedback is crucial.

Organizations are in constant change, so the leadership process is never over. Massimo Ferragamo, Chairman of Ferragamo, USA said: “If someone says that the changes are over, they are over. I personally believe that every arrival point is a departing point, and you have to always think that way.”

When you trust employees, when you give them the opportunity to show their strengths, their spirit will triumph. You will build a team based on trust because they know that everyone contributes, that they count, and that you have their back. If you show you care, they will care.

Leading an organization is a team sport. Smart athletes know that. No matter how skilled an athlete, the smart ones know they cannot do it all by themselves. That does not mean they do not sometimes put the game on their shoulders when needed, but they choose the team over themselves.

Leadership is about taking people with you. You cannot delegate it; it is your responsibility.

Take care and remember; if I can help you or other leaders in your organization reach their full potential, give me the opportunity.


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