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Successful Leaders

Mar 24, 2008
What differentiates your business from that of your competitor? Study after study shows that it is your people. While your products may not be significantly different, your chances of success are dramatically increased if you have the right people.

In a groundbreaking study, the Gallup Organization gathered data over 25 years. They interviewed over eighty thousand leaders and collected data from one million employees in a wide variety of organizations. The study concluded that successful leaders use four simple keys to select, involve, encourage and retain people.

The first key is to select for talent. Talent is defined as the recurring pattern of thoughts, feelings or behaviours that an individual displays as s/he does her/his job. In the selection process, leaders must determine the presence of three basic talents. They are striving talents (what drives the individual - his/her motivation), thinking talents (how s/he thinks and makes decisions) and relating talents (how s/he relates to people). To begin the selection process, leaders must isolate the talents of their best people and create a model against which they will select new people.

The second key is to define the right outcomes. To fully involve people and give them a reasonable chance of success, leaders must define exactly what is expected of them. The simplest way of doing this is to use the SMART Formula. Every task must be defined using the criteria of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. By using this formula, leaders make it easier for people to meet their expectations and thus gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.

The third key is to focus on people's strengths. The Gallup study recommends that leaders recognize the differences in people, focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses. This is the only way in which leaders can show respect for individuality and encourage people to be the best they can. As part of this approach, it is critical that leaders avoid the 'no news is good news' syndrome in dealing with performance. They must provide feedback on performance on a frequent basis. A failure to do this condones inappropriate behaviour and results in missed opportunities to reinforce desirable actions.

The final key is to find the right fit. Leaders must be constantly aware of how individuals are dealing with the demands of their specific jobs. The right fit means that people are enjoying what they are doing and meeting their needs to feel important in their roles, to learn and to earn a living. Leaders must be willing to confront situations in which people are clearly not happy. They must move individuals if their talents can be used in a different position. If not, the manager must treat them with respect and dignity and free them to pursue a career more suitable to their talents.

Leaders who use these four keys to select, involve, encourage and retain people will have people who feel valued. The individuals will be successful and, therefore, more likely to stay with the organization. In this manner, the leaders will be successful.

If you have found this article thought provoking, I recommend the book First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. It expands on the study from which I have drawn my comments
About the Author
About Canadian Management Centre: With over 40 years experience; Canadian Management Centre has earned the reputation as a trusted partner in worldwide professional development and management education that improves the immediate performance and long-term results of over 12,000 Canadians every year.
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