Take Back Your Business!
Growing and developing members of your shop's staff can be key to success.
In a leadership seminar I was conducting a few years ago, an attendee commented that some days he felt he had absolutely no control over what was happening in his business. Between unreasonable customers and insane employees, he was going crazy. I asked why he tolerated this condition with his employees and he said he didn't think he had a choice. Do you feel that, some days, your business is out of control? Are you ready to take it back?
I am convinced the answer is to become more of a leader than a manager. Cultivational leadership is the practice of growing and developing the members of your team so that they are amplifying the gifts they have brought to your organization, and providing them with the resources and inspiration to fully realize the potential that lies within.
Almost always, one response I hear when discussing leadership is that it takes a lot of time to cultivate and develop employee performance. Since the speed of business has rapidly increased, the manager or leader in today's business world spends the majority of his or her time in crisis mode. This leaves little time for employee development.
Cultivational leaders look past the facade and ask their working partners, "How can I help you succeed in your life?" They set clear expectations of performance, define achievable goals, and promote the capabilities and accomplishments of the members of their team.
Expectations Are Key
Cultivational leaders take the time to tell their employees the how and why regarding their behaviors. More specifically, they explain how employees' behaviors contribute to the organization's most important goals and objectives, and how they affect customers' experiences.
Cultivational leaders focus on making the results or the work happen through the people they depend on to get the job done - their employees. This requires the business leader to motivate, inspire and improve an individual employee's performance and productivity.
When I think about behaviors of the cultivational leader, one of the words I turn to is motivation. Motivation is perhaps the single most important aspect of cultivational leadership.
Motivation is personal. It is often said to be a person's internal drive. Most of us typically do things for our own reasons, not someone else's. While others can sometimes influence our decisions, most of us have our own motives and reasons for doing the things we do, whether they are conscious or subconscious.
Cultivational leaders find out why the people who work for them do what they do. They investigate their employees' motives and attitudes; their state of mind, behavior or conduct that indicates how they are feeling, their opinions and their sense of purpose or being.
According to unpublished research compiled in 2003 by the Saratoga Institute, 89 percent of managers say employees will leave an organization due to money issues; however, employees report that 88 percent of the time, it is not the money that causes them to leave. If you only take one lesson away with you from this material, take this one: it's almost never about the money!
In the workplace, taking the time to clearly explain your performance expectations to each employee will reduce stress, tension and anxiety. Defining clear expectations also saves time and energy.
After a discussion of your expectations, you need to be sure to obtain consensus that they can meet them. If you cannot agree, the reason will usually be in one of three areas: skills, knowledge or attitude. At this time, you need to discuss exactly what skills, how much and what kind of knowledge and the proper attitude that need to be in place to meet your expectations.
Expectations will be somewhat unique to your situation or style, but clarity is the key here. If you expect your people to wear a certain uniform, answer the telephone in a certain way, deliver the end result in a particular manner, you need to be up front about it from the start. Nothing confuses employees more than a lack of clear expectations.
Model Appropriate Behavior
It is imperative that your leadership behaviors demonstrate the values and principles you want your employees to embody and demonstrate. As business leaders, we are always modeling behaviors and leading in some way, either positively or negatively.
Cultivational leaders define and model the values they believe are important. Defining your values simply means predetermining how you will make decisions as you live day by day - based on your definition of behaviors you believe are desirable, worthy and right. "You don't build trust by talking about it," says Craig Weatherup, former CEO of Pepsi Bottling Company. "You build it by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real personal regard for the people with whom you work."
Some people make decisions relative to their surroundings. I call that a situational value system. Their decision-making process can be modified as needed based on the circumstances they find themselves in. To take a phrase from a country song of the past: "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." Cultivational leaders know exactly what they stand for. Your predetermined values become your motives (the desires that cause you to act) or intentions (the plan or purpose that your mind is set on) for how you will behave.
In the business environment, your mission and vision should include the values that the company embraces. Some of your values should be: how you treat others - such as vendors, customers and co-workers - how you treat the earth, and how you will interact with the community.
Cultivational leaders take initiative and are proactive in their endeavors. They don't wait for opportunity - they create it. The reality in performance is produced by your commitments to yourself. Your personal commitments create the actions that produce the outcomes. Ambition is the starting point for success and success is enjoyed in the mind first.
It is important to define your business values and guiding principles for two simple reasons:
1. You are always influencing someone.
Someone is always watching you. What kind of influence do you want to have and what kind of influence do you want your business to have in the community? Consider this statement by Steven M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust: "While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent, we tend to judge others by their behavior. People typically judge us - and we judge them - based on observable behavior."
2. Everything you do and say matters.
Cultivational leaders know that it begins with them. They model the behaviors they expect their employees to emulate. Everything matters because someone is always watching and judging you.
Review the Performance Regularly
Inspiration is another key attribute of a cultivational leader. Many times this is the one that gets you across the line in the first place. Cultivational leaders inspire others to a higher level of performance. They provide stimulation, creativity and influence.
One way that cultivational leaders inspire others is by recognizing and rewarding progress. Too few managers take the time, on a routine basis, to recognize minor accomplishments on the road to total achievement of employee development goals and objectives.
Inspiration does not require you to conjure a magical formula; it takes effort from you to bring positive energy to the workplace every day. Consider this quote by William James, an American psychologist and philosopher: "The deepest craving in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."
Cultivational leaders build a culture of recognition. It is important to connect the dots clearly with employees and be sure they know how their actions contribute to the overall company results.
It is difficult for many in management and leadership positions to develop clear expectations. An easy way is to create what I call employee scorecards that clearly describe how every employee can win and find recognition in what they do.
In elementary school, we had report cards and knew that every six weeks we would receive an overall grade that reflected an accumulation of our daily performance grades. For some reason we moved away from having that premise in the world of work, and now many companies give no feedback, other than negative feedback, until it is time for the annual progress review. This needs to change. Feedback should not be delivered once a year; it is an ongoing process.
You may not need to go as far as producing detailed report cards for all your employees. Talk to them, ask questions, and guide them through good and bad times by always providing honest and constructive feedback. My advice is to go ahead and make scorecards. It helps ensure you will continue the process.
Cultivational leaders build as many dimensions in employee scorecards as possible. They design several ways to measure progress and reward their employees. In some positions, there may only be two or three items on the scorecard. Your job is to tie as many as possible to customer results and company goals.
So, if you want to take control of your business, you must be willing to explain how your employees' behaviors affect your ability to achieve your vision through the accomplishment of your most important goals and objectives. Further, you must model the behavior you expect of your employees. And last but not least, be willing to build scorecards to measure progress in achieving excellent performance by each of your employees.
Editor's note: This article is one of several management articles that have been contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2010, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org.
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