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8 Behaviors Successful Leaders Use to Motivate Staff

8 Behaviors Successful Leaders Use to Motivate Staff

What makes a great leader in the workplace? Maybe you will be instinctively drawn to a leader because of their charisma, knowledge, and perseverance. But when you actually break it down, it is quite surprising to learn that great leaders are approachable, open, and great communicators. Here are 8 behaviours that we can all learn from those successful leaders.

1. Create an open and approachable environment

There are some managers and CEOs who place themselves on a pedestal and never really get to know their staff. They are living in a cloud of power and have little touch with reality in the workplace. They are obsessed with authority, prestige, and their position. They are rulers, rather than leaders.

But a real leader creates an open and approachable environment where staff are encouraged to say what they think of procedures, policies, and business objectives. There is a much better atmosphere and staff do not hesitate to approach the leader. The result is that there is a much greater sense of collaboration and a team spirit rather than a hierarchy based on fear, power, and privilege. Brian Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International sums it up very neatly:

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”

2. Build confidence when the going gets tough

Leaders are expected to lead. In times of crisis, this can be the greatest test of a successful leader. They know how to mobilize the staff by staying calm and courageous. The open approach will pay handsome dividends here as staff will be fully aware of what the crisis is. They know what they will have to achieve in turning the company around and staying ahead of the game.

Steve Jobs as a business leader did not only turn Apple around after its stocks plummeted in 1996 but released new products such as the iPod and iPhone. It is an inspiring example of how a business leader was able to build confidence during a crisis.

3. Build employees’ self-esteem

Everyone craves praise when it is merited, of course! Leaders give praise and encouragement when it is due. They encourage people to let coworkers know about their achievements such as meeting a tough deadline or exceeding a sales target. Great leaders or managers know what people are striving to achieve and they will be the first to encourage and praise. Todd Mansfield who was vice president of Disney Development Company for 11 years realized that in time, as he explains here.

“When we’d sit down to evaluate associates, we’d spend 20% of our time talking about the things they did well and 80% on what needed to be improved. That is just not effective. We ought to spend and energy helping people determine what they are gifted at doing and then align their responsibilities with those capabilities.”- Todd Mansfield

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4. Empower and enable workers

Great leaders work hard to encourage a culture of inclusion at every level. In practice this means that innovation and skills development are strongly encouraged. One great way to empower employees is to keep them in the loop as to what is really happening at every level of your operations. These might include strategies for every contingency, emergency procedures and on-going skills training. The great advantage here is that this sense of empowerment makes them feel that they are a vital part of the company.

Doug Conant, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, had to rescue the company from falling sales. His recipe for success was to prioritize employee engagement which had been judged as among the worst by Fortune 500. During his ten year stint in which he managed to turn the company around, employee engagement was consistently rated as among the best.

5. Ask questions and listen

Many managers talk loftily about their company’s mission statement and ethics. They talk about staff development and training. They sometimes fail to set the example by actually doing these things such as encouraging communication by asking questions and letting staff ask them. In fact they often talk far too much and do not listen nearly enough. This is why they rarely relate to others and inspire them. John C.Maxwell, the founder of Maximum Impact and an annual speaker at Fortune 500 companies often mentions this very important aspect of leadership:

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”

6. Take risks

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was recently interviewed on leadership. He said that one of the great ways to be an effective leader is to take risks. He gave an example of how he always goes for personality rather than formal qualifications, when hiring staff. Certainly there is a risk here. He also prefers to promote within the company rather than hiring outsiders. It sends a great message to staff and shows that hard work and dedication are actually rewarded. He is the author of The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership.

7. Be humble and learn from each other

Great leaders will always be on the lookout to learn from their staff and to share wisdom and experience. The leaders who lock themselves in their offices will never be exposed to new ideas. In addition, one of the four critical leadership qualities is humility, according to a Catalyst study which asked 1,500 workers from all around the globe. Humility is learning from criticism and being able to admit you were wrong. Lazlo Bock who is Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google explains what humility means in leadership:

“It is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, it’s intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

8. Be passionate about change

Great leaders do not shirk their duty when it comes to making changes which will mean challenges but also great rewards in the long run. If you are passionate about change, you can achieve great success. Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, is absolutely committed to taking the company in a healthier direction while achieving financial success. She has managed that while implementing a five year plan to cut costs by $5 billion:

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“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”

Featured photo credit: Sir Richard Branson/ Jarle Naustvik via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

Components of a Good To-Do List

When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

Balanced

The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

Enough Flexibility

What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

Time for Transitions

Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

Shield of Protection

Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

1. Eliminate the Tasks

Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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4. Track the Recurring Tasks

You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

5. Batch Similar Tasks

Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

8. Automate the Maintenance

Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

What else do I have on the schedule?

This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

Is the task a gatekeeper?

This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

Do I have icebergs on my list?

This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

Is the task distraction-proof?

This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

The Bottom Line

If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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