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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

“Great leaders are born, not made.”

I believed it to be true for the majority of my career — and only recently did I realize how much this perspective limited my personal growth and career development. Maybe you’ve also fallen for the myth that leadership is a skill reserved for an elite few, and in the process, cheated yourself out of a powerful opportunity for growth.

While all of us do have talents and traits inherent to the personalities we were born with, some of the most important components of a successful career can be learned, including effective leadership skills.

If you want to become more productive and efficient in your work environment and inspire others to do the same, start by focusing on becoming a stronger leader. The good news is, developing these skills doesn’t require a special education or degree, or even an official management title; anyone motivated enough to grow can become a leader.

In my own career journey, I’ve noticed some of the most important traits most great leaders have in common. Want to be one of them? Here are six effective leadership skills to adopt and refine in your work, starting now.

1. Communication

To lead well, you have to have a vision — but you also have to know how to communicate it effectively.

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When I first started my company, I was so passionate about my vision. I developed my product with this vision in mind, knowing it could transform our customers’ lives. The challenging part was learning to communicate that vision as I grew my team.

It’s one thing to inspire people with a big-picture vision when you’re launching a company, but it’s an entirely separate skill to find creative ways to articulate aspirations for the future and rationale for transformation.[1]

Good communication isn’t just the ability to write a good email or nail a presentation. It’s the ability to inspire, motivate, and challenge people with a broader vision, even in the doldrums of everyday work — finding ways to help each member of your team understand the big picture of where you want to go and how their roles and projects contribute to it.

2. Integrity

When I think of effective leadership skills, the first thing I think of is integrity. And I’m not the only one. In one study of 195 leaders across 15 organizations, 67 percent of participants rated “high ethical and moral standards” as the most important leadership attribute.[2]

Taking shortcuts or being dishonest might lead to temporary wins. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that cutting corners doesn’t lead to lasting success. And it certainly won’t be rewarding.

As author and business leader Jon Huntsman, Sr. writes in his book Winners Never Cheat, character is the defining trait of a successful leader:[3]

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“There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people, the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.”

I think of integrity as integrating your values with your words and your words with your actions. When you lead with integrity, you build trust among your team and stakeholders, which means they’re more likely to go the direction you steer them.

3. Decisiveness

It’s not always easy to make a high-stakes decision, especially if you know people are relying on you to make the right choice. More often than not, a critical decision you make won’t pan out the way you planned. If this happens, you will be faced with another critical choice: Will you assume responsibility? Will you be willing to take the blame? And, more importantly, will you be motivated to find a better way forward for your team?

The ability to make a decision under pressure is an important part of leadership, but the true mark of a decisive leader isn’t the ability to make the right decision. Great leaders don’t just know how to make good decisions for those they’re leading; they’re also willing to take the risk of knowing if things don’t work out, they will be the ones held accountable.[4]

4. Focus

Imagine you’re a passenger on a boat. There’s a storm approaching, and the waters are becoming choppier by the minute. Not only that, but it’s getting dark outside, and you’re not sure which way the shore is. Who would you look to for a sense of safety?

A leader is a lot like the captain of a ship. The person at the helm isn’t just responsible for deciding where the ship is going to end up at the end of the journey, but actually steering it in the right direction, even during a storm. That’s why staying focused is such a crucial part of effective leadership.

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Great leaders keep their eyes toward success, which requires planning ahead, staying organized, and thinking through potential scenarios and outcomes — all the while considering other paths forward if things don’t work out.[5]

5. Humility

If you want to encourage others to learn and grow, you have to be willing to learn and grow yourself. This requires humility, or a willingness to be flexible, admit you’re wrong, and even more importantly, openness to learning from other people. Another way to look at humility is teachability.

Practically, how can you implement this skill in your workplace? Problem solving is a great opportunity to practice being a teachable leader.

For example, if you’re trying to find a solution for an issue, try not to push your own agenda. When your team senses you’re open to (and eager about) their ideas, a greater diversity of potentially transformative ideas will emerge.

Plus, when your team knows you encourage free thinking, they will likely be more motivated to take initiative and work independently to develop their own solutions and ideas.

6. Connection

As a leader, you have the privilege of bringing out the best in the people around you — a key ingredient for success in your company. But to foster success, you have to focus on connection first.

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Neuroscience teaches us that if people don’t feel emotionally safe, they won’t be able to access the creative, strategic part of their brain. Instead, they’ll be focused on survival — which isn’t exactly a recipe for flourishing, in life or at work.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to facilitate connection and belonging in the workplace so that others can live up to their full potential.

To foster a deeper connection among your team — and empower them to live up to their potential — view them as people, not just as workers. Say hi with a smile. Remember details about their personal lives. Compliment them when they do well, and let them know you see their hard work and contributions.

As you build meaningful relationships with your co-workers, you’ll be able to live up to your potential as an effective leader, too.

More Tips on Leadership Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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