Last weekend was quite a weekend. Hurricane Florence settled down in the US East Coast around Wilmington, North Carolina. Then, very slowly, the storm moved inland, dumping oceans of rain and breaking things.
It would be nice if we could prevent hurricanes, but we can’t. It would be nice if we could prevent many of the crises that happen to us. But, an awful lot is out of our hands.
Even if you’re a leader, there’s a lot you can’t do a thing about. A key team member may have a serious accident and be out of work for months. If you get a new boss, he or she may have different ideas for what your team should be doing. You can’t control those things and you can’t prevent them.
There are other crises you can prevent. Sometimes you can’t head a crisis off, but you can make it easier to deal with.
The Lessons of a Half Century
50 years ago, I got out of the Marines and started my business career. My passion has been to learn how great leaders do what they do. I’ve studied them and the research about them. I’ve observed them, and I’ve talked with them. And I’ve tried to do as many things like them as I can.
I’ve observed two things. Great leaders create great teams. That’s the result of what they do: a productive team with high morale.
I’ve also observed that those great teams have fewer crises than other teams. They have their share of luck, both good and bad. But they don’t have the internal crises that wreck so many teams. I think that’s because the great leaders who lead those teams do four specific things.
You can do them, too.
Touch Base A Lot
Great leaders touch base a lot. It’s the only way you can get to know the people on your team and that they can get to know you. And giving time to team members is a signal that you think they’re important.
When you touch base a lot, you don’t have to do “Bossley” things. In fact, you’ll do better if you do more human stuff and not a lot of boss stuff.
Conversations are important. Conversations involve at least two people. Everyone in the conversation should be able to talk and should listen to the others. That sounds simple, but many leaders and teams don’t do it.
Relationships are the glue that holds teams together. They make it easier to withstand a crisis or seize an opportunity.
There are no microwavable relationships. You build relationships by touching base, having conversations, and showing interest in other people.
When You Spot a Problem, Deal with It
If you do those three things, you will become more sensitive to when things are right and when something seems to be out of whack. You’ll build trust with team members, so if you sense that things aren’t going well, you can ask their opinion and be more likely to get a candid response. Your conversations and relationships give you early warning when there’s a problem. Then it’s time to do another thing great leaders do. Deal with it.
Problems are not self-healing. Left to themselves, they will get worse. Effective leaders know that, and they have a bias for action. Deal with an issue as soon as you notice it.
Relationships are the glue that holds a great team together. You build them by touching base a lot and having lots of real conversations. Your relationships will let you spot problems early, and deal with them promptly.