The use of massive amounts of data for better understanding markets and making more accurate predictions is surely one of the biggest business stories of this decade. If you are an executive, you probably have a solid grasp on this type of data and how it can be used to move business forward. But keep in mind that your technical skills are only the starting point of what’s required to lead effectively. For one thing, you also have to be a willing collaborator, and for another, you must be an excellent communicator.
Corporate culture isn’t static, because we must always be open to innovation, efficiency improvements and better responsiveness to customers and the markets. Today’s top leaders increasingly recognize that the strength of corporate culture plays an enormous role in whether an organization succeeds or not. Sometimes we have to look inward as well as outward. You have a handle on the markets, now it’s time to take stock of what’s going on inside yourself, your team, and your business.
Hold a Mirror Up to Your Company: What Do You See?
There are any number of “mirrors” you could hold up to your company. You could read its press coverage over the years, or follow mentions on social media. One popular self-assessment tool is the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, and it can help you avoid making expensive and morale-damaging mistakes. It involves looking at both your organization’s internal situation and external factors that affect it.
Strengths and weaknesses may be measured compared to opportunities, competitors, or other factors. Opportunities and threats may be within or outside your organization, but it’s important to know what they are and where they originate. Some information you gather as part of a SWOT analysis may be hard numbers. Other information may be more subjective. But as long as it is consistently honest, and you’re not afraid of that honesty, you can benefit greatly. You could learn to identify opportunities close at hand that you might otherwise miss without this perspective.
Understanding Your Team: Why There’s No Substitute
Who makes up your team? What are their names, their strengths, and their interests? If you don’t know these answers, you definitely have work to do. Understanding your team involves several attitudes and behavior. Some ways to get to know (and motivate) your team better include:
• Paying individual attention to team members and letting them know they’re appreciated
• Promoting from within and offering new responsibilities to those expressing an interest
• Setting a positive example of work ethic, communication, and optimism
• Doing what you can to make the physical work environment conducive to good work
• Including socialization occasionally, through group lunches or other casual interactions
• Building trust so team members are comfortable communicating with you
Taking Stock of Your Own Leadership
Everyone tends to believe that they see things as they are, and that there is a direct correlation between what they’re doing and what others are seeing. But how others perceive you and your leadership qualities is actually more complicated than that. Did you know that when people try to guess other people’s intentions, their accuracy is only slightly better than chance?
One simple way to overcome limitations in how others see us is to be more explicit about what we are thinking and doing. You can’t assume people know what you’re thinking and what motivates you to do what you do. Executive coaching can be a terrific opportunity for leaders to get a better handle on how others perceive them. Coaches are there to tell you the truth and to help you build skills for ensuring your team members understand you better and avoid making assumptions about you. Learning to send signals that reflect your true attitudes and beliefs is a skill like any other, and a great executive coach can be just the person to help with this.
Leadership today in many ways is about your capacity to deal with problems and recover from mistakes. Like any other business skill, leadership must be periodically assessed and honestly evaluated to avoid stagnation and entrenchment of negative attitudes. All that data you make use of to help your business run at its best can only do so much. Understanding yourself and your team better makes you a more effective leader. If you’re interested in learning more about leadership and executive coaching, I invite you to check out my books on those exact topics. Let’s make 2016 the year you come into your own as a true leader.