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Play it again, Sam?


I have just been to see the film About Time. A typical Richard Curtis movie, on the surface a gentle romcom. But for those of you who have not seen it yet– it has a main theme of time travel where the hero gets to reinvent his future for the better.It got me thinking. What if we, as leaders, could go back and tweak our behaviour and actions to ensure the best result for our employees and colleagues? What would we choose to ‘play again’?

In imagination mode of course, I would say these would be among the top 5:

Getting the feedback right
Whether it is an absence of positive feedback or too much negative feedback – this seems to be one that many leaders just can’t get right. Some of them think it is their job to correct people and it is after all a natural human response when expectations are not met. However, the power of reinforcing behaviour as well as redirecting it is underestimated. How great to be told what you need to repeat rather than correct!
How would you change your feedback next time?

Treating staff as people
Someone once said to me – ‘if you treat people as staff, they will behave as staff’. The blur of ‘staff’ leads to minimal, low performance behaviour.Invisible, cellophane people. When leaders take the time to understand individual motivators they gain access to a goldmine. Suddenly, the ‘staff’ turns into a team of people, and by playing to individual strengths and drivers the team is engaged and motivated to perform at their best.
What would you find out about your team?

Avoidance of key issues
None of us like conflict – and leaders are no different! Why do they avoid the difficult situations that inevitably present themselves? Typically, it is because they don’t know the words to use or don’t want to upset people. But by stepping up and addressing the issues when they arise will put an end to the misery for all parties, the leader included.
When could you have dealt with a key issue sooner?

Making sure people know what they are supposed to do
Strange as it may seem, it never ceases to amaze me how many leaders do not actually sit down with their team and set clear goals. They make an assumption that the employee knows what is required of them and then is surprised when they don’t perform. The fact is, people like direction.They like to know what we they aiming for and to able to measure performance against it.
When did you last sit down with your team and discuss their goals and progress?

Controlling emotions
Emotion is such a powerful thing in all of us and often catches us by surprise. This of course is totally natural, but as leaders wearing your heart on your sleeve is not always effective.No-one wants to work for a grumbler. Optimistic, enthusiastic leaders retain their people more easily compared to those with a negative attitude*. Emotions and moods do have real consequences for getting work done – so maximise the positive.
When could you have demonstrated a more optimistic outlook?

So what would you do differently if you got the chance again?

Of course – in the movie our hero comes to realise that it is better to live each day once, as if it was his last. So maybe there is a leadership lesson for us in that too!

*Concept taken from Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman