Leaders have two important characteristics. First, they are going somewhere. Second, they are able to persuade other people to go with them. But keeping people motivated and on the right path may be one of the most difficult tasks a leader has. This is true in business, sports, family, and in all of life.
I recently ran across notes and tapes from a convention in which I participated back when I first began speaking professionally. A speaker on the program was Ron Clark, vice-president of Latin American Field Operations for Avon Products. He was responsible for a sales organization of nearly 250,000 people in ten Latin American countries and Spain. Obviously, Clark had quite a challenge to keep that number motivated and productive.
He, of course, could not supervise or personally relate to a quarter of a million people. But he found he could make his presence known at every level of the organization by concentrating on teaching the leaders under him how to supervise effectively. To Clark, effective supervision meant coaching. He said, “Just as in sports, the business coach exists as a kind of outside observer. He or she has to look at the organization objectively and then help the members work together in the best way possible to accomplish common goals. The supervisor is both a trainer and a source of feedback.”
Clark emphasized that management in business, like in sports, has to be a hands-on affair. He said that a leader has to be visible to his or her people and has to be an ultimate authority on decisions and direction all the way up and down the chain of command. He claimed that if a leader can’t provide the people with something clear and definite to work toward, then the job is not being done.
According to Clark, “An effective coach creates an environment that challenges people to want to solve problems and come up with creative solutions. The key to this process is building confidence in your people. As a manager, you must instill within your people the desire to win. You must be concerned about your people’s individual goals. The idea is to promote team effort in which personal and corporate goals merge.”
Clark claimed that by learning to recognize and respect individual differences and sensitivities and getting to know employees’ needs and wants, a manager can figure out everyone’s optimal performance level. He pointed out that too many managers try to motivate employees in a purely self-serving way. The insensitive manager’s attitude is, “You’re working to please me and you have to improve because I want you to.” He said that in contrast, a team-oriented attitude emphasizes, “Improve to profit yourself and thereby help the organization.”
He said that on the best sports teams the coach makes his or her players understand that individual and team success are connected. The coach must first understand this if he or she is going to be able to communicate it to the players. The individual is important and the individual’s needs and goals are important, just as the team is important and the team’s needs and goals are important. The individual cannot be sacrificed, nor can the team be sacrificed. Only cohesive, win-win units reach the top.
Clark stressed that the successful coach avoids unnecessary and needless criticism, but he or she honestly provides recognition and praise of achievements. He said that he could not overemphasize the value of positive reinforcement. According to Clark, “Everyone needs to know when he or she is doing a good job and needs to be aware that other people know he or she is doing a good job.”
Daily appraisals are best, Clark said. He went on to say that if someone is not doing the job, then you need to be completely frank about the problem right away. If you wait until later, the stakes become too high. (I like Barney Fife’s philosophy on this: “Nip it in the bud. Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!”) Clark emphasized, however, that when you must correct someone, always criticize performance, never the person.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-436-7478. His books, including “A Strategy For Winning,” “People of Passion,” “Anatomy Of A Leader,” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at www.carlmays.com, and on www.amazon.com.