Have you seen Staple’s easy button? When you press it, a recorded voice says, “That was easy.” The concept is that at the push of a button, Staples will make your life easier and better. I wish there was a button that I could press to make me a better leader, don’t you? I believe that deep down inside of every person, we want to make a positive difference in this world, but we grapple with our insecurities and inadequacies. At the press of a button, I wish I could possess the perseverance of Abraham Lincoln or the convictions of Nelson Mandela to make the kind of great impact they had in my own sphere of influence.
As we all know, however, there is no easy button to develop great leaders. Rather, successful leaders developed into their greatness by doing small things well first. Helen Keller stated, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” Great leaders care about doing the small things well – not just the things that garner the most attention. They build good habits in their daily life that create the foundation and opportunities for bigger life-changing moments.
In light of this, here are five easy things you can do this week to make yourself a better leader. These aren’t the flashy tips found in leadership books, nor are they magical beans that will instantly make you grow into a leadership giant – but they are things that have helped me take baby steps to communicate better, build better team relationships and broaden my perspectives. I encourage you to try one or more of these things this week and to be intentional about investing in the small – but significant – details of your leadership life.
I believe the best leaders are those are learners with teachable hearts and the best way to learn is by writing things down. Use whatever works for you. If you’re old fashioned then use that pen and paper. I prefer to use Evernote (best free app for note-taking). It allows me to create “notebooks” for all things such as random thoughts, blog ideas, sermon notes, meeting notes, to do lists, and much more. Buy a notebook or download Evernote this week and start writing things down. It will help you remember, organize, and process your thoughts better.
2. Read a book outside your typical interests
We all have type of books that we prefer to read. My go-to genres are typically leadership and Christian type of books. To take a break from these genres, I am currently reading Boys in a Boat a non-fiction book about nine Americans and their quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The next book I might tackle may be some kind of fiction – a genre I rarely read. Reading books outside your comfort zone allows you to broaden your horizon and get a glimpse into a different perspective and way of thinking. Ask a friend for book recommendations and read something different this week.
3. Give a specific compliment to your team
Have you ever had someone complain to you that you compliment people too much? Probably not. I haven’t. We often don’t affirm our team members enough and this is perhaps the easiest and best way to edify your team dynamics and relationships. When you notice your team do something well this week, drop them a specific and concrete compliment in person, or through an email, thank you note or text message.
4. Ask questions and listen to your team
Leaders typically are known for their ability to talk more than their ability to listen. Leaders need to be known as both. When was the last time you asked your team for their opinion and really listened? Soliciting and genuinely listening to your team’s opinions will get you more buy-in and perhaps a better idea. At your next meeting, try asking your team a question about an issue or thought you’ve been contemplating and write it down to reflect on later.
Relationships are the best investment you can make as a leader. When was it on your agenda or to-do list for the day to really spend time getting to know someone on your team? When you spend that extra time with your team, you are communicating that you see them as a person and not just a worker. Your team won’t forget this simple gesture and time; I always appreciate it!