Employee performance depends on leadership

Dave Anderson, who has written 13 books on leadership, offers timeless advice for becoming an effective leader.
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At last week’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, the need to address the lack of a trained technical workforce for now and the future was a prime topic. Clearly that’s become a critical need.

But that discussion reminded me of an Ohio dealer who once shared his frustration with getting all of his employees to perform well. I still recall delicately suggesting that he might want to try a couple of books on leadership by John Maxwell, best known for his “Everything Rises and Falls On Leadership” slogan, or check out one of author-speaker Dave Anderson’s 13 books on leadership.

It was Anderson, president of LearnToLead, that I once heard speak. I can’t remember where, and my notes look old. Still, I kept them and I see now that so much of what he said then is still on point for anyone responsible for leading employees to top performances.

Here’s some of his advice:

First, define or redefine expectations for all employees. Minimum performance standards need to be clearly set. Doing this means you can hold them accountable — not doing it means you can’t.

Don’t keep hopeless people too long. Past performance is the greatest predictor of what someone is going to do in the future. Or, as Anderson quipped: “Out of millions of sperm, you were the fastest?”

Carrying the ball alone isn’t the way to play the game. Let others make decisions and be ball carriers, too. “Managers want to be needed, leaders want to be succeeded,” said Anderson. “The best leaders actually make fewer decisions. Get over yourself if you think you’re the only one who can make a decision — you’re overrated!”

Always play to win. Stop playing not to lose. We come to reward tenure over results. Loyalty is performance, not the time someone’s been there. Anderson asks: “How can you burn out when you’ve never been on fire?”

Spend time with the best; give less to the rest. Too often a leader will spend a disproportionate amount of time with a weak employee, believing it will improve things. It likely won’t and reduces the time to spend with the top performers. Treat people on the level they’ve earned.

Don’t be too PC. Leaders who are always concerned with political correctness are really failing to give honest feedback. It seems these days that we want to sugarcoat instead of telling the truth. We don’t hold people accountable. Instead we’re living in a time when every kid these days gets a trophy just for being there — no calling out excellence or achievement, lest someone else be offended. A business leader’s role isn’t just to make employees feel happy; it’s to make them better. That means straight feedback.

Finally, an effective leader does not blame outside forces for any failure to succeed. Moreover, a leader doesn’t do what’s easy. He or she always looks to take on the difficult calls, clearly communicates any decisions and, thereby, the employees can see how an effective leader performs.

Effective leaders succeed in building a culture of high accountability for all team members, and that translates into outstanding customer service and a desirable bottom line.

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