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The Secret to Team Results

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Any leader can give reasons for not achieving acceptable results, but the best leaders achieve great results despite inevitable challenges.

But why do some leaders make it look so easy? Why do some seem to drive results effortlessly while others struggle? Why do smart, well-intentioned leaders have difficulty getting the outcomes they desire? What is the secret sauce of being a great leader?

Many people ponder these questions. Often, when speaking to a group about leadership, I try to answer them, saying that a leader can accomplish almost anything if they provide their team with two things: clarity and energy. Let’s look at both.

Clarity
After reading my leadership book, Education of a CEO, it is not unusual for people to ask, “Is the bear story true?” If you, too, are wondering about the bear story and haven’t asked me yet, yes, it is true.

The short version of the story is that we have bears in our Central Florida neighborhood. The county says there are about 550 of them, but we only see one a couple of times a year. In the book, I share a story about shooing bears off our back porch in the middle of the night but beginning to think that one of the bears would not leave. Afraid the bear was going to break through the glass doors on the back of the house, I was ready to shoot it if necessary. For the record, I have zero interest in shooting a bear and would be sad if I had to, but that night I was ready to shoot anything breaking through that glass door.

The embarrassing part of this story is that I eventually realized it was not a bear stalking the house but a chair on the back porch. In the middle of that night, I lacked clarity.

Employees crave clarity. It is the leader’s job to ensure employees know everything they need to know, and, as much as possible, what they want to know.

As a CEO, one of my most important responsibilities is creating clarity, especially around the following:

· Vision – Our team needs to be clear about where we are going

· Values – People need to understand what is important to us; we have a culture pyramid that clearly communicates that

· Why – Our team needs to know why we exist. For us, it is “Making Life Better,” and we work hard to reinforce that constantly. We want to use our global platform for the good of everyone we contact.

· Strategic Plan – Each of our teams know their goals for the next three to five years and how we plan to achieve them.

· Budget – Each of our teams understand their current year performance expectations

When there is a lack of clarity or miscommunication about what is important in an organization, the leader often blames the team for not listening carefully. However, lack of clarity or miscommunication is always the leader’s fault.

The leader must identify what is important and communicate it over and over. There are many opportunities for miscommunication in the distance between the leader’s head into the employee’s ear. That’s why communication often needs to be repeated.

Despite the challenges, creating clarity is not difficult if a leader accepts responsibility, is intentional about it, and is willing to invest the time necessary to communicate important topics repeatedly. And when a leader does create clarity about the above items, the results are often exceptional.

Energy
Serving for several years on the University of Central Florida board, attending the school’s athletic events was always exciting. Football games played in the “Bounce House” were full of energy. Energy is powerful; it is up to leaders to provide that power to their teams.

Many leaders don’t like the responsibility of providing energy to their team, but that doesn’t mean it is not important. Either they believe it is the employee's responsibility to provide their own motivation, or they don’t want to try to energize their team. However, it is a big mistake to disregard the benefits of energizing a team; an energized team can get a lot accomplished. It takes effort to provide energy to your team, but the benefits to the organization are exponential.

Whether or not we like the responsibility, leaders either provide energy to a team or de-energize them. The best leaders provide energy; some ways I have found to do that include the following.

· Create clarity — If a leader provides the clarity noted above, it goes a long way toward energizing their team. It is de-energizing to be craving clarity and not get it.

· Show personal interest in your team — Everyone wants to know they are important and valued

· Be an optimist - No one wants to follow a pessimist. In his excellent book Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman writes about the power of optimism. Optimism provides energy, and an optimistic leader can turbocharge an organization.

· Don’t wear feelings on your sleeve — When you are irritated, frustrated, just having a bad day, or in any other way emotionally angsty, keep it to yourself. Most leaders discount the impact their emotions have on their team, but the impact is many multiples more than they realize. I know it is hard; like most people, leaders want to be understood, but when a leader transfers negative emotions to their team, the cost is high.

· Be a high-affirmation leader — People get tremendous energy by knowing their leader thinks they are doing well and appreciates them. Some leaders believe that affirmation will cause team members to think too highly of themselves and slack off. That is crazy. Other leaders have trouble giving anyone credit, no matter how well-deserved. That is sad. My experience is that employees appreciate affirmation; it makes them more loyal while providing them with a boatload of energy.

The items above may not be natural for you, but it is still your job to provide energy to your team. Being an energizer has a tremendous return on investment; if you are sincere in applying the recommendations above, the energy you provide your team will drive great results.

Leaders are often looking for ways to improve results. Providing clarity and energy is the way to accomplish anything with your team.

Bill Yeargin is president and CEO of Correct Craft and has authored five books, including the best seller Education of a CEO. 

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