It's not raw, natural talent or innate skill that makes up the difference between an average manager and an effective leader.
Instead, it's something anyone can do, but most find it difficult to master. The best separate themselves by changing basic habits. A habit is simply a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. When studying what the best leaders do for Building the Best, I found a pattern leaders leverage to get consistently high results from themselves and their people.
The pattern is called The Route to Results: High standards produce behaviors. Those behaviors, when practices repeatedly, become a habit, and those habits lead to results.
The Route to Results turns conscious behaviors into unconscious habits.
“Successful people aren’t born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit that unsuccessful people don’t like to do” - William Thackeray, British Novelist
If you want to become a better leader during this Pandemic, focus on adding these daily behaviors to your routine, and eventually, they'll become habits.
Own Your Morning, Elevate your Life
Benjamin Franklin had the morning routine figured out. He called the time from 5 AM to 7 AM "powerful goodness." This time was spent ordering the priorities of the day, as well as writing, reading, and praying. Additionally, Franklin always took the opportunity to answer one critical question, "What good will I do today?"
During an episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Robin Sharma provided simple yet powerful advice from his book, the 5 AM Club, "Own your morning, elevate your life."
Instead of sleeping in, jumping into the current news cycle, email, or thinking about the current hardships, now is the time to own your morning and elevate your life. This has a direct effect on the kind of leader you are going to be each day. You will immediately assume a reactive and problem-solving mode, which causes you to stray from getting the most important things done each day.
While a successful morning routine varies from person to person, it can include exercising, praying, meditating, writing, reading, or prioritizing the most critical work for you and your team.
A Daily Text Check-in
Every day and every moment matters in the current environment. If your team experiences long periods of silence from you, they will start to fill their mind with fear and doubt. When doubt and fear are heavily present, it's impossible to perform at your best.
A daily check-in doesn't replace your weekly team meeting or your weekly scheduled one-on-one to cover projects or priorities. It's a short form text message, Slack message, email, or phone call to ask a simple question: "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Your actions during difficult times speak volumes about who you are and will leave lasting impressions. On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead podcast Roderic Yapp said it so well:
“People remember how you made them feel when times are difficult.”
A quick check-in will go a long way with your team. You might not be able to save their job (or your own for that matter), but people will absolutely remember you cared enough to ask this simple question every day.
Read, Listen or Watch Something to Grow your Leadership Skills
In 1665, Cambridge University closed because of the Bubonic Plague. During that time, Isaac Newton developed calculus AND formulated the notion of gravity as a universal force.
Newton didn't settle into fear and inaction. Imagine what you could do! When business slows down, an opportunity arises to put your focus outside of your typical responsibilities. Take advantage of this time to develop your skills and the skills of your people.
I have written and often speak about Growth20, which is the practice of committing to 20 minutes a day to grow your mind and skills. During a slow down, you might increase it to a Growth60. Instead of binge-watching a mindless Netflix show, watch one that could teach you something. You can also chose to read a book, join the ultimate leadership academy, listen to a podcast, dust off a project you've abandoned, attend a free webinar, or help team members develop their skills.
Evaluate Your Communication through the Lens of the 3C's
It's impossible to be a highly effective leader without being a great communicator. While the technology for leaders to effectively communicate with their teams has never been better, it doesn't guarantee success.
The best leaders talk about their agenda in a way that speaks to their people's emotions and aspirations.
The importance of effective communication doesn't stop at people in positions of leadership. A recent study by LinkedIn of HR recruiters and hiring managers, 94% of respondents said a person with good experience and exceptional communication skills is more likely to be elevated to a position of leadership than someone with more experience but weaker communication skills.
To improve and get better, focus on the 3 C's of Successful Communication:
Clear: Do they know what you're asking them to do?
Concise: Are you using as few words as possible do deliver your message? "Twitterize" it.
Conclusive: What good or bad will happen if they do/don't do what you're asking them to do?
If you find yourself missing any of these habits, don't fret. Look at it as a wake-up call for you. Embrace the power of the route to results and start small. Create a standard of behavior and consciously execute it every day until it becomes a subconscious habit.
About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn's Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the "Follow My Lead" Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today's leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.