As a leader, how do you handle an employee who is not meeting your expectations?
I was recently asked to facilitate a panel discussion at an industry Executive Summit. I gladly accepted and began to consider the topic “What keeps you up at night?” Ironically, this very question was a culprit since it left me wondering what we would discuss into the wee hours. I found myself worried because…well…not much keeps me up at night!
As I look back at my life and career, it’s always been apparent that I love a challenge. To accomplish, solve or fix what few others had the ability to is what drives me. The more complex a problem was, the more I researched and thought about it. The more confused people were, the more focused I became. The more people doubted we could do it, the more resolved and confident I became.
A few weeks before the Summit at which I was to speak, I hosted a conference call with the panelists. As we brainstormed about what keeps us up at night, the problems that business owners and leaders face, as well as problems specific to our industry, I realized something. I was energized!
I choose to look at what keeps other people up at night as a reason to get up in the morning!
As a leader, when we see an obstacle or problem, we must be able to turn that into an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to solve something or to help others around (or through) an obstacle. If a problem is holding someone back, you have the opportunity to help them. Helping your people to see problems as opportunities to make changes is also empowering. Sometimes all it takes is permission. Other times it’s resources or even just connecting them with the right person.
We need to be mindful, however, that the problems we have no control over don’t consume us and drain the energy out of our teams. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to work with mentors that stressed only to focus on those problems that I have control over. If we are focused on circumstances, the economy or even our competition (things we cannot change), we become distracted and powerless to impact that which we CAN change.
Problems that keep us up at night can affect our team as well. Our teams want to be informed, engaged and to be doing meaningful work. Sometimes as leaders, we think we are helping our people by keeping them insulated from the problems. This is the opposite of what we are doing. They already KNOW what the problems are, often better than we do. What they may lack is the perspective and the tools to allow them to solve these problems. Coaching, guiding, leading with questions, giving your team the tools and resources that they need: these behaviors are what engage our team and allows them to tackle whatever they are faced with. This is what also allows a good leader to sleep very well at night.