So you're struggling to lead a team. It's okay, it happens.

After all, leading others in a professional setting is one of the most difficult skills to master. Instead of focusing on what you were doing to get you in this spot, it's much more important to focus on what you can do to change the tides.

You might be tempted to read a leadership book, listen to a bunch of podcasts, follow some of the great leadership thinkers, or sign up for a leadership workshop. While these are great ideas, they won't help you improve things as fast as you want.

Rapid change in leadership relies on two important things; self-awareness and practical application. This means if you want to improve your leadership skills as quickly as possible, you have to shine a light on yourself about how you're currently doing and have specific implementable principles and techniques to fill those voids.

Bill George, a professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School and author of True North, says "Self-Awareness is the starting point of leadership." This makes perfect sense because not only will self-awareness encourage you to find better ways to improve your weaknesses, it will have you striving to become the best leader you can be.

If you want to get started, give these five moves a try.

1. Send an email to your team.

My company LearnLoft's research for over 30,000 leaders for our EO Assessment to determine how the best leaders lead, has shown the number one thing leaders do poorly is asking their people for feedback about how they are doing. While many leaders assume they are doing a good job, you shouldn't.

Send a quick email to your team today with two simple questions in it:

  1. What's one thing you want me to start doing?

  2. What's one thing you want me to stop doing?

2. Take a 360° assessment.

You may assume you know your strengths and weaknesses from a leadership perspective, but the reality is most people struggle with self-awareness. The best way to get an accurate measurement of this is to ask your people. They are the ones who know best because they experience your leadership every day.

It's also rare for you or anyone else to be in tune with the most important competencies required to be a great leader. These are things like empathy, coaching, setting standards, positivity, trust, vulnerability, and delivering feedback. There are many leadership assessments out there such as our EO 360°, but find the one that you like the most and go to work.

3. Schedule one-on-one meetings.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is believing leadeship is a group activity. The reality is leadership is a one-on-one game. The better the individual relationships, the better you will lead.

Don't let your yearly performance review be the only one-on-one time you spend with members of your team. Even if you are the busiest person on the planet, you must carve out time for one-on-one meetings.

4. Review the fundamental principles of leadership, not management.

The best athletes in the world spend an uncomfortable amount of time rehearsing the fundamentals and principles of their sport that help them be successful. Leadership is the same way-- the fundamentals and principles have remained the same and you must be constantly reviewing them and working them to get better.

  • Focus on relationships

  • Make sure your actions elevate others

  • Set clear standards

  • Hold yourself and others accountable to meeting and exceeding those standards

  • Coach people to improve performance

5. Set priorities for the team to focus on.

Most leaders do a good job of setting a clear goal but then lack the vision to set clear priorities to help their team go achieve it.  

Come up with a clear list of priorities. These should include things related to people, projects, products or job functions. List them out so the team can clearly see which priorities will accelerate the growth of the team which will allow their daily activities to be completed in alignment with the priorities.  

Take each one of these and focus on one of them each week. I promise at the end of five weeks you will be well on your way to becoming a better leader faster than you ever thought possible.  

Published on: May 24, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.