Editor's note: "The First 90 Days" is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you're making the first 90 days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
Leadership is about maximizing performance--not only your own, but that of the people who work with you.
You do this best by focusing on people: respecting their boundaries, celebrating their talents, acknowledging their successes, and holding them accountable for their roles.
If any organization, business, venture, or team is going to succeed, it needs a leader who can demonstrate the way, go the way, and show the way.
Here are 14 ways you can make that happen:
1. Teach your people to fish. As the old motto says, don't give people a fish, teach them to catch their own. Empower people to fulfill their assigned roles, then watch them grow into their potential as happy, fulfilled, and loyal members of your team.
2. Keep expectations realistic. Be specific and realistic about expectations. Hold yourself to the same standard as others (or higher!) and show them how it's done. Demonstrate that underpromising and overdelivering are good for business.
3. Stay alert and keep people informed. People always want to know what's going on, especially during stressful times in your organization. More often than not, it's a simple desire for knowledge that leads to the dreaded (and destructive) rumor mill. But it's a problem you can solve easily just by keeping people informed, even if all you can say is, "I feel good about it, but we won't know anything until next week." People who are kept in the loop feel included and appreciated.
4. Lend a helping hand. Be flexible when it comes to schedules and work assignments if it will help people balance their work and personal responsibilities better. Be willing to fill in where needed and carry your share of the less-than-desirable jobs and shifts. Spending time on the front lines gives you a valuable perspective and earns you respect that you won't get any other way.
5. Help build team members' self-esteem. More than what you say or do, people remember how you make them feel. Be quick to praise and give credit. Take every opportunity to put the spotlight on co-workers and employees.
6. Be specific with recognition. Talk about what was done and how the project contributed to the team and the organization. Rather than, "You did a great job," say, "Thank you for getting the project done two days early. The customer was very pleased, and frankly, so was I."
7. Focus on solutions. You can't always control problems, but you can control your reaction. Instead of focusing on what's wrong or whose fault it is, keep your attention on solutions (and later, when things settle down, prevention). If you can show people how to identify and positively respond to a problem, you empower them to solve things for themselves.
8. Build trust. Model trustworthiness through credibility, commitment, and competence; model trust by communicating with people honestly and with transparency. Creating a climate of trust will not only energize your entire organization, it will empower your leadership.
9. Don't shoot the messenger. Don't throw around your authority or blame others for problems. Be receptive to what people have to tell you--especially if it's bad news. Doing so creates open communication and a safe working culture.
10. Display patience. Maintaining the virtue of patience can be a challenge, especially when you're dealing with someone less knowledgeable. Think about a time when you were learning something new and how much you appreciated the patience of a teacher or coach.
11. Be accountable for your own leadership. Don't let minor obstacles become excuses for missing a deadline or sacrificing quality. Show people that you walk the talk and that you are serious about creating leadership in others--that your word is your word, and you expect the same level of accountability from them.
12. Expect a lot of yourself and others. People tend to live up to expectations. If you expect little, that is likely what you will get. On the other hand, expect a lot and you will usually be surprised at just how much can be accomplished.
13. Be clear and concise with your decisions. Start by knowing what you want the result to be. If others are involved, share the outcome. Don't keep people guessing--let them know about your decisions with speed and clarity.
14. Serve others. There is power in giving and helping people, in motivating them to reach their fullest potential. When you show the way by providing knowledge, guidance, tools, support, and inspiration, you make things happen not only for yourself but for everyone.