Successful business leadership depends on the words and ideas that the leader contributes to the organization. But even more significant, is what the business leader does. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.
So, what should a business leader do every day to speak so loudly?
1. Start Out Proactively
How do most of us begin the day? Perhaps, we get a cup of coffee, read through our E-Mails, listen to our voice mails, maybe even read the newspaper or quickly surf the internet for the major news stories. No, No, No, No and No. These are all reactive activities. Instead, begin the day proactively. Pick the most important task that you need to do and do it first thing (even if for only 30 minutes). Get it done or get a good chunk of it done. Then, you can go get that cup of coffee and begin to go through E-Mails confident that you have completed the most important task for the day.
2. Walk around, talk around – MBWA (Management by Walking Around)
Get out around and among your people, both your direct reports and the employees below the level of your direct reports. Ask them:
What is going right today?
What is going wrong today?
What do you need to do your job better?
Listen to the answers and break down the barriers. Make it easier for them to get their jobs done. Coach. Encourage. Recognize (“find someone doing something right every day”). And thank them for their work. Not only will you motivate, engage and inspire your team, but you will also learn the “true truths” and “real reality” of what is going on in the front lines of your business.
3. Touch a customer
Customers are the lifeblood of the business; they provide the money that enables the business and you to succeed. So, spend a part of each day with or discussing customers. Visit a customer to help solve a problem or resolve an issue. Call a customer to thank them for their business. Or spend time with the sales and marketing people understanding more about the customer and more about how your company can better serve and solve their problems.
4. Learn and think
Every day and every way each of us needs to learn something to make us better, more understanding, more aware, more insightful. By all means, read about your industry and competitors. But, also read different ideas and perspectives that might give insight into new and different ways of building and bettering your business. Then, spend the time and think about what you can do to be better and make your business better. Wrapped up in the daily battle and reactively responding to the daily fires, too many business leaders do not take the time to step back and think about what they are doing and how they can do it better. Take some of that downtime in the car, on the plane, before a meeting, and think. Your business will be better for it.
5. Give good example
In all your interactions every day, show everyone your values, your goals and your priorities. A fundamental requirement of leadership is to be an example and a model of the behaviors and focus that you want throughout your organization. So, show it by what you do every day and how you do it every day. This advice is ageless. As Sir Francis Bacon said four hundred years ago:
He that gives good advice builds with one hand. He that gives good counsel and example builds with both. But he that gives good guidance and bad example builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.