When a business model is working, it's common for leaders to assume all is well and stop trying to improve, but operational flaws that seem small now may lead to costly inefficiency in the future. Leadership performance has the greatest impact on the long term, so it's essential to find and fix issues hurting your bottom line. To go from good to exceptional, take these five steps to maintain high standards of leadership performance.
1. Check Review Sites
Too often, business leaders believe their companies have few problems because they aren't hearing complaints. The problem is most employees don't speak up when they fear repercussions or don't think senior managers care about their opinions. Try reading review sites and message boards for honest feedback about frustrating policies and cultural trends. In many cases, managers don't understand what is important to the workforce. Exiting employees are more vocal about gaps in leadership performance, making it easier to uncover key areas of improvement to discuss with current workers.
2. Get Customer Feedback
Use interviews, surveys and focus groups to find out what customers like and dislike about your business operations. Front-line employees take cues from company leaders, and they struggle to meet customer expectations when they don't get adequate support and guidance from senior management. Stay alert to areas where the company consistently falls short, and brainstorm ways to offer more value to customers.
3. Revise Your Leadership Competency Model
Markets and industries change, so businesses should too. Sometimes, leadership performance dips when your senior management staff is missing knowledge and skills that are necessary to move into new markets. Instead of resisting change, create a list of essential competencies the company needs for being successful in the future.
Conduct peer assessments among your leadership team to rank each manager's competencies. Routinely updating your leadership competency model encourages your senior staff members to keep learning and holding themselves accountable to the team. At the same time, the company can identify weaknesses faster and concentrate on finding the right talent to fill leadership gaps.
4. Create a Culture of Transparency
Look around at your employees. Are they energized and enthusiastic about their work? Do talented workers have the resources to perform their jobs well? Whether your company is suffering from poor communication, low engagement or lack of trust, the solution is transparency. Even when a company has hardships, employees invest more energy when they believe in company values and trust leaders to make decisions that benefit the entire team. Ask your employees for feedback about leadership performance, and make it clear the company intends to embrace and reward honesty going forward.
5. Consult Respected Employees
The company's official leaders may not be the same people employees go to for advice, encouragement and mentoring. Do some investigating to find the influencers who command respect with or without a managerial title. These respected employees typically know what problems are brewing under the surface, and their positive qualities inspire trust and loyalty in co-workers.
Gaps in leadership performance only widen the longer you ignore them. Taking a proactive approach to leadership development enables you to quickly respond as new organizational needs arise. While no business is perfect, you can keep surpassing company goals if your leadership team is committed to measuring outcomes and researching better solutions.
Photo courtesy of Maryland GovPics at Flickr.com