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Careers: Articles - Top 20 Leadership Tools You Can Use

These are my Top 20 best practices that I have seen used by the most successful leaders. Some of these are already in your toolkit, others you may have forgotten. Keep this list handy as a reminder of time tested solutions that will make you and your team shine.

  1. Use the Power of the Pen. Recognition is the number one motivator. A simple thank you note is more important than money to most people. Break out the fancy pen you got for your birthday and say thanks to the people who helped to get you there.
  2. Understand the Importance of Emotions. Feelings are a part of daily life and daily business. When people get hurt feelings they become poor performers, so make sure you deal with these issues sooner rather than later.
  3. Great leaders have one thing in common - Passion! If you're not turned-on about what you're doing your team won't be either, so show them that you're excited and watch them get fired up.
  4. Communication is the most important thing in any business relationship. If you don't use effective Business Communication Skills you're leaving money on the table and not getting the most out of your people. Don't be afraid to take a brush-up course and listen to hints from those who are in the positions you want. Chances are they got there because they're great communicators.
  5. Do a Company Evaluation at least once a year. Ask your team members to respond in writing to important questions like, "What do we need to change?" and "What do we need to keep doing more of?" This is your most powerful tool for a fifty thousand-foot view of your business.
  6. Create a Company Mentoring Program. Every person in and entering your company should have a mentor. A mentor's job is to help a new or junior staff member feel welcomed as well as to answer any questions. Having a mentor builds confidence and creates motivation to go above and beyond.
  7. Make sure your teams are balanced with both Innovators and Implementers. If everyone on a team is an Innovator, nothing will get done. Similarly, a team of only Implementers will create nothing new. To make sure you have a balanced team, utilize the free test (called the g3i) on the web site www.BartonGoldsmith.com.
  8. Remember that Customer Service Rocks. The two most profitable customer service tips I have used are; first, a full return/refund policy, which eliminates risk on the part of your client and encourages them to "step up to the plate". (By the way, I have never had to give a refund because I always give my clients more than they expected.) Second, never say "NO" to clients. This policy creates the opportunity for you and your client to find other ways to do business together, rather than you telling them you can't or don't provide a particular service or product.
  9. Achieve goals by getting team member buy-in. If your people have input into your goals they will put more energy into helping you achieve them. Ask them what they think and you'll get their dedication in return.
  10. Implement a Knowledge Lunch. Keep your team up to date by having a lunch meeting once a week where you discuss your business. You can even bring in vendors and financial advisors (who will buy the pizza) to help keep your team connected and current.
  11. Deal appropriately with Fear in the Workplace. When team members are in fear for their livelihood (and in these times perhaps fear of their lives,) they do not perform at their highest level. Providing a forum to safely talk about these fears will go a long way toward helping achieve superior performance.
  12. Don't just be a manager, be an Evangelist. You need to believe in what you and your company are doing and to share the power of that belief with your team members. A good leader can't become great if they don't inspire faith in their company.
  13. Pursue Failure. Failure is not an ending it is a stepping stone to the right answer. Stop beating yourself up for mistakes and see them as an opportunity to begin again with additional information, knowledge and experience.
  14. Remember that the Fish Stinks from the Head Down. That means everything that you are responsible for everything that goes right, and anything that goes wrong. Remembering that leadership is the most important component of your business, and that the buck stops with you will help you keep your "fish" fresh.
  15. Having Fun Increases Productivity and Profit. In companies where people have fun, the productivity and the profit are higher. The American Psychological Association has published surveys about this, and it's a fact. Take the example of Southwest Airlines - do you know that "a sense of humor" is on their job application?!
  16. Beware of Invalidation. The number one motivation killer is making a team member feel "less than". If you mistakenly say the wrong thing to someone, apologize immediately. You'll look like a responsible leader rather than an insensitive bully.
  17. Learn to maintain your composure under pressure. Thomas Jefferson said, "Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances."
  18. Join a Mastermind group. To keep your skills sharp and get answers to difficult questions get into a group of non-competing peers. The greatest minds in business have used Mastermind Groups to help them excel in their chosen fields.
  19. Learn to ask Powerful Questions. The right question at the right time can eliminate major problems or help a team member find the best answer available.
  20. Learn to Deal with Difficult People. There are specific techniques to deal with different types of people. Learn how to tell avoidance from arrogance and denial from insecurity. For a list of these types and some hints for handling them, send an e-mail to Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com with the words "Difficult People" in the subject line.

These tried and true twenty tips will help guide you to make the right decisions at the right times, for the right reasons. Leadership is an art form, and the best of the best use many of these proven techniques.

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About the Author:
For more than two decades Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organizations worldwide have relied on Dr. Barton Goldsmith to help them develop creative and balanced leadership. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant and nationally syndicated author. His columns appear in over 150 publications, including the Los Angeles Business Journal. Dr. Goldsmith works regularly with The Young President¹s Organization (YPO) and The Executive Committee (TEC). Considered an expert on small business, he has spoken worldwide to groups of 10 to 5,000, and is in high demand for Keynotes, Training and Consulting. He may be contacted through his web site BartonGoldsmith.com or at (818) 879-9996.

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