The second leadership talent I want to explore is that of assertiveness. This is not the type of assertiveness that is brash and aggressive but rather a steady, unrelenting drive toward outcomes. It helps here to stop and explore what I mean by outcomes because depending upon your motivations those outcomes may be somewhat different. If, for example, your outcomes are career advancement and never letting anything "stick to you" those are not the outcomes we are talking about. Or if your outcomes are to keep you and your team safely under the radar so as not to attract unwarranted attention, play it safe and never stir things up then those are not the outcomes I am speaking about either. The outcomes I am speaking about are the ones you have developed for you and your team that not only align with company KPI's but also go the extra mile to explore ways to improve performance, add to the bottom line and enhance everyone's experience of being on your team.
You Need to Know
Of course what this suggests is that you have a clear idea of what outcomes you want. Too often we get the idea that good leadership is about doing your job, making sure your team does their job but really never exploring what goes into making that happen. A good symptom of that type of leadership is the recent phenomenon of companies abandoning their performance review processes. Don't get me wrong, there are many poorly structured performance assessment processes out there that don't do what they should (another symptom of this issue) but the bottom line is that they don't work because many in leadership don't know what they want as outcomes and thus find themselves grasping at straws when it comes time to assess performance.
Job descriptions are not outcomes they are simply a description of the job that person has been hired to do. Outcomes are more about how they do that work, how they contribute to the mission of the group, how they contribute to improving the work they do. For example a manager of an HSE group had a clear idea of the outcomes she wanted from her team. Their job descriptions were pretty straight forward in terms of ensuring their was compliance with the company HSE policies and that adequate training and onsite supervision were provided. This manager established outcomes that aligned with those aspects of the role and more. She began to require her team to establish their own outcomes such as determining success or failure rates of compliance initiatives in their area and all the reasons around those successes or failures. She had them start to track safety and environmental events both in terms of raw data but also using root cause analysis. And she required them to initiate discussions and training with operations leadership around behaviour based safety compliance related to the outcomes of those root cause studies.
Keep it Simple
What then were the actual outcomes she drove? Was her team counting? Were they counting compliance failures and trends? Were they counting safety and environmental events and trends? How many events had a root cause analysis done? How many recommendations and behaviour based procedural changes were brought forward to operations leadership and how did those changes impact the relevant trends around those types of issues? She had each of them tracking and reporting on these things and she and they knew exactly what they were driving for. What did she track? Aside from the data provided by her team she tracked how many times she asked for that information when meeting with them at various sites. She tracked how many had performed root cause analysis, how many had suggested procedural changes and how many had established positive working relationships with the operations leadership. As she shared with me, "It was slow at first but they knew every time they saw me that I was going to ask for their numbers and a run down of what was happening on their site. I knew it was starting to take when I would show up and they already had graphs and information up and ready to show me."
Don't Stop Requiring
Getting her team to drive to the outcomes she wanted is the kind of assertiveness that a good leader practices. She knew what outcomes she wanted, she made sure her team knew as well and that they developed their own outcomes that aligned with her goals and she made sure to hold them all accountable for those things. You might be tempted to think that no-one enjoyed working on her team but nothing was farther from the truth. They knew what was expected of them, they knew where they stood and how they were performing and they loved it. Whats more is they felt that they were no just "doing" their job they were excelling and making a difference.
How is your assertiveness in terms of driving your teams outcomes? Performance Leadership - Think About It!