Getting the Best from Yourself and Your People

Leadership Foundations

Getting the Best from Yourself and Your People

How do we get the best from people and from ourselves in this fast-paced ever-changing world?  This question, or one like it, is often asked of me in leadership development workshops, or coaching sessions. Being an effective leader when everyone’s needs seem so different can be daunting.  Customers, clients, our team members, our boss(es) and peers all are clamouring for the best, most efficient, most stable, most sustainable, least costly etc. etc. And all this before any consideration of compliance, good governance, tactical moves, strategic directions, long term, short term, and of course our own needs and those close to us; it can seem endless!

There are so many sources of brilliant advice on how to cope, for example. Many models exist to help us understand e.g. complexity, motivation, styles, strategy, finance, influence, vertical -vs- matrix structures, and so on. Many of these will resonate, some will not. How might we simplify things?

I’ve wondered for a while what might be a good foundation from which to work as a leader.  What could be empowering of ourselves and others, as well as giving us some immediate basis for action; something that can create momentum for the business and the people, and that’s continuously repeatable and up-dateable in the context of constant change.  It’s worked well for me and others, and of course, as with everything, it’s work in progress, evolving, changing!

Here we go! Use the following as an exercise if you want, or consider which of the questions / areas are worthy of your attention. There are a lot of questions, some you’ll find easy, some not! Take it slowly, think, reflect, record your responses and watch the shape and nature of your leadership come alive:

Know Yourself

  • Who are you as a leader? What are your values?  What makes you ‘tick’?  What’s important for you in your life, both in the workplace, and you at your core?
    • Take the time; write down your values, prioritise and rank them. Come up with the top 3 or 4
  • As you look at your list and reflect;
    • What’s new or a surprise?
    • What’s always been there?
    • What’s evolving, shifting, changing?
    • What ‘calls you’ to leadership?
  • What do you offer as a leader?
    • How do you add value in this context?
    • How do you think other’s see you in your role?

Know where you are going

  • What outcomes have you set for yourself? – short- term, long-term, business AND personal
  • What’s important about these outcomes? – why these?
  • How are they aligned to the overall direction of the organisation, &/or those who are personally close to you, family, friends, partner, others important in your life etc?
    • What are the gaps in alignment?
    • What are the implications and consequences of these gaps?
    • What assumptions are you making about others when considering your own direction?
  • How might you articulate your direction to everyone in ‘your system?’

Now, following some work on yourself and where you are going, let’s switch to the people

Know your people

  • What’s important to them, and how do you know?
  • What do your people want & need?
    • What’s their capability, and where are the gaps?
    • What overall development plan have you agreed for them that fits both business and individual needs?
  • How do you factor all this into your behaviours as a leader?
  • What new behaviours might you need to adopt or adapt to be more effective?

Know how to create an environment of excellence

  • Link back to ‘direction’
    • Make sure everyone knows why they are there, doing what they’re doing
    • Insist on excellence!
  • Ensure everyone contributes to outcomes and
    • does their best work
    • are fulfilled
    • takes ownership
    • have a voice
  • Involve everyone in improvement
    • Flush out what’s working and what’s not
    • Get rid of waste, remove barriers
    • Listen to the teams and the customers, internal & external
    • Encourage creativity and innovation

Practice ‘Leadership by Walking About’

  • Be visible
  • Create an awareness in yourself of what’s going on everywhere
    • Ask if you don’t understand, it’s OK not to know all the detail
  • Allocate the time; regular, focused, listen, ask questions, show your interest at every level
  • Commit to appropriate changes as a result of discussions
    • Take action

I hope some of the above has been useful to you in your role as a leader. I believe all are vital as a foundation to effective leadership. Sure there are more techniques and forensic devices which can provide good data on you, your people and moving the business forward. The few areas above you can do for yourself, through some quality thinking time, and focused conversations with others.

Ray Lamb


The Learning Corporation LLP

March 2020