It’s our opinion that there are three essential elements to leadership that every business needs to help drive its growth.  But what is leadership?  If you Google the word ‘leadership’ you’ll receive about 818,000,000 results. Maybe you want to read a book on the subject – you can take your pick of 14,700,000 results!  What does that say?  The subject area is high, wide and handsome!

Well, many academics have explored and examined the subject from different angles.  Of course, we too all probably have a different perspective.  Some of us will focus on the human qualities needed to be a good leader.  Others may think about leaders setting a direction of travel and taking people with them.

Essential leadership elementsFor us, it’s about three essential elements: –

1) A Plan: setting the course and direction of travel;

2) Engagement: what it takes to engage your teams to help deliver the plan; and

3) Decision-making: the art of making good decisions around people, processes and systems.

In our last two articles, we discussed the PLAN element of leadership.  Why it’s important for small businesses to have a plan and we gave you some really useful ideas on how to create a planWe will focus on decision-making in subsequent articles.  In this article we look at ENGAGEMENT in association with leadership styles. 

Leadership and the art of engagement

Now let’s get one thing clear, we are talking about engagement – not communication – that is completely different.

But why discuss engagement when we think about leadership?  Well, to be a good leader you need others to follow, and how do you create followers?  Well, we think the first step is to understand how we impact and influence others.  Do you know what kind of impact you have on others?

Do this little exercise:

Think about someone who you really respect, are or would be happy to work with and would definitely follow them.

  • How do they behave?
  • What qualities do they possess?
  • How do they make you feel?
Conversely, think of someone who doesn’t make you feel this way, and why?

The way we behave has a direct impact on others.  Events that occur throughout our lives shape our behaviours and personalities. It is important to continually work on positively developing our leadership style(s), as our behaviours can turn into habits.  Our habits can dictate how we deal or react to certain situations, individuals or triggers.

As with most topics, many people have written about leadership styles, but I like leadership guru, Daniel Goleman’s 6 leadership styles:

Commanding, Visionary, Affiliative, Democratic, Pace-setting, and Coaching.

The matrix itself is simple to understand and you can probably ascertain which is your most dominant style in an instant.  Having said this, it’s highly probable that we don’t just have one style and, in certain situations, we may find that we do use other styles too.  Also, certain styles are good for specific situations.

So what is your most dominant style? Check out the Goleman 6 Leadership Style matrix here.

Having reviewed the matrix, were you able to identify your dominant style and how do you feel about it?  Well, there are positives and negatives to each style.  The good news is, you can work on developing your leadership style(s), but it takes time, effort and a certain amount of guidance, and it will yield positive results!!

Of course, it’s not just your style that you need to consider – you also need to understand your people – what drives and motivates them, and what types of leadership style will work best on a personal level.  You may have a member of staff who is good at their job, but is shy, self-conscious and has little self-esteem, this is where the coaching style may work wonders, enable them to flourish and build their confidence.  Alternatively, you may have another in your team who is naturally affiliative – asking them to head up a project that isn’t going so well may be a good move, as these individuals are good at building and healing relationships and motivating people in stressful situations.  So it’s not all about your style, but understanding what your team need from you.

Everyone’s a leader, whether you believe it or not

Leadership can also dictate the climate and culture of a team, an office, or a whole business or organisation, so it can be extremely powerful.  This can have a real impact on your people’s wellbeing, motivation and productivity.  For example, not so long ago a client (let’s call him Bill) took a job heading-up a team in a small civil engineering practice.  This team had a history of being very difficult and a reputation for treating its customers badly.  One of Bill’s leadership objectives was to increase sales.  This meant he needed to improve the customer experience delivered by the team – he needed to understand, work on and with the team, in order to change the team dynamic.

The team was small, about ten in number, and it was evident that the team was influenced negatively by one dominant person.  This person had been in their position for 10 years and, because of their behaviours and style, and the lack of leadership from their previous manager, they had illegitimate power.  If a team member didn’t fall into line with this person’s way of thinking, then their life was literally hell.  If they were happy, the office was happy, if they weren’t, then a dark gloom descended over everyone.  Basically, they were a bully who didn’t respect others.  Not good for the individual, the team, or the customers.

So how do you lead and influence a team that has been dominated by someone for so long? 

Well, let me tell you, it’s difficult and can be stressful.  First you need to analyse what’s actually happening and why; understand what other dynamics are at play; and then identify how you go about leading the change.  Being aware of your own feelings in this situation is probably a very good place to start, and it’s important to keep coming back to them, as the climate could impact negatively on your own feelings and behaviours.

Bill studied the team for a while, analysing and reflecting on the situation.  This helped him to create a plan and take some critical decisions.

As the team were very busy, they previously had very few team meetings.  Bill decided to hold a weekly meeting with the team so that he could engage with everyone in the same forum on the same basis.  During meetings everyone was encouraged to give their opinion and feedback on projects, but inevitably some people preferred to say nothing at first, for fear of reprisal.  Bill also held individual meetings with each member of the team.  Throughout he actively listened to what was being said.  Bill’s authenticity shone through.  He treated people with respect and his open and transparent personality made it easy for some members of the team to start opening-up.  This was an excellent first step.  He treated people fairly, showed gratitude and thanks for jobs well done, and empathised with those that were struggling with the transition.

Now Bill told me that this process wasn’t easy at all and he made mistakes.  He took to writing a daily journal to capture what worked and what hadn’t; what happened and why; and tried different styles and behaviours with different members of the team, so as to understand what he may do differently in the future.  This helped him to continually build and strengthen relationships.

It was a long process, but step-by-step he noticed small changes.  Over the next few months the team meetings gave Bill the opportunity to share his vision for the future and ask the team for their input into the plan – they now had a voice.  This proved very fruitful with some members of the team fired up and willing to take on more responsibility to deliver the plan.  People felt stimulated and empowered to take action.  Bill and the team celebrated its successes.  Project debrief meetings enabled individuals to feedback to each other.  The standard was to ascertain the positive aspects of the project and draw out improvements to be taken forward for future projects.  The project debrief also helped to tighten up processes and system issues.  This process also helped to identify team and individual areas for development.

This was at the displeasure of the problem child who constantly focused on negatives.  They put up barriers, and complained, but this was having less influence now; the bully’s power was slowly ebbing away.

Happy and engaged business team

Having most of the team on board created a different team dynamic and culture.  The customer experience improved significantly, which positively impacted client retention and new sales, as well as improved sales figures.  Now a far happier and motivated team.  Individuals had specific goals/targets set for the year which were regularly reviewed.   This helped both Bill and his team when completing the annual performance reviews.  Bill actively encouraged individuals to think about future objectives and their own personal development. He also asked them to think about their skills and capabilities and the gaps they wanted to close, and shared with them his thoughts too.

It took a while for Bill to work through the challenge with the difficult individual.  In the end, unwilling to make changes, the individual decided to leave the Practice.  It’s sad when people have good technical or specialist capabilities, but their attitude and behaviours let them down.  If people are unwilling to work on positively developing themselves, it’s probably better they leave the business.

In summary ….

Good leadership is tough, and we don’t always get things right, we never will, we’re human!  Being self-aware is the first step to reflecting on, understanding, and analysing our behaviours and the impact we have on others and what we learn from this.  If you’re interested in becoming a better leader or want to start thinking about personal leadership in a different way, why not download our FREE leadership development planner, which will help you think about your specific leadership challenges and objectives and how you might help you determine a way forward.

Some of the qualities we believe a good leader should possess have been highlighted in italics and bold throughout this article.

How to take action

Our next CLC Mastermind and Rising Stars Programmes start in October.

On our CLC Mastermind Programmes we work with small business owners, directors and senior decision makers to give them the confidence to release their entrepreneurial spirit to drive the business to the next level and beyond. Within the programme we will work with you using a series of frameworks, leadership and management tools to help you drive your business growth.  For more information contact: terry@constructionleadersclub.com.

But we also see the need for developing tomorrow’s business owners and leaders today.  Our CLC Rising Stars programmes are designed to help high potential technical experts develop their business management knowledge and commercial acumen, helps them identify and work on their leadership styles and qualities, and help them make the transition into senior management roles more successful. It will help you strengthen your team, improve your results and ultimately feed into your succession plans.  For more information contact: peter@constructionleadersclub.com.

About us – CLC and CLC Academy

Construction Leaders Club (CLC) is an organisation that helps small business owners and other professionals associated with the construction industry.  Its aim is to connect people who are happy to share ideas, information and best practice.   Our purpose is to help you and everyone associated with CLC to grow and develop professional networks, and build strong and mutually beneficial relationships.   CLC’s core team has more than 100 years’ combined experience working at senior levels in the construction industry, associated sectors, and within the executive education environment.  Having held senior positions in industry, the team has a wealth of industry knowledge, experience and subject matter expertise.

CLC Academy, the developmental training arm of CLC, offers a range of professional development programmes.  We are all about providing business growth and leadership development training.  Training and development is provided through a series of ascending mastermind style programmes and private one-on-one coaching.  Using a proven, unique and proprietary system called the CLC Growth Accelerator System.  This system embeds business growth knowledge and leadership skills.  It also gives individuals the tools necessary to further develop themselves and to work on their businesses.

For more information about what we do and how we may be able to help you, please contact us.