Did you know that 79 percent of employees will leave their job if they don’t feel appreciated by those in leadership roles? As the saying goes, people quit bosses, not companies. This is why it is important for managers to constantly look at how to improve their leadership skills. Not only will it reduce turnover, but your team will be more productive, efficient, and more likely to succeed.
Let's look at how to improve leadership skills so that you can learn to be a better source of guidance and inspiration for your team.
1. Identify your leadership style
A good first step toward becoming a better leader is to learn your leadership style. By taking the time to learn how you lead, you can tap into your strengths and identify potential weaknesses.
The following are seven common types of leadership:
- Autocratic: The “do as I say” type of leader, someone who makes decisions with little feedback from their team
- Authoritative: The “follow me” type of leader, someone who makes decisions with confidence while seeking some feedback from and explaining their decisions to those they’re leading
- Pace Setting: The “do as I do” type of leader, someone who sets the pace and expects team members to keep up with them
- Democratic: The “what do you think?” type of leader, someone who seeks feedback from their team and takes everyone’s thoughts into account before making a final decision
- Coaching: The “consider this” type of leader, someone who coaches team members, provides limited direction, and allows them to make decisions for themselves
- Affiliative: The “people first” type of leader, someone who gets to know their team members very well, connects with them on a personal level, and uses that information to provide guidance and direction
- Laissez-Faire: The “anything goes” type of leader, someone who provides limited oversight and lets team members decide what they want to do for themselves
Which one of these styles seems most aligned with the way you lead? Be honest. Then, consider whether or not there are specific aspects of your leadership style that might be holding you and your team back.
One warning sign that your leadership style could be a problem is a high turnover rate.
Are you frequently losing team members? Are you constantly having to find replacements and invest time and resources in training them? If so, there’s a possibility that something in your leadership style is turning people off. Tip 2 is a great way to find out!
2. Talk to your team
No matter what type of leadership style you naturally gravitate toward, it’s essential to communicate with your team and find out what kind of leadership works best for them. It’s especially important to prioritize communication if you are more of an autocratic, authoritative, or pace-setting leader.
If you’re this type of leader, it might be difficult at first to ask for feedback. By connecting with your team, though, you can find out what they respond to and adjust your approach so that they’re more motivated and engaged while at work.
Make sure to schedule regular 1:1s with your team members. If you aren't sure were to start, check out these questions to ask your employees. 1:1s are particularly important when you’re managing a remote team. Remote workers can struggle when it comes to engagement, and connecting with them regularly will help you solve any issues before they start.
3. Set clear goals
Is your team not performing as well as you’d like? If your results are subpar, it’s not always your team’s fault. Sometimes, the issue is the way that they’re being led.
When your team has clear goals they want to accomplish, you are more likely to be aligned in what you are doing and move in a unified direction.
Goals helps to keep your team members motivated, and it gives them something to work toward. They also know how they, personally, are contributing to the team's (and ultimately company's) bottom line.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology is an agile goal-setting framework used by top companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon and a great way to keep your team aligned. Each quarter, your team can set 2-3 Objectives, which are the goals they want to achieve. Key Results are the outcomes you use to measure whether or not you reached your goals.
While OKRs work best if the whole company is involved, it can be very powerful for individual teams as well if your company isn't already using them. It's a great way to align team members while giving them autonomy. If you are interested in learning more about OKRs, check out our free OKR ebook.
4. Check-in often
When moving to the OKR framework for goal setting, a lot of managers think they can set up the goals for each quarter, and then check back at the end of the quarter to see how the team did.
But it’s not enough just to set your quarterly goals. You also need to check in on your team to see how they’re doing when it comes to accomplishing those goals – what do they have planned, the progress they are making, and any problems they run into.
Whether you are using OKRs to set your goals or another goal-setting framework, it is important to have weekly check-ins. Have your team go over their plans for the week and how they are going to help your team accomplish their goals. Regularly check the status of your goals and see what changes you need to make in order to succeed.
Schedule weekly check-ins in advance (we recommend Mondays and Fridays) and make them a regular part of you and your team’s workflow. This helps to hold everyone accountable and ensures that they’re actually making progress.
5. Give team members more responsibility
This can be a hard step to take at first, especially if you’re more of an autocratic or authoritative leader. Remember, though, that if your team members never have an opportunity to take on more responsibility and develop their skills, they’re never going to get better. They might also be more inclined to leave their job altogether because they don’t feel as though they’re growing.
This is why we are such a fan of OKRs. OKRs aren't about giving people tasks to do, but for teams to come together and figure out with each other what they need to do to move their Key Results forward and reach their goals.
You hired your team for a reason. Whether you would like to admit it or not, they probably know more than you in one area or another. Let your team members show off what they’re capable of.
When you are using OKRs and weekly check-ins, if anybody's plans aren't contributing to moving the team's progress forward, you can address it together as a team and come up with a plan. Remember, more heads are better than one. Let your team take some responsibility for the team's success, and as a great leader, support them in the process.
6. Address conflicts early
Does your team seem divided? Do people not get along well with each other? If there is a lot of conflicts, perhaps you’re not doing as good of a job as you could at communicating with your team or listening to the problems that they’re experiencing.
When there’s lots of conflict among your team, it’s often a sign that something is lacking in the leadership department. It’s understandable if you feel anxious at the idea of addressing conflict. By letting it fester, though, you’re only going to make things worse and create more division within your team.
Make an effort to address conflict as soon as it happens. Here are some steps you can take to resolve problems right away:
- Talk to all parties involved individually, either in-person or over video chat if you work remotely
- Listen actively
- Identify points of agreement and disagreement
- Develop a conflict resolution plan (if necessary)
- Follow through with the plan
- Follow up with all parties involved to see if there are lingering issues
Don’t forget about the importance of communication, too. If you prioritize regular communication with your team (like the 1:1s we mentioned before), it’ll be easier for you to pick up on problems and notice when things aren’t right. Your team will also feel more comfortable coming to you when conflict arises.
7. Say thank you
Remember what we said at the beginning of the article about people leaving jobs because they don’t feel appreciated? That’s a very real issue among teams of all kinds.
Make sure you’re saying thank you on a regular basis and letting your team members know how much you appreciate your hard work. A simple “thank you” note or email, or a shout-out in the group chat, can go a long way when it comes to encouraging employee retention and fostering strong bonds with your team.
This is why we have built in Recognition as a part of Weekdone's OKR software. Everybody loves to hear they are doing a good job, or to keep up the good work, especially from their boss or an executive team member.
8. Keep learning
Humility is a key quality of a good team leader. The best leaders don’t think that they know everything, and they’re always open to learning more and developing their skills.
If you want to be a better leader, you’re already taking a great first step by reading this post. What other steps can you take to continue learning and developing yourself, though?
For example, perhaps there are classes you can sign up for (either on your own or through your employer) that help you learn new skills related to your job. When you take the time to expand your own skill set, you can then go on and share those new skills with your team.
Start improving your leadership skills today
After reading this article, the easy part is done – you should now know how to improve your leadership skills.
The next step is the hard part of implementing these tips in your work routine. They’ll help you to become a better leader and, in turn, help your team succeed and increase the chances of your team members sticking around for the long haul.