Effective Leadership – Guest Post from Marshall Lager, Third Idea Consulting

I got a little bit of a surprise today in the Sage Summit breakout sessions. I was covering BB01, “Effective Team Leadership,” for a friend who couldn’t make it there due to a scheduling conflict. Normally, I wouldn’t be anywhere near a session like that because it’s outside my normal practice–I focus mostly on community use of social media, and the interaction of a business with its customers. Plus, as a self-employed consultant with no plans to hire staff, I didn’t hold out much hope of getting personal value.

Still, there was something in the description (“how leaders achieve bottom-line results through people”) that intrigued me. I showed up a few minutes late because I foolishly misremembered the room number–I was in the wrong building–and session leader George Hedley already had the group in full swing. I found a seat in the corner and dutifully started taking notes. At first I thought I was hearing yet another lecture by a motivational-speaker. But as I listened closer, I realized that some things are universal, applying to any project and any number of people. Here are a few of Hedley’s key points:

“People won’t change unless you do.” Makes sense to me; one of the definitions of insanity is trying the same thing repeatedly in hopes of different results. If your team is not meeting its goals, look to what you’re doing before you try to correct them.

“When you play Follow the Leader, you have to have your eyes open.” This goes for leaders as well as their teams. A person with closed eyes will lead others astray, and following with closed eyes doesn’t prevent stumbles. In an effective (if trite) demonstration, Hedley had the group follow instructions to fold and tear a sheet of paper with our eyes closed. The results were predictably scattered.

“When you aim at nothing, you hit it every time.” This was one of several references to golf, in this case the driving range. Improvement in play comes from playing the game, keeping score, and seeing instantly what you’ve done right or wrong–not from smacking balls as far as you can.

What does it all mean?

Measurement is one of the keys to effective leadership. Leaders must have a vision of where they wish to lead, but the only way to connect that vision to results is to measure. This also provides the team with clear expectations of what they need to do and how they stack up against those expectations.

In the end, I realized that even a team of one needs leadership. Choosing a goal, identifying the steps needed to reach it, and measuring the progress is pretty much the only way to operate that makes sense. I’m glad I went to this session, and I never would have on my own initiative.

At least that’s my impression of the session. I’d like to hear what some of the other attendees got out of George Hedley’s session on effective team leadership. I’d have asked when it wrapped up, but it was the last session before lunch, so the crowd looked hungry and cleared out fast.

Marshall Lager is  founder and managing principal of Third Idea Consulting LLC, a firm founded to provide advice on the confluence of customer relationship management (CRM), social media, and brand management. He can be reached through his Web site www.3rd-idea.com and is @Lager on Twitter.

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