The Basics Got Harder (And They Were Never Basic)


In one way, the skills you need to lead a team of people — to be the kind of boss people remember with fondness instead of with dread — are the same as they've always been:

  1. Setting clear expectations
  2. Giving actionable feedback
  3. Holding everyone accountable to the same standard

But, as every HR and L&D leader on planet earth is trying to solve for right now, it turns out that nobody is born with those skills. They're more art-from-experience than they are science-based-on-rules. And, there's almost no training out there for how to get better at any of them, let alone all of them.

If that wasn't enough, each of those skills just got more difficult to master.

Now you have to do those three things in a way that is truly humane, empathic, and fosters personal growth at least as much as it benefits the organization. You may have an inner voice that grumbles or argues with that, there's wisdom in that voice too, but this is the new territory of leadership.

It's not enough to have the basic skills down, which were never basic at all. Nowadays, those skills have a lot more baked into them. In this new world, those same skills look more like this: 

  1. Set expectations that provide context, that speak to "Why?" that task is important.
  2. Give real-time feedback, especially praise, don't wait for annual reviews, coach, and mentor, and do that without missing a beat on your individual contributions. 
  3. Hold everyone accountable, yes, but be kind at the same time (and do it in a way that embodies our wonderful-sounding-but-hard-to-embody-company values).

If you're like most, you're probably a "Yes!" to that new way. It is better. It is more humane. And, as wise leaders have known for decades, it's of course directly connected to the performance improvements we want.

But, like most good ideas when it comes to leadership, the question isn't "Why?" but, rather, "How?"

How do we get to that next level of skillfulness as people leaders — to develop a new way of communicating expectations, feedback, and accountability — when most of us would readily admit that the first level was confusing enough?

With special thanks to our partners at 15Five, I hope you'll join me for a series of group coaching sessions to offer you some new ideas for how to get to the next place in your leadership on all three of these skills.

You'll find all the information and links to register for one or more of the sessions here.


Jonathan Raymond