I was told by my parents never to point my finger, particularly not at people. Pointing out a passing ship or a whale frolicking offshore was fine, but finger-pointing for me was limited to natural wonders and animals. As I have grown older, I have understood the wisdom exhibited by my parents as I have seen much damage caused in business by finger-pointing. The negativity and sometimes underhand practise of “showing others up” cause endless strife between managers, teams and departments, resulting in energy being expended inappropriately on issues that don’t accelerate company growth.

There is, however, a positive side to finger-pointing – when lost or in need of directions to get to your intended destination, a finger pointing out the way is welcomed. It’s a relief to finally find your bearings and proceed with your journey. It is this positive side to finger-pointing which I believe is appropriate to business leadership. Employees flounder through lack of vision, unclear direction and vague goals. They struggle to focus and fully contribute when kept in the dark. Employees start doubting and second-guessing when too little information is offered. Employee wellbeing is inevitably negatively impacted and productivity goes down.

Some of the leadership behaviours that are necessary to point out the way include the following key characteristics:

  • Articulate the vision graphically – a simple executive management presentation will not suffice. Attach graphics, pictures or themes to the vision to build momentum. Tell stories illustrating the translation of the vision into practical application. Link departmental activity to the fulfilment of the vision. Get staff involved in roleplays to illustrate customer service excellence, production challenges or problem-solving, but always link these plays to the central theme of the vision. All of the above ideas are tangible ways to achieve ownership of the vision.
  • Ensure that each department sets their own goals to achieve targets – inclusive deliberation over the expected outputs involves everyone and develops a sense of pride around achieving targets that get set. Responsibility and accountability will become the norm as the team self-regulates the behaviour of team members. Communication will be enhanced, too, as team members strive for better and better results. Dialogue becomes the modus operandi for all problem-solving and solution finding.
  • Have performance discussions as regularly as necessary – performance management is not a bi-annual management/employee activity, but rather a daily necessity. If any current behaviour is mitigating against the achievement of targets, the leader needs to address such behaviour immediately. The leader gets seen as a person of action and confidence in this form of consistent leadership grows.
  • Facilitate regular team self-evaluation sessions – these could be held under the banner of three headings: “What is not working well and we should therefore stop doing this?” “What is working well and we should therefore continue and even accelerate this?” “What are we not doing and should therefore start doing this?”
  • Keep all in the company informed as to progress – use as many communication channels as possible to update employees as to growth and progress. These could include: real-time displays, newsletters, posters, mini-sessions with various teams, feedback sessions, posters, e-mail or social media work groups, the intranet, banners, etc. All employees need to know how well they are doing/not doing.
  • Celebrate successes – no matter how small the successes are, attempt to celebrate in simple cost-effective ways.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” (John Maxwell). Pointing out the way as a leader for all employees is essential for business growth and development.

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