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Leading Effectively In An Ineffective Workplace: 6 Strategies For Success

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It’s not easy being a leader today. Actually, it’s not easy being a leader any day of the week. The leaders we admire or respect make leadership look effortless, they look in control, they are positive, honest, authentic, and… the list goes on.

Behind what you see in successful leaders are years of self-development, deliberate practice, life-long learning, perseverance, passion, and patience. 

In the early days of my leadership experiences, I wanted to believe the title automatically brought respect, trust, and faith in me as a leader. Not.

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000-hour rule. To be good at something it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I have read many articles that support and challenge that rule. From my experience, I have discovered it takes as long as it takes to be good at something. 

In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth also discusses the 10,000-hour rule. What she focuses on is passion, perseverance, and deliberate practice as the road to success. She does not set a time frame for this to happen which is why I like to add patience to her other two words.

In an ineffective workplace, where processes are inefficient, communication is lacking, and low productivity, it can be challenging to maintain motivation and lead a team toward success. However, effective leadership has the power to transform even the most ineffective work environments into thriving and efficient ones.

What works?

Through years of researching this phenomenon of effective leadership, there is no magic formula, sorry. For each team, situation, and each leader’s personality the skills needed to be an effective leader will vary. What I have found from conducting a meta-analysis of articles, podcasts, and my work within this area are six behaviors or actions that consistently emerge as effective practices.

Lead by example

As a leader, setting the right example for your team, staff, and peers is crucial. Demonstrate the qualities you expect from your team and employees. By modeling the desired behavior, you inspire others to follow suit.

Your actions will speak louder than words and help foster a culture of excellence. If you lead a team, everyone is watching you to see how you react to every situation. How you respond is how they respond.

Communicate clearly and transparently

In an ineffective workplace, communication breakdowns often contribute to inefficiency and frustration. As a leader, you need to prioritize clear and transparent communication. Establish regular channels for sharing information, both vertically and horizontally. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and constructive feedback within the team. By fostering effective communication, you can bridge gaps, resolve conflicts, and improve overall collaboration.

Foster a positive work environment

Creating a positive work environment is essential for boosting morale and motivation. Recognize and appreciate your team’s efforts and achievements regularly. Encourage a supportive and inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels valued and empowered.

Celebrate successes, both big and small, to foster a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. A positive work environment can help counteract the effects of an ineffective workplace and inspire your team to strive for excellence.

Develop and empower your team

Investing in the development of your team members is crucial for their growth and the organization’s success. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and provide opportunities for professional development. Ask them what they want to work on, learn, or improve you might be surprised by what they tell you.

Offer training programs, mentorship, and coaching to enhance their skills and knowledge. Delegate responsibilities effectively, giving your team members autonomy and room to showcase their abilities. Empowered employees are more engaged and motivated, leading to increased productivity.

Encourage collaboration and teamwork

In an ineffective workplace, silos and individualistic mindsets can hinder progress. Foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork by encouraging cross-functional projects and interdepartmental cooperation. 

Break down barriers and encourage knowledge-sharing and idea exchange. Promote a sense of collective ownership, where everyone feels responsible for the success of the organization. By fostering collaboration, you can harness the collective intelligence of your team and overcome the limitations of an ineffective workplace.

Stay resilient and adaptive

Leading in an ineffective workplace requires resilience and adaptability. Expect setbacks and obstacles along the way, but maintain a positive attitude and perseverance. Embrace change and encourage your team to be flexible and open to new approaches. Foster a culture of continuous improvement, where learning from failure is valued. By demonstrating resilience and adaptability, you inspire your team to do the same, overcoming challenges and driving positive change.

Exercise | Deliberate practice

Being an effective leader in an ineffective workplace is undoubtedly challenging, but it’s not impossible. By leading by example, communicating effectively, fostering a positive work environment, developing and empowering your team, encouraging collaboration, and staying resilient, you can head in the right direction.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

If you like any of the six behaviors and you see value in working on self-improvement, then this is where you start. Just pick one and deliberately practice every day. 

In your journal, write down the behavior you want to work on. Make a list of all the positive effects this behavior can bring. Also, write down the challenges and barriers. Let’s be real with ourselves, if we want transparent communication, then start with ourselves.

Write down where you see yourself starting and the resources that are immediately available to you. Develop some small short-term goals, easy ones you can reach, then develop some harder goals.  Start with one small step at a time, be consistent, and watch yourself run in no time.

Here are three tools that can help you on your learning journey

Nurture Professional Relationships

Strong professional relationships within the team, with peers, and across the organization are crucial for leading effectively in an ineffective workplace. Create your professional leader group with colleagues from within your department and other departments to establish alliances and promote cross-functional collaboration. 

The group can be just one other person or several peers. Be consistent with the meetings and have realistic goals and expectations. You do this consistently, don’t be surprised if others ask to join your group. By nurturing professional relationships, you create a supportive network that can help overcome challenges and drive positive change.

Seek Opportunities for Continuous Learning

Leadership development should be an ongoing process, every day. Stay updated on industry trends, best practices, and new methodologies. Encourage your professional leader group to pursue professional development opportunities, such as training programs, workshops, or conferences.

Foster a culture of continuous learning by sharing knowledge and resources within your group and team. By promoting continuous learning, you equip yourself and your team with the skills needed to navigate an ineffective workplace and drive improvement.

Celebrate Small Wins

In an ineffective workplace, it’s easy to get disheartened by the lack of progress. However, it’s crucial to celebrate small wins along the way. Remember, every small win is a stepping stone towards larger goals. By embracing a culture of celebrating accomplishments, you create an environment where team members feel valued and motivated to continue working toward success. 

By managing conflicts effectively, setting clear goals and expectations, seeking opportunities for empowerment, nurturing professional relationships, promoting continuous learning, and celebrating small wins, you can be an effective leader in an ineffective workplace. 

Your leadership has the power to transform the work environment, inspire your team, and drive positive change. Embrace these strategies, adapt them to your specific context, and watch as your leadership influences the culture and effectiveness of your workplace.

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.   

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The Rational Leader – Exercise | Deliberate practice

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