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Does the train keeping moving when the engineer gets off?

By Dan Weddle
President, ProTech Systems Group, Inc.

A family emergency recently kept me away from work for an extended period when I had little access to phones and email. Imagine my surprise when, miraculously, the business continued to function without me.

My first thought was, if things went this smoothly without me, how much am I really needed? So I asked a few people I can always count on to tell me the truth no matter how much it hurts. One reaction put me back on an even keel – “What you do when you’re here makes it easy for us to function when you’re gone.” 

We started talking about the leadership traits that keep a team engaged even when you’re not looking. Here’s a few of the points we came up with:

Put the right people in the right job

At ProTech we have a wide variety of jobs – from recruiters to engineers to sales people and marketing professionals. We learned that it’s not enough to find a bright, energetic and personable employee if we put them in the wrong job. Sure – they may have the needed skills and they’ll most certainly get the job done, but is it a fit? And is it good for the long haul?

I try to learn from my mistakes and a few that taught me a lesson are:

  • Finding the perfect hire, but placing him in a “ho-hum” job and waiting too long to fix the problem. I learned quickly if you wait too long, that employee becomes another company’s perfect hire.
  • Hiring a dynamic, self-motivated person and assigning them to a manager who is not quite as motivated. The likely outcome: either the employee begins to lose the dynamic qualities that made her an asset to the company, or personalities begin to clash and team trouble begins.

When you get them in the right job, give them the freedom to do it

No doubt, mainstream leadership styles are constantly changing. As a Gen Xer I came into leadership understanding that the old ways were gone. No longer was “get hired, work hard, remember the boss is always right, pay your dues and get promoted” the standard. 

Learning to deal with Millennials is today’s leadership challenge and it is changing the definition of empowerment. A majority of Gen Xers are ambitious and well-educated, and most of them like to see a clear path to achieving what they want in their careers. The big difference, I’m slowly finding out, is that while Millennials are also ambitious, they want to clear a path to achieving their goals. And they’re equipped to do it - this generation comes in expecting a seat at the table. They’re multi-taskers, have plenty of good ideas and want the freedom to put them into place.

Set high expectations then apply those same expectations to yourself

“Do as I say, not as I do” might have been acceptable coming from your mom, but as a rule, employees don’t adapt well to it a prime motivator.
What has always worked for me is a role model. Seeing examples of good leadership and emulating those behaviors is the best motivator. If you want your employees to behave a certain way, act that way!

Keep your heart in the right place and sometimes make sure your head is out of the way 

This is the one that took me the longest to learn. As social psychologists Naomi Eisenberger and George Kohlrieser presented in the Harvard Business Review, the “productive manager in a complex, global workplace should be less like a football coach with a whistle around his neck and more like a belayer helping climbers reach the next goal.”

A personal style of leadership not only helps employees get past fear of change and motivates them to give the job their best – it also just makes the working relationship a more pleasant experience.

Posted by Dan Weddle at 4:23 PM
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