7 Ways to be a Great Follower

Leadership

We hear a lot about developing leaders, but how often do you hear about developing followers?  I believe a great leader was once a great follower.  It’s important for all leaders to understand the perspective of their followers.  If we want our teams to be successful not everyone can be a leader. Teams require followers.  We all can be great followers. What does being a great follower mean? It means being the best you can, doing the best you can and knowing all you can while pursuing a task or a goal with a team.  There are many characteristics, skills and abilities of followers.  The list below is not the end all be all to great followership, but it is a great start.  If you would like to contribute to this list, please let me know. 

CommunicateTalk with your teammates, not at them.  Listen to understand and not to debate.  Be open to hearing ideas and have courage to give ideas.  Provide feedback appropriately and in the right environment.  Communicate up, down, left and right. There is a time to absorb information and a time to ask questions. Ensure you execute each of these clear and concise. Keep the lines of communication open.  If an issue comes up, talk about it.  Inform your leader of any challenges that may be happening. A great follower communicates.   

AccountableIf you make a mistake, own it.  Don’t pass blame or try to justify a reason why it wasn’t your fault. Integrity isn’t about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about telling someone you did something wrong when no one was watching.  Hold your teammates accountable too, but don’t do it with the intent to cause tension.  Do it educationally for both of you.  There is always a proper way to provide feedback, which is why communication is important.  A great follower is accountable. 

ManagePrioritizing is how we determine what needs to be done first and what can be done last.  Management also includes time.  Time management is a very important factor when working on any task.  If you’re the veteran on the team prioritizing may be easy, but if you’re new you may need to ask which tasks are most important. Asking questions will help you be a better manager.  A great follower knows how to manage. 

Contribute – If you’re going to be on a team be a team player.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Contribute what you can when you can.  In order to contribute effectively you must know your strengths and weaknesses.  Play your strengths and improve your weaknesses. If someone needs help do your best to provide it. I believe it was Simon Sinek that said, “If you want to change to world show up to give.”  I believe what he meant by this is contribute what you can to making things better and that includes people and teams. Also, don’t just contribute when asked, you should seek to serve.  Find opportunities to help others.  A great follower contributes. 

Solutions – We all can point out problems. They’re usually easy to spot.  The hardest part about problems is that they need solutions.  Pointing out problems and not providing solutions to them can make it sound like you’re just complaining.  If you’re going talk about a problem, provide a solution for it. If you don’t have a solution, seek feedback from others that may have an idea. A great follower provides solutions. 

Adaptable – No one really likes changes, but it happens.  Be an early adopter to change, not a laggard.  Change may stick and it may not, but don’t be the person that is resisting it. Resisting change is going against the grain.  It’s not just important to survive in your environment, but it’s important you thrive and the only way to do that is to adapt to the changes around you.  Just like in a football game.  If one team calls an audible, the other team must adapt to it.  Our challenges can sometimes be our audible and we must learn to adapt to accomplish them. A great follower is adaptable. 

Enthusiastic – It’s hard to put on a smile 24/7, especially if something personal is going on, but being positive and in good spirits is a great healthy way to work.  It keeps the mood positive between teammates and drives motivation upward.  With the help of managing the balance of your work and personal life you can create a positive vibe that others can feed off of.  Negativity can affect your performance and others.  Performance issues can create more issues. Be positive and have a great attitude. A great follower is enthusiastic. 

 

 

3 Ways to Stay Sharp as a Leader

Leadership

When the new IPhone comes out all you have to do is have enough money and stand in a line to get it.  Once in hand you have adapted to the newest technology.  If only leaders could stay ahead of the culture the same way as buying something.  Unfortunately, teams evolve and environments change.  It’s hard to keep the edge up, but we must adapt.  One must continually develop their talent and skills in order to keep up with the culture around them.  It’s not a question of if you should, it’s necessary.  You must be adaptable as a leader.  Over the last few years I’ve found a few key elements that have helped me stay sharp as a leader so that when I do enter a new environment or the team changes I am prepared to adjust as needed to lead those around me.

1. Balance Stress is nobody’s friend.  The more stressed you are the higher chance you have at making mistakes. Stress takes a number on the body as well.  Knowing when to take a break can relieve stress.  This is why being resilient is so important. Resiliency is the ability to cope, adjust and recover from stresses or adversity.  We live in a go, go, go society and the standard for working overtime is well, fairly normal.  It may be necessary at times to put in the extra hours, but how many extra hours are we putting in when it’s not necessary? 

The human body wasn’t meant to work 12 hours a day. We created that standard.  We’re maybe not even meant to work 8 hours a day.  Whatever the case, time for yourself and your family is always necessary for staying balanced with work and your personal life.  Everyone handles stress differently, but it’s safe to say the best way to relieve stress is to not work.  Ensure you prepare time for you.  Work will always be there.  It can take time to find the balance you need to remain at the top of your game, but there is a balance.

2. Professional Development/Mentor – Every goal I have reached I can rewind back and point out at least one person who helped me get there.  Not everyone will be a mentor, but it’s beneficial to have one.  I have a few mentors and anytime I need advice about a decision, or another perspective on a situation, I ask them.  Think of them like a trusted adviser.  Ensure you pick a mentor that knows a little about what you’re going through.  They must have experience and knowledge about the path you’re pursuing.  Mentors help you grow, they help you progress in your career goals and they can be great coaches. Find a mentor that can be there for you, but don’t forget that a mentor and mentee relationship is reciprocal.  It’s a two way street.

Mentors will help develop you into the person you have the potential to be.  Having a mentor is one form of professional development, but there are other things you may need to do in order to get the development you need.  I spend much of my time reading.  I gain a lot of insight from reading books about topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, and psychology.  Hearing other people’s stories and advice can help you understand specific areas of interest.  I also attend seminars, participate in book clubs, Twitter chats, and discussion sessions on specific topics.  Whatever you can do to further your knowledge and understanding of a topic, or area of interest should be something you do continually and consistently.  Never stop learning and never stop growing. 

3. Self-Awareness (strengths/weaknesses) – Have you ever handled a situation with your weaknesses?  No.  Of course not.  You take things head on with strengths, but you’ve got to know them in order to know how and when to use them. You must be self-aware of what you’re good at and what you need improvement on.  Most of us can’t point out our weaknesses because we don’t operate with them.  For me, someone pointed them out to me. I received feedback which is a great way to help learn them. You can also take a personality test or a strength/weakness test to hone in on each. Above all, you’ve got to put the work in.  For anyone joining a team, self-awareness is a great place to begin. There will always be strengths and weaknesses and you get better with each with practice, knowledge and understanding.  Play your strengths and develop your weaknesses.