If you agree with the statement, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” then you understand that even the slightest imperfection can result in catastrophic failure. Under intense loads, the integrity of every chain link is tested. Just one flaw, just one microscopic crack, and ships run aground, property is damaged, momentum stops, lives are lost. We trust that every link will do its job and perform to expectations.
I used two powerful words to describe the expectations of a chain: integrity and trust. If the integrity of one link is compromised, we cannot trust that the chain will hold. If the integrity of multiple links is compromised, the chain will never perform to its full potential – the chain cannot be trusted. From outward appearances, the chain may appear perfectly fine, but the flaws and imperfections are there. Eventually, the chain will fail.
In business, teams of people represent the chain. However, the likelihood of weak links existing in organizational teams is far greater than that of a physical chain. Infinitely greater. Proper formulation of the metals and manufacturing procedures can produce a nearly flawless chain. It’s the leader who selects, assembles, prepares, nurtures, guides and inspires groups of people into that chain.
Here are six no-compromise strategies to keep your “people chain” sound:
- Chains carry loads: One chain link can’t lift an anchor. You can’t build a company alone. You build teams to carry different parts of the load. To perform their best, your team needs to “feel” the load. They need to be challenged. They need to be held accountable to achieving the right outcomes. When you make it easy, you’re doing a disservice to your team and your company. Let your competition play around with the “easy button” while you challenge your team to achieve the extraordinary.
- See what you need to see: It’s not difficult to get caught up in all that “leadership” stuff to the point where you can’t see what you need to see. No-compromise leaders make time to observe their teams (chains) and the people (links) who form them. Some links will carry the load when others cannot. Those links need to be recognized and praised. Other links will struggle to carry their piece of the load. Those links need attention in the form of coaching, training or just some moral support. The eyes of a leader need to truly see what often goes unnoticed, taken for granted or ignored.
- All links speak: The links of a team are rarely quiet. The no-compromise leader knows the value of investing time to listen, learn and assess. Within all that chatter are clues to which links are going along for the ride and which ones are showing potential signs of failure. Leaders who take time to listen and learn lead the most powerful and dynamic teams. Listening builds trust. Listening means you care about people – not just productivity and results.
- You can’t wait: When the performance of a link is showing the signs that it is struggling, waiting is not an option. You must engage and work through to a solution, even if it means pulling, repurposing, or replacing that weak link. If you see the problem, every other link on your chain sees it too. Sense of urgency and the ability of the chain to perform to its capability falter. Leaders must protect the integrity of their chains. If a weak link needs to be pulled, they pull it. Anything less is a compromise.
- You make it stronger: No-compromise leaders push when it’s time to push and know when to dial it back so the team can catch its breath, reenergize or celebrate. I’m not talking about driving your team like slaves rowing a Spanish galleon. I’m talking about guiding and inspiring teams of people to take a company to remarkable levels of achievement. Just like you need to work out and get your heart rate up to get stronger, teams need to work out and push hard to sustain and grow a company. Sometimes, it can be as simple as holding yourself and your team accountable.
- Links make you stronger: This is an easy one. It’s a beautiful thing when a team comes together and performs to its potential. When a team lifts a company out of the fiery pit of hell, hits goal, or achieves breakthrough results – or just calls you on making that bad decision – there’s a feeling inside that every leader needs to take time to savor and cherish. It’s that special blend of pride and appreciation that makes being the leader of a company worth all the hard work and stress. If you’re a leader, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s pure synergy between a no-compromise leader and a team – a chain that holds together in the worst of times to achieve the best of times.
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