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Top tips for effective leadership

Business consultant Tim Robson outlines his advice for leaders on motivating staff, effective time management and communication.

It’s the responsibility of any leader to create an environment where employees feel able to bring their best selves to work, and organisations that give sufficient attention to this have a greater chance of getting the most out of their people.

True leaders trust in the talent they have available to them, release them to make decisions and provide sufficient freedom for their people to execute and exercise their role.

Telling the story

Leaders also need to be able to describe the purpose of an organisation or team beyond the standard business plan, operational strategy and commercial vision.

“Sustainable performance comes when we understand why we’re doing any of it in the first place and feel part of something that’s bigger than ourselves”

Often we get obsessed with the what of an organisation, team or business; what we need to do, what did we do last week/month/year and what’s on our task list.

But sustainable performance comes when we understand why we’re doing any of it in the first place and feel part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.

And this is true regardless of sector or team size. A leader’s ability to paint a picture of the future and the purpose the organisation shares is really important.

This is even more critical as companies come out of recession and into growth; leaders need to help people see where they fit in as part of a brighter future. And that’s about more than results, growth and numbers; it’s about overall impact and personal contribution.

Communication is vital

A crucial action for leaders now is to articulate what they’re trying to achieve and describe every person’s contribution to that purpose.

“People buy into the promise of what’s coming rather than just the job or task that they’re completing today”

Those that get this right release energy, commitment and a sense of mission in their people.

People buy into the promise of what’s coming rather than just the job or task that they’re completing today, so leaders need to spend sufficient time articulating these things to their teams and reminding people on almost a daily basis why they’re doing the various things they’re doing and how they add up to a bigger story that’s being told.

Give people your time

People seem to find it increasingly difficult to give up time for team-building and team value exercises because they feel so busy, but it’s exactly those things that might enable people to be aligned around a process, vision or project.

I regularly ask leaders, ‘How much time are you spending articulating your vision, purpose or outcomes to your people and as they go about their day-to-day business?’

“Many of us are seduced into busyness; if we seem busy and our schedules are really full then we must have been effective”

Often we relegate face-to-face, informal communication to a ‘nice to have’ when we’re a little less busy, which is never going to happen, which means we never do it.

But leaders need to give their people their time.

Time and attention are scarce commodities; when a leader gives adequate attention to the needs of an individual while pointing back to purpose, their people know they matter and what they’re engaged in is important – and these days it can be done in minutes and seconds, rather than days and hours.

The busyness myth

Many of us are seduced into busyness; if we seem busy and our schedules are really full then we must have been effective.

I think the recession mindset simply fed that environment – ‘It’s a tough time, let’s work really hard and grind our way through and work harder and faster to ensure we survive’.

But sometimes busyness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and a downward spiral into a hamster wheel that’s always spinning.

“Too many of us seem programmed to focus on weaknesses, despite research showing that focusing on your strengths creates a better return”

For me, the challenge for leaders now is to recognise that busyness can be an enormous distraction. A leader’s job is not to be busy; it’s to have clarity of purpose and provide something people can follow.

Leaders must be ahead of their people or there’s nothing for them to follow and no direction to clearly head in.

I’d also encourage leaders to advocate a strengths-based approach; too many of us seem programmed to focus on weaknesses, despite research consistently showing that focusing on your strengths and training them like a muscle creates a better return than by focusing on weaknesses.

The ‘well-rounded leader’ is a myth. I don’t think many of the best leaders we remember are well rounded. What they are, though, is clear on what they’re good at – and they surround themselves with people with complementary skills.

So right now, good leaders should back themselves, articulate their vision and give their people freedom to carry out their roles effectively. 

In my experience, when those sorts of people feel able to show up in their work each day, it feels a lot less like work and the results can be amazing.

Tim Robson is a consultant, speaker and the author of Showing Up: How to Make a Greater Impact at Work. He also launched NowShowUp.com to help people with their performance at work

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