These days everyone writes about leadership: behave this way, change this attitude, write things down, don’t write things down, be mindful, meditate, be confident (even if you’re not). Everyone has a leadership program that invariably involves exceedingly expensive camping trips and lists of things you need to do or change. But recently I was working with a company on developing their feedback style and culture with their staff. In our discussion, it became really clear that the simple road to great leadership is the SMART acronym we know so well:
We usually think of this as a great way of developing goals and outcomes. But it is also a very easy way of remembering how to give really good and supportive feedback to staff in every work situation. If your approach to your work is SMART then you are well on your way to becoming a great leader, not only in terms of clear goals and outcomes but in terms of your organisation’s expectations of you and the rest of their staff. If you are expecting your staff to work SMART you have started enabling them to deliver their best.
It’s the middle word that is the most important: Actionable. What do I have to do to achieve that goal? What do I have to do, right NOW, to start towards achieving that goal or outcome? And the goal can be anything – it can be directly associated with an organisational outcome, or a specific KPI. And it doesn’t matter how small that first step is. Getting someone to commit to the tiniest first step can change their whole direction. It can take away their fear of change. It can convince them that you, as their leader, are with them on that journey. All of them. And suddenly you are on the way to being an enabling leader who gets their staff to commit every ounce of intelligence and creativity to everything they do.