How to Encourage Acts of Leadership at All Levels
When things don’t go well, the problem is never with people – it’s with the systems. And the best way to improve your systems is to inspire, encourage, and nurture acts of leadership at all levels.
Once upon a time, I learned a very important lesson the hard way.
Back in the day in my early years as a product manager, I joined a digital signage startup. Here is what a typical day looked like. New priorities were constantly emerging, we had to stop doing what we stated and start working on the new idea that had just arrived. And no matter how hard everyone worked, we were always missing the mark.
Pretty soon, people started pointing fingers at each other.
It was unpleasant on the surface but deeper down something even worse was happening.
Self-doubt was beginning to creep in.
Everyone on the team felt a lack of respect, a lack of trust in their own ability to deliver.
They felt unworthy.
And no one, and I mean no one, should ever feel this way!
I know this from experience but I also know it in my core to be true: when you set goals and you don’t reach these goals, this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It means that the experiment was a failure.
I want to repeat this. It wasn’t you that failed, it was it that failed.
It failed because of the current market conditions, unrealistic expectations, inefficient management practices, obsolete process policies, just to name a few.
We cannot blame each other for shortcomings and try to justify poor business outcomes by defining each other’s worth as professionals.
That’s why I created Nave.
I created Nave to bring transparency to how you deliver customer value, to bring awareness to the processes behind building software. I started this business to give the proof in your hands to say “Hey, here is where the problem is”.
I built this brand to inspire, empower and nurture acts of leadership at all levels. So every single person in your company has the means in their hands to stand up and say, “We have a problem, let’s do something about it”.
The Secret to Long Lasting Success
Do you remember the Kanban blue book?
Here is a screenshot of the book cover.
The team is having different reactions to the situation they’re in. What I love about this illustration is the final team member’s response: “Let’s do something about it!”
He could have talked about what was stressing him out, just like the other team members.
He could have easily thrown his hands up and said, “I have no idea what to do!”
Instead, he takes an approach that’s proactive: Let’s get to the bottom of this, together.
Even though it’s just a cartoon, it’s a beautiful example of active leadership.
It’s a representation of our entire purpose here at Nave:
To inspire, empower, and nurture acts of leadership at all levels.
As Steve Jobs has said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
And I want to add to that:
Great things in business are done when team members focus on something bigger than themselves, and they are empowered at an individual level to speak up and lead.
Every member of your organization – from the intern to the executive level – should have the agency to take action and make decisions that align with the organization’s values.
And doing that starts with a simple but powerful mindset shift.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Not all changes will lead to improvements.
Not only is this unavoidable, it’s a necessary part of the process!
When you encourage acts of leadership at all levels, you foster a culture of experimentation. You and your team members need to be able to tolerate and embrace a certain amount of failure.
Mistakes and failure should never lead to blame and finger pointing. Instead, they should lead us to ask the question: “what happened so that we can do better next time?”
Did you make your goal? Awesome, make those changes into your new standard! Did you miss the mark? That’s okay. It’s an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and do better.
This is where the power of data comes in.
When you have performance data, it’s easier to set goals and define improvement initiatives. Then, you observe how the trends build over time. Seeing what’s working and what isn’t working allows you to either keep or discard any practices you’ve tried implementing.
When you do this, it’s impossible to ever actually “fail.” Sure, your efforts might not pay off every single time, but you’re still taking a step that gives you feedback from your system. As long as you learn the lesson and adjust your course, you’ve made progress.
Here’s a handy way I like to think about this process, that helps put it into perspective:
Think about every change you make as an “investment.” And every result you get as “evidence.”
Both good and bad investments lead to evidence. And evidence helps you understand and improve your performance, leading to a process of continuous improvement.
How to Encourage Acts of Leadership At All Levels
Now it’s time to put everything we’ve said into action!
I want to make this part as easy to implement as possible my friend, so I broke it down into five simple steps.
- Foster a culture of open communication: Everybody appreciates a safe space. During your regular meetings, encourage your team members to speak up and share ideas and suggestions (PS. Nave makes it easy for you to do this!)
- Delegate decision-making authority: When team members have authority to make impactful decisions – whether it’s over how to approach a certain task or how to improve their process – they are motivated to find the best solution.
- Recognize and reward acts of leadership: Celebrate team members who take initiative and demonstrate leadership. Make a big deal out of their contributions to the team’s success.
- Lead by example: As a leader, practice what you preach and set the bar high for your teams. Be a trailblazer by taking initiative, embracing challenges, and showing them how it’s done.
If you implement these steps, you will be well on your way to encouraging acts of leadership at all levels and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
Your team members will feel empowered to take ownership of their work and contribute to the team’s success. They will become more engaged, motivated and productive, leading to better outcomes for the team, the organization, and ultimately the people they serve.
Here at Nave, “encouraging acts of leadership at all levels” is our main purpose. I know I’ve already said this but I can’t emphasize it enough. Everything we do and everything that we’ve created is to bring awareness into the processes behind building software.
Our goal is to move the pressure of performance from people to the system itself, because the problem is never with the people!
Instead, we want to encourage every single person on the organizational ladder, from intern to CEO, to be just like the guy on the Kanban Blue Book cover and say, “We have a problem. Let’s do something about it!”
You’re not going to feel confident making a decision – especially an important one – when you’re just going off a hunch or a gut feeling.
Visible data takes all the guesswork out of the process, giving your team members the information and the support they need to speak up and find solutions.
Here’s your action item: If you haven’t already, connect your current management platform to Nave (you can try it free for 14 days) →
Once you’ve done that, create a dashboard with your data – I’ll walk you through all the steps on how to do that here. (And feel free to check out the rest of our how-to tutorials afterwards if you want to learn even more).
That’s it for today! I hope this article sparked your desire to help your team members feel empowered to lead, no matter what level they’re at.
Thank you as always for tuning in. I look forward to seeing you next week, same time, for more managerial goodness.
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.