Leadership can be defined as influencing others to accomplish organizational goals. Management without leadership is like aligning the deck chairs on the Titanic — it seemed important at the time but didn’t really matter in the big picture. Running a business, being a project manager or superintendent are all jam-packed with day-to-day demands and pressures. Sometimes it can be very hard to stay focused on the big picture and long-term goal. Customers and employees are constantly demanding answers, but no one is asking, what’s your long plan? Business is very strong in the U.S. and many businesses are making the mistake of merely focusing on short-term needs. One reason our PROSULT™ Networking contractors do so well is that we force goal setting and review them at each annual meeting. All good things come to end, or at least a slowdown, so now would be a good time to develop business goals and invest in your future.

What is planning? Planning is the visualization of your goals and objectives. Who is retiring in your business? Are there people who are underperforming and need to be replaced? Is your work force aging? Do you have a system for recruiting and developing employees? Who are your target customers? What systems and software needs to be updated? These are all examples of the questions a progressive organization should be asking and preparing for.

Good goals are specific, realistic and have a time frame for their accomplishment. Goals also should be accomplished by building a series of objectives and tasks that build on one another. Goals should also have a measurement component. For example, if you are trying to reduce employee turnover you can measure W-2s from year to year.

Communication is also a key component of good leadership. Do people around you clearly understand where the company is headed and their role in that process? Do you practice basic communication among your managers? When working in the field as a craftsperson, you succeed based on your craft ability. When working as a manager or supervisor, you succeed based on your ability to communicate. Some of the basic truths regarding good communication are:

•   People attach meanings to words. Broad, non-specific words allow varied interpretations. For example, your 12-year-old daughter’s definition of doing a “good” job when cleaning her room probably varies greatly from your definition of doing a “good” job. Try to give clear specific instructions. Words like “good, quality, bad, unfair,” etc. create an opportunity for miscommunication.

•   Communication is more than just words. Communication is driven by body language, tone and many other factors. People tend to verbally tell you what they believe you want to hear and hide their real thoughts. Frequently, the real message lies within their body language and tone.

•   You cannot not communicate. For example, someone is late for a meeting or gives you no response, he or she is still communicating. People constantly send and receive messages, many of which are action or non-verbal in nature.

•   Open and honest communication is best — when donkeys fly! Try going around and telling everyone what you think of them and see how your day goes. Tactful communication is key. Open communication is an excuse for some people to just be mean.

•   Our personality can dictate how we communicate. Introverts tend be quiet. They think first, speak second. Extroverts tend to talk. They speak first and try to figure it out as they go along. To be a good leader there are times when introverts need to speak up and extroverts need to shut up. At first this may feel uncomfortable but that does not mean it is wrong.

•   Deal with feelings first. People who are upset are not logical. Trying to argue logic with someone whose emotions are out of whack can be very frustrating. Your first strategy is to merely listen and take notes. Most people will begin to calm down. People have a right to have their own feelings. Agreeing with someone’s feelings does not mean you agree with them. Phrases such as, “I can appreciate how you might feel that way” can help people calm down.

•   Establish good eye contact. People tend to distrust folks who won’t look at them when in reality the person may just be shy. Eye contact exhibits self-confidence.

•   When in conflict, try to communicate neutrally. Stand up straight. If possible, have a pad and pencil in your hands, as this keeps your body language neutral. Folding your arms, pointing at people, stepping forwards or backwards all send a negative message.

Being a leader is not a God-given talent. Like all skills, it is a learned behavior. Of course, some people’s natural aptitude makes it easier for them to learn, but you can do it. You just have to work at it.