One Key (and Often Overlooked) Leadership Skill

by | Apr 26, 2016 | Leadership

Ben Zander, the famed conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and author of a sweet little book, The Art of Possibility, wrote of teaching kids music. He chipped away at his students’ anxiety over performing by doing something really radical—he gave everyone an “A” grade when the class started. His only requirement was that in the first week of class, each student had to write a letter to him envisioning what their growth would be at the end of the semester– what they thought they’d learn– that warrants the A. He reported that it worked amazingly well! Without worrying about competing with others for grades, and by setting goals, the students relaxed and improved their performance skills. All of us in leadership roles are teachers. But how effective are we in guiding and grooming our folks to realize their potential? It’s one thing to deliver a performance review once a year. It’s another entirely, to offer feedback regularly—and to do it by giving that person an A. This would sound something like this: “Here’s what you’re doing really well, and here’s where I’d like us to focus on in the next few weeks (or months).” You are in it together, and she starts with a reminder of why she’s valued by the organization. To grow your folks so that one day someone can step into your shoes, is an enormous part of your charge as a leader. Teaching and modelling is what good leaders do just about every day. Today, when I write, speak and mentor, I try to keep in mind this notion of giving an A. I’ve never heard a bad question in the Q&A parts of my speaking. I’ve not met anyone who isn’t inherently gifted, who might just need a little chipping away to realize her full-blown potential. As a leader, you can improve your team’s performance in many ways, so here’s another one. Make the extra effort to give out A’s whenever you possibly can.


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