Going into a new year, companies are facing many challenges ahead and will be expected to do more with less. What this means is more pressure on more people to perform, and perform well. The million-dollar question is this: what can you as a leader/manager do in order to get people to perform better. Before you start pushing, keep these things in mind:
- People have to WANT to perform better. Remember, you can only like someone, pay someone or threaten someone to a certain degree, which pushes him or her further. However, if someone is going to perform at a world-class level, they have to WANT to. You’re pushing, liking, paying and threatening them only takes them so far. So the ever-elusive million-dollar question is this: What can you do to get people to WANT to perform better? This is the single most important question facing every single leader going into 2018.
Look to one of the greatest leaders whoever was responsible for a group of people. That would be the great polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton led 27 men into the Antarctic in 1914 in order to achieve something that no other group of people had ever attempted or accomplished, which was to cross the entire Antarctic continent on foot, some 1,800 miles. Long story short, the expedition went off the rails almost from the beginning. Just 20 miles short of the Antarctic coastline, their boat became stuck. For the next two years, the 28 men would never reach Antarctica and fought for their lives in one of the greatest survival stories ever recorded in the world. In the end, all 28 men escaped with their lives. Yes, there was clearly some luck involved. However, there is no question that a big part of their ability to survive in the harshest climate on earth was due to the great leadership of Shackleton. So what exactly did Shackleton do as a leader that worked? There were a number of things he did that significantly increased their ability to survive.
- He understood the desire within the hearts of the men for adventure: People are created to be adventurous. We are created to do more tomorrow than we did yesterday. I can tell you from 20+ years of headhunting experience, interviewing thousands of people from all across the country, that one of the biggest reasons why someone is open to a different opportunity or why the decide definitively to make a career change, is because they are not challenged. Their desire for adventure and growth is stifled and squashed. Ernest Shackleton understood this and that is partially why he came up with the idea to do something that nobody else had ever thought of or attempted. It’s not surprising that his recruiting efforts yielded more than 5,000 people who showed interest.
- Routine, Routine, Routine: Shackleton and his men soon found themselves surrounded by continuous adversity. He then made sure that his men were focused on routine. Every single day, Shackleton laid out a schedule and routine for each person to follow as a member of the team. During the months of isolation, Shackleton’s crew members were focused on daily tasks including scientific experiments, cleaning the boat deck, and constant hunting to keep the routine and food supply constant. There was never a dull or idle moment, even when the ship was stuck for a period of months.
- Shackleton set the example: Shackleton NEVER asked his men to do anything that he was not willing and able to do first. He would always go first, putting himself on the line continually. This is why after the ship was crushed under the pressure of the sea ice; Shackleton led the six man crew in the James Caird, an 800-mile sailboat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, one of the key moments in the two-year struggle for their survival. The odds of successfully making this trip were so far against them, but Shackleton never let this deter him from personally involving himself in the difficult parts of the job.
There were many other things Shackleton did that demonstrated his ability to lead his men. The million-dollar question for us today is this: Moving forward in 2018, what will YOU do in order to demonstrate better leadership for those around you?