You could say I’ve been with ClearSource my entire professional career. I had odd jobs during school and in the summers, but after joining ClearSource in 2014 — the rest is history. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and gain knowledge from on-the-job training and real-world experience, even though I might not have had all the usual qualifications prior to getting promotions.
That’s part of the ClearSource way. We have a formula here: Crystal-Clear Expectations + Consistent Accountability + Freedom = Success, Engagement, and Innovation. And I’ve been in leadership long enough to know that when the formula is implemented by a leader who has authentic relationships with direct reports, trusts employees, and hires the right people, organizational performance skyrockets.
I was thinking about that recently during a trip to Costa Rica, where I got to spend time with an awesome ClearSource partner and my team.
I found myself constantly thinking how incredible my team is – and why. It’s not that everything is going perfectly; there are still plenty of things we could do better. But my team is humble, hungry, smart, and curious, which are all traits I believe are critical for leaders to have. Those traits make it possible to have great authentic relationships with their direct reports.
I’ve found that the most effective leaders have relationships like those.
Sometimes it’s easy to think a weekly 1:1 is enough to build that relationship, and they do help. But it’s been more effective for me to do build those bonds outside of work. It creates trust and sends the message ‘I care about you, and I want you to succeed (and not just at work).’
That’s been my experience. From the beginning, I’ve spent a lot of time outside of work with different team members. I’d go skiing with Rob Goeller and Nate Spears (my bosses). Other times I’d go out for drinks with my team members, dinners with them and their spouses, go to their weddings and their kids’ soccer games – even help them move. It’s fun, but authentic relationships are built during times like those. So when my team needs or invites me to something, I try to be there for it.
I can promise that leaders will get more discretionary effort — defined as going above the bare minimum to not get fired – from employees with that approach. And you’ll enjoy being around these people more. I personally intend to work for Nate and Rob forever, if they’ll have me, because of the relationship they’ve chosen to foster with me.
Trusting your people is equally critical. It sounds easy, but it’s more challenging (and sometimes scary) than you might think. Nate has a saying, “A great leader asks themselves who can do this for me.” He doesn’t mean ‘take the easy road and give away all your work.’ He means delegate in order to give someone valuable experience so they develop and grow, which in turn allows you to focus on the most important parts of your role.
Nate and Rob have trusted me with a lot of roles they could’ve given to someone with deep experience and a long track record of success – such as the promotions I mentioned. However, they’ve intentionally developed a relationship with me and because of that relationship (and a lot of learning, elbow-grease, and determination on my part), they trust me with these different positions. I’ve modeled this trusting, developmental approach with my direct reports (who I’ve already said are awesome), and I hire from within whenever I can. It’s important to teach, have growth processes in place, and yes, pay people according to the value they add to your organization.
On the other hand, I’ve seen leaders create ambiguous expectations, follow up via email (which might as well be smoke signals), and give someone more than enough rope to hang themselves with. And when it doesn’t work out, the easiest thing to do is call it “the wrong fit.”
Let’s face it, we’ve all made bad hiring decisions – greenlighting someone who walked into an interview with their game face on and sold themselves exceptionally well. When that happens, we have to look at the hiring process and teams to find opportunities to improve it. But when it happens over and over, you have to look at the leaders’ approach. One of the most important things I’ve learned at ClearSource, especially recently, is how crucial it is to get the right people (like the ones I mentioned) in the right roles in your organization. And then lead them.
We have a formula at ClearSource: Crystal-Clear Expectations + Consistent Accountability + Freedom = Success, Engagement, and Innovation. When the formula is implemented by a leader who has authentic relationships with direct reports, trusts employees, and hires the right people, organizational performance will skyrocket.
My intent is to share that formula with others. It’s so important to have authentic relationships, trust, and the right people in the role. That’s how you achieve a higher level of performance. And by following the formula, you’ll be better able to build trusting relationships with the people who drive your business.
That’s not a lesson I set out to learn from the on-the-job training and real-world experience ClearSource has gifted me with since 2014 – it’s something I learned along the way. And I’m very glad I did.