Foster the exceptional

Claire Curran  [square]The role of a leader is to create conditions for employees to thrive, says Claire Curran.

Becoming an exceptional employee is not a solo task – exceptional teams are created through trust and hard work. By believing in a common goal, we all ‘row in the same direction’ and support one another, recognising when someone has the ability to succeed and the passion not to give up.

Creating this environment for employees to become exceptional is undeniably linked to culture, which, of course, is defined by a company’s leadership but to really take hold, it requires buy-in from everyone. That means ensuring that everyone in the business has a voice, and those voices, while united, are also diverse.

At Linaker, for example, we have so much diversity in experience, qualifications, skill sets, ages, gender and culture that every opinion and perspective helps to shape solutions.

Chairman Bill Harrison laid down solid foundations over 25 years ago that very much reflect our culture. We’re a family business and we act like one; we debate, adjust, test theories openly and trust each other to face challenges as a collective. Our culture is probably one of the reasons why we survived the economic downturn in 2009/2010.

My leadership style is quite different – but complementary – and it has added a new, exciting dynamic to how we do things. Bill is methodical and wise, whereas I quickly seize opportunities and love to celebrate successes daily.

As a leadership team, we enjoy the diversity of our relationship. I welcome his calm, considered and experienced stance on all things and I know he would comment on my tenacity, passion, energy and resilience; we both share the commitment to succeed.

Pockets of excellence vs pockets of challenge

When you find people who strive to be exceptional, you have to listen and adapt, let them use their own expertise to evolve and develop personally and professionally. As every part of the business overlaps into the next, this evolution has to stretch the width and breadth of the company. Otherwise you end up with pockets of excellence and pockets of challenge.

Excellent teams are about excellent people inspiring each other to move towards a common goal and leadership that keeps them on track. It leads to companies that are dynamic, exciting and effective and for us it is proving to be successful.

Remember, being exceptional is not a destination; it’s a journey – probably without an end. Keep learning and absolutely enjoy the ride.

A ‘how to’ on being exceptional

Here are my tips for those wanting to excel and achieve more. It’s up to both leaders and their teams to co-create workplaces and organisational cultures that help people thrive.

1 Don’t wait for someone to say you’re exceptional, be exceptional.

Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and work on improving them. If you’re sure about your strategy or have a great idea, shout about it.

2 Be resilient.

No one can stop you from being who you want to be, except you. You cannot beat someone who just keeps on getting up and trying again.

3 Be original.

Don’t be defined by someone else’s ideal. Be Northern, be funny, be passionate, be enthusiastic; people buy into people. Being authentic is incredibly important.

4 Listen and be humble.

Embrace change, innovation and a difference of opinion. Know when to say “I got it wrong” and understand that not everyone is like you. Learn how to be prescriptive in your communication and the motivation of others.

5 Strive for balance.

I’m still learning how to juggle several life goals harmoniously. Remember why you’re striving for career goals in the first place and celebrate them. Don’t let your work encroach on sleep or well-being.

6 Always have integrity.

Make the hard choices for the right reasons. It’s always better to do the wrong thing for the right reason than the right thing for the wrong reason. Live and breathe your own ideals and beliefs. 

Claire Curran is managing director at Linaker 

Image credit | Getty Images 

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