Next-generation and young executive c-store leaders can benefit from a good attitude and shaping the environment they desire.
By John Lofstock, Editor
We all know young c-store leaders do crucial work across the convenience store industry. They shape culture, improve employee performance, drive creativity and innovation. And yet, fewer training dollars are typically earmarked for next-generation executives than for people at other levels.
While this might not make sense given their expanded roles, young c-store leaders have an opportunity to distinguish themselves by improving their impact on those they lead and on the company as a whole, according to leadership expert David Deacon.
“I’m not saying you don’t need training in the technical skills of management. But what makes a great manager has far more to do with attitude than anything else,” Deacon said.
“While young leaders may not get to choose the training their company invests in, you can choose your attitude.”
Attitude and intention are the cornerstones of becoming what Deacon calls a self-determined manager—one who constantly and intentionally creates environments of over-achievement, where people thrive and produce great work.
“Bad leaders are so focused on their own needs or their own performance that they lose sight of the negative, unproductive, demotivating or destructive environment they are creating,” Deacon said. “On the other hand, the best leaders intentionally choose the environment they hope to create.”
Making this deliberate and intentional choice is the most powerful thing you can do to become an exceptional leader. Here are a few pieces of advice from Deacon.
Get hyper-focused on the power of amplification. By virtue of being in a leadership position, your words and actions are amplified. You cannot stop this, because it is inherent in the way organizations are shaped. Every pronouncement you make may be repeated many times by your direct reports, every action you take may be emulated many times, and every expectation you set will be reflected in the work of your team.
Set your own high standards. Self-determined leaders never look outside themselves for the standards of their work. “Set your own very high standards and strive to live up to them as far as possible,” Deacon said. “You are the one who defines professionalism and sets benchmarks—and when you do this, you will be recognized as a role model for others. Remember, however, that recognition is a byproduct, not a goal. Your intention should be to do a great job because that is the point. “
If you need training in a certain area, ask for it. There are certain things all leaders need to be able to do: give feedback, coach employees, hold tough conversations, communicate clearly, manage time and tasks, and so forth. If you’re lacking in a critical area, ask for training, Deacon said. If your company can’t or won’t provide it, you must seek it out yourself. Be proactive about developing the skills that will help you create the best environment possible for your team. Groups like the Young Executives Organization (YEO) are a good start to learn more about leadership issues and network with other young professionals looking for similar workplace solutions.
Treat employees like adults. Work is not school. Adults do their best work when they are treated as adults. Therefore, great leaders don’t bully, patronize or condescend. To generate trust and respect, you must create an environment where adults can do great things.
Learn to like the people you work with—even the unlikeable ones. If you deal with someone who is unlikeable, find something to appreciate about them. It changes the nature of all interactions and maximizes the chance that you’ll be successful. Everyone responds well to being treated well.
“Until you believe that you are worth investing in, you can’t be a self-determined leader,” Deacon said. “Decide right now that you not only deserve to become the best leader you can possibly be, but that you are capable of reaching this achievement on your own. Once you do this, you’ll be unstoppable.”