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I’ve had lots of conversations recently about productivity tips and hints, as we all look for the “hack,” the trick or the app to get from point A to point B the quickest. Yet time and again, the thing that improves our effectiveness, productivity, and ultimate results is mastering the basics. In football, the “Hail Mary” pass works from time to time, but it’s the basic blocking and tackling moving the ball 10 yards at a time that most often results in a touchdown.

Here are four seemingly obvious aspects of a business leader’s work that, if mastered, will almost certainly bring better and quicker results. The tips under each are the “blocking and tackling” of leadership.

1. Objective setting and giving instructions Mastering the art of setting goals, objectives or just giving instructions will not only improve results but also everyone’s level of satisfaction.

  • Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, Time-Bound) approach: Focus on the specifics.
  • Clarity is king: After giving an instruction or setting an objective, ask the team to repeat what they heard you say. This small step will ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Change Becoming a master of handling change may sound a bit useless. By definition, change is often unpredictable. However, there is definitely an element of mastery when it comes to handling change. These tips might sound simple but remember, mastering the obvious equals touchdowns!

  • Expect it: Your mindset about change and how you respond to it plays a big role in the impact it has on your plans. “Hope for the best, but expect the worst” may not be the most optimistic mindset, but recognizing that something will probably mess up your plans at some point will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with it quickly.
  • Plan for it: Include a buffer that allows for unexpected things to occur. I build a time buffer of 15- 20% into my plans. On top of that, use your past experiences with similar projects to anticipate what the changes might be.

3. Communication Mastering communication as a leader is a lifelong journey and one that is wrought with blunders and gaffs along the way (believe me, I know). Here are three obvious (and simple steps) to begin mastering communication:

  • Touch base to make sure people understand your directions: Ask them if they have any questions and if they understand.
  • Listen: It’s not just about barking orders. Communication is a two-way street. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.
  • Create an open environment: Your people should feel comfortable coming to you with any work-related problems or issues.

4. People The obvious element of business that we so often neglect is that it’s about people. Leading people, like communication, is a journey. Follow the four R’s of leadership and teach other leaders in your business to do the same.

  • Review: Discuss and review the plans with your team.
  • Rotate: Just like a coach in hockey, recognize the flow of the game and play the right line combinations look ahead and put the right people together in situations where they are given the best chance at completing successfully.
  • Remove obstacles: Deal quickly with anything that is getting in the way of your team’s performance.
  • Reward performance: Recognize the efforts of individuals and teams regularly, not just at the end of a project.

Before you latch on to the newest tech, tools or techniques, be sure you’ve got a handle on these leadership basics.

There’s an active discussion on this topic on The Busy Business Owner’s Tool Box group on LinkedIn. Come join the discussion!

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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