At SIGMADESIGN, we empower employees to be leaders. We look to the future and cultivate leaders that will have a lasting impact on the direction of the company. Throughout the life of SIGMADESIGN, I have seen engineers become managers, lab technicians become directors, and development specialists become executives. As the company rapidly grows, we expect more men and women to evolve into roles that lead the company and its individuals to success.
So what does it take to become a leader? Being at the helm of SIGMADESIGN for nearly 25 years, I have observed and learned some key characteristics of leaders. These include humility, ability to influence and the desire to go above and beyond expectations.
Good leaders are humble. Some leaders desire to be in the spotlight, to be the person who receives all the recognition. But an excellent leader recognizes the heroes on their team. At SIGMADESIGN, we give all individuals the ability to recognize the considerable efforts of others in the company by giving out SCOR cards (SIGMA cards of recognition) in our weekly company-wide meetings. These cards can be given by anybody and to anybody who has gone above and beyond the regular requirements of their job. This provides a way for any employee to recognize the hero on their team.
A humble leader also looks for ways to serve their team. This doesn’t mean they are jumping in to do other peoples’ jobs. But it does mean that when they see a need, they are willing and eager to contribute whatever they can to satisfy that need. It means they’re not afraid to add the fresh college graduate to their team because they’re ready to mentor and help that team member grow when needed.
Nobody wants to follow somebody with a big ego. It’s when a leader stays humble- celebrating the accomplishments of others and looking for ways to serve- that those around him or her will develop as a devoted member of a team. A genuine leader sees the value of the work of every person on his or her team.
Ability to Influence
A leader should know how to influence people. Influence doesn’t happen from pulling rank and demanding the job get done. Rather, it’s about having a team that trusts its leader enough to go the extra mile when asked. Building trust transpires in a number of ways. Leaders do this by having a proven track record, building relationships and placing confidence in their team.
A proven track record begins with technical competency and includes having the skill and experience needed to do a job well. This is why the technical interview is a vital part of our interview process at SIGMADESIGN. In addition to technical competency, a proven track record includes past successes, but also some failures. A trusted leader isn’t someone that never makes a mistake; a trusted leader is someone who owns up to their mistake and grows from their failure.
If a leader wants to make an impact on people, they also need to build relational influence. At SIGMADESIGN, relational influence happens when employees truly care about each other and spend time together. I have seen this happen in a variety of ways. I think it starts with one of our core values: Take Time to Laugh. When we celebrate birthdays, hold nerf gun wars, or take a break to play a game of foosball, we are building relationships that extend beyond our daily tasks. With our open floor plan, it’s easy for team members to spend time face-to-face. This is necessary for building confidence and trust in each other. When a leader cares for their teammates as people, not just as co-workers, they will enjoy relational influence.
Finally, a leader must show confidence in his or her team. They need to allow people to make decisions so they can learn. Strong leaders let their team members take charge of what they’re doing. They push those around them to be better, and expect that they will be. They set high expectations, and believe their teammates will meet those expectations. When leaders trust the people around them, they will impact how those people work.
Desire to Go Above and Beyond
A good leader desires to go above and beyond expectations. This entails looking beyond daily tasks to see what an entire project needs. A leader looks to exceed their job description and asks, “What can I do to grow? What can I do to help those around me grow?” At SIGMADESIGN, we foster opportunities to go above and beyond by using our Core Values as a foundation for our work culture. By encouraging employees to Help Clients & Each Other, be Adaptable, and Exceed Client’s Expectations, we are also encouraging them to become leaders. With the Core Values visible in nearly every room of the building, these behaviors remain in the forefront of their minds.
I see our Core Values in action at SIGMADESIGN frequently. Whether it’s the Receptionist that jumps in to help the shipping/receiving department, or the Engineering Manager that invites the Summer Intern to go to a client meeting with him or her, employees continually look for ways to go above and beyond their own needs.
Becoming an effective leader is more than training and learning to manage people. A great leader understands that it is the people they lead that determine the success or failure of the project in the end. Leadership is a mindset of humility and service, a desire to have lasting impact, and an eagerness to go beyond what is expected. Ultimately, a great leader creates and nurtures other leaders.