By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

You’ve read keys to leadership before, probably enough to fill a sizeable key ring! But let’s face it, leadership is about people – who else would you lead? So if it is about people, there ought to be a way to systematically become more effective. And I’m not just talking about folks at work, but also about leadership with your spouse and children.

So what’s the scoop?

The secret, as in almost any worthwhile endeavor, has to do with having a plan. In this case the plan involves defining three important “people area questions”: “What are my roles?” “What are my key relationships within each of those roles?” And “What are the responsibilities that go along with each of those relationships?”

First off, What are my roles? Each of us has roles in life, some more than others. You might have a role as a boss, or as an employee. You might even have both! You might have a role as a wife or a husband, or as a father or mother. My own key roles are as a boss, as a husband, and as a father. Whatever your key roles are, write them down on the left side of a piece of paper, and leave room between them.

Study those roles for a minute or two. Each role will have key relationships that go with it. For instance, if you are an employee, you have a manager, supervisor, or an executive you report to. That’s a key relationship. You may also have a few people who work with you on a company team, and again, those are key relationships. Don’t put everyone in the company down, but capture the key few. List the key relationships to the right of each role you have on your paper. Leave space to the right of each relationship, because you’ve still got more to do!

As an example, I have a role as a father, and the key relationships for me in that role include my three sons. I would list their three names to the right of my role as “father”. Now that isn’t so hard, is it?

The third area to consider to make this leadership exercise work is the responsibilities that go along with each of the relationships. Take some time to think about these. What do each of these people need from you in order be more effective themselves? If you’re a boss and the key relationship you are considering is that of an employee who reports to you, it might be communication. It might also be encouragement, or a regular time each week to give you feedback. In the role of a father, you have to consider the age of the child you’re dealing with: a 12 year old needs a lot more time than an 18 year old, and the activities you do with him or her will be considerably different. Whatever those key responsibilities, as you think of them list them to the right of each relationship.

Now, I’ll bet you’ve got a full sheet! The final step is to start taking those responsibilities and making time for them. And this is important: if you’ve identified your key roles, and your key relationships within each role, and your key responsibilities for each relationship, you have a list of some of the most important activities you can take time for in your life. Putting aside time here will make those who are important to you more effective. But it will do a lot more than that. Time spent here will heal hurt feelings, it will smooth out misunderstandings, it will energize interactions. You will find that you get along better with these people, and that crises will begin to disappear from those relationships.

And isn’t that what true leadership is about…making others more effective? Try this little exercise out, I think you’ll find that it works.