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Standout leaders set aside 20 minutes each day to make a call

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing), former executive vice-president of Telus, is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series, Be Different or Be Dead.

Leaders who stand out from their colleagues are disciplined and consistent when it comes to demonstrating behaviours that mirror the journey their organization is on and taking action that matters to employees.

One of the most important activities that gets lost in the inundation of modern technology is real-time conversation. Actually speaking with another human being; making a telephone call.

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Don't dismiss this as merely being old school and therefore unworthy. The fundamentals of standout leadership – serving employees, focusing on execution, bashing barriers that prevent people from doing their jobs, killing rules that infuriate customers – haven't changed over time. On the contrary, their importance has been magnified as competition and the power of the consumer has become more formidable than ever.

Think about making a phone call as 'retro leadership'

It's something we had to do when email, texting and the Internet didn't exist. And if it's retro, it has to be cool, right?

Proactive phone calling is a critical element of standout leadership in four ways.

1. It provides a window into how an organization's strategy is being executed in the field. It's one thing to have a brilliant strategy, but it's quite another to have it executed the way it was intended. If a strategy is rarely executed the way it was originally intended, the call will provide feedback on what to reinforce because it's working and what remedy to take to get the central idea back on track when it's not.

2. A continuous flow of conversations with employees enhances their personal commitment to and engagement with the organization's objectives. They see a leader who cares; the leader sees people respond with the emotional energy necessary to achieve great things.

3. The leader's personal currency grows as word spreads that they actually care about their various constituencies both inside and outside the organization.

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4. Decision-making effectiveness improves with feedback and advice from the call participants. What worked and what didn't on ground zero makes every successive decision a better one.

So every day, make a call to a customer, an employee, a supplier or a strategic partner.

Listen and learn, and that call will likely be the most productive 20 minutes of your day.

Executives and human-resources experts share their views and advice about leadership and management in the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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