How to be a good leader during the inevitable downpours
When it rains - it pours. True for mother nature and true in business. As a leader, it's easy to get so focused on the 'tasks' involved in working through a packed To Do list - that we may stop making time for our people. Sound familiar? If so - here is what I've learned over the years about how to keep people first and still get work done.
Leading a smaller company like Creatis with 130 employees is much different than the executive marketing roles I had at Carlson Companies and Caribou Coffee. I work much more often 'in' the business than 'on' the business with a need to manage WAY more details. The urgent routinely pushes out the important - and my choice to prioritize my coaching and mentoring quickly falls by the wayside. And while my ability to 'get things done' during these task-laden rainstorms is admirable, it has significant impact on how others perceive what's important to our business. It needs to be People First - Tasks Second, but it's not always easy to work that way.
During my 12 years at Carlson, I had the privilege of participating in a year-long coaching program called Perception Choices with Carol Keers and Tom Mungavan from Change Masters Incorporated (www.changemasters.com). That was more than 20 years ago (hard to believe - yes I was 15 at the time), and yet I still use many of the coaching tips I learned from them. If you are struggling with how others perceive you as a leader - I highly recommend you check them out. Or - pick up a copy of their book entitled "Seeing Yourself As Other Do" as it is a great read.
Here are some great things I learned from Carol, Tom and others over the years:
- Lean In - Literally and Figuratively. Body language speaks WAY louder than words ever can, so as a leader we need to physically demonstrate our engagement during one to one conversations or during meetings. Lean toward the person, make eye contact, respond with verbal cues that show you are listening and understanding what is being shared.
- Your Face Says It All. So apparently I become very stern-looking with a closed down face and narrow lips when I am listening intently - which creates the perception that I was not open to someone else's ideas. Who knew? This was actually the oppositive of what I intend - this is when I am fully engaged and genuinely trying to understand the other person's POV. Know what your face is saying as it isn't always what you are trying to communicate.
- Multi-Tasking is No Go. I pride myself on my ability to get a lot done all at the same time. It's a talent, right? Wrong! Giving someone your full attention is a must. Put down the cell phone. Turn away from the computer. Don't take any calls when one of your team is asking for your help. It's not only the respectful thing to do - it's also the productive thing to do as your full attention can solve the issue being presented so much faster.
- OPPOV - The tool I have pulled out most often is the OPPOV tool - looking at things from the Other Person's Point of View. This tool helps you look at the driving forces of someone else's behavior based on what he/she is rewarded for, motivated by and fearful of. Taking a quick 5 minutes to think about this first has really helped me increase my effectiveness in engaging with others. Amazing how thinking about something based on how someone else might view it can really help your own perspective.
So when the day to day tasks associated with your job begin to puddle up around your desk, I encourage you to acknowledge that this is happening and pause. Remember to make People First and Tasks Second, even if some of those To Do's don't get To Done as quickly as you'd like.