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If you’re cold as ice, employees won’t think twice about shutting you out.

Both the US weather and an observation inspired this question. Not only are we shivering in most of the US, but many employees shiver and shudder when the leader comes around. Whether it’s rules of no employee fraternization or simply the distance most managers keep, the truth is a little warmth motivates more, builds rapport and would help you get even more done. So, no, leadership is not a dish best served cold, but here are three helpful guidelines on just how and how much to melt that sometimes seemingly cold outer shell.

Choose Your Timing
Leadership is often a delicate dance, for which one can take lessons, but can also be complex. Sometimes the leader needs to be the disciplinarian and share just the facts. Other times, the leader is a coach seeking to inspire. Still other times, the leader is the empathetic listening ear when their actions are really covering fear. Are you aware of which time needs what? Do you change your demeanor at the appropriate times? Herein lays the complexity as new leaders will often confuse a need to keep their distance with the way a leader “should” need. While it’s true that when sharing negative feedback it is easier frankly to not be their friend, the news may land more softly and motivate more change in behavior if you showed that you care. Depending on the personality that comes most natural to you, the choice may seem clear, but choose wisely and consider what they’ll hear and need to hear to respond with your desired outcome. For example, being matter of fact can appear cold when what they really need is the feeling that their hand is something you’d be willing to hold…figuratively, of course.

Modify Your Sensitivity Meter
Most leaders operate by instinct when choosing what to show, but what if you became even more aware of when they need you to warm up a bit? What if you checked your sensitivity meter at the door like you ask of their emotions at times? In the average workplace, those driven to get it done or get it right, get promoted. This leaves those who get along and those who desire to get appreciated running the front line. While not a rule without exception, this schema leaves many leaders wondering “what is wrong with these people?” Labels of drama and unnecessary tears is what the employee hears, even if the words aren’t said, because, most often of the voices in your head that say a boss should be a hard nose or nothing gets done when everyone or anyone is having a little fun. Take a deep breath and check your sensitivity meter. Might they get even more done IF they were having fun? Might they respond even better to your direction if they didn’t always feel like you were the boss with whom they had no connection? Leaders who are sensitive to the needs of the team, truly listen and SHOW that they care find team members willing to make great strides, jump through hoops of fire, and walk over hot coals to get the results you’ve said you wanted.

Make it Come Out Your Mouth
Just the other day I sent a text message to a fabulous client and friend. It simply had a direct question with no context, nor pretext or friendly greeting. I then laughed and followed it up with another text that said “hi there, by the way. I thought it, but it didn’t actually come out my mouth!” We both giggled and then I was reminded that leaders often think others hear even what they don’t say. A well-meaning leader may believe the team to be of great value and compliment employees to other people, but forget to tell them to their face. Are we so focused on getting it done that we forget to acknowledge those doing the job? Perhaps. It’s an innocent mistake, but one that will cost you a connection. Warm up your greetings and hallway talks with genuine interest in who the employees are and what their lives entail. Begin your coaching meetings with questions that reveal their mindset and receptivity to the information you need to share. Consider not just your power, but your power of motivation and the way in which a few simple words, said out loud, can alter the course of what they do and how.

So while Boston is 9 inches from making history for snow, Florida is staring at temps our thermometers rarely see, and the cold winds continue to blow, consider the value of making more of a connection. Lead yourself to share warmth when they need it most and build relationships about which employees will boast.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday, an even better week, and of course, stay Contagious!

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