No matter your industry, when given the position of leader, you must speak in ways those you lead, need. Yes, those in IT should know “end user” is not a compliment, but do they need to know how to code as well as that top performing employee? Or do they need to know how to connect the human dots? Does the CEO of a zoo need to know why Rhino’s can’t be moved with a large leash? Or do they need to know how to convey the desired end result and budget to achieve it, clearly? Does the Association president need to know every detail of a major change initiative? Or do they need to know who to go to for answers? In your leadership role, strategic vision is likely the goal for which you’re being paid, but how do you stay out of the weeds when you lead? The following are your guides on the side to do just that:
Use Less Volume and More Clarity
If you observe a frustrated English speaker trying to direct a non-English speaking employee, you’ll likely hear them raise their voice. “There is no more overtime” isn’t any more clear to the person who doesn’t understand the words or the meaning, when you yell them louder. Leaders can get frustrated when they’re not understood, but if you’re this leader your focus is in the wrong place. Each employee translates the message in their own filter, based on their own background and relying on their own experience. Maybe their last boss said “no overtime” and then asked for more work to be done to meet a deadline. Is that what you mean?
Stop Relying on Common Sense
Stroll through a grocery store and read some warning labels. The fact that they exist should tell you common sense is a far more a rare commodity than most leaders wish to believe. Don’t drink bleach should be a widely known direction. Coffee is hot should be clear if you like it well enough to order it. I agree. However, when you have 25 years of experience upon which to base the “common sense” that drives many of your leadership decisions and direction, it is unfair to assume your 20 something IT Help Desk team member will absorb your knowledge through osmosis. The more frustrated a leader is with results the more likely their threshold for tolerating a lack of common sense is pretty low. Is that frustration properly placed or are the employees using the sense they have and it simply doesn’t match yours? A better route is to explain to the point that they can read your mind in some instances and know your leadership direction with a look before words are used. This, of course, takes time and patience.
Take Your Time and Be Patient
Patience is not a natural trait for many who volunteer for leadership roles. These leaders are driven, ambitious and competitive and equate more time spent with less things getting done. If this is you and your style, add develop employee, coach team member, clarify company-wide message, or test all hands meeting script with individuals to your list and it will help. Add the task of spend one hour with the help desk employees in IT so they can explain the process of adding technical notes to each work order to you. IF that is the process that bugs you, understanding it will help you give better direction. It doesn’t mean you have to suddenly learn how to speak geek, it means you suddenly have to realize that speaking geek is Greek to you and you need some translation in order to lead them better.
Leading better is about being a better person, as much as it is about giving better direction. Rolling up your sleeves and understanding exactly what those you lead do, is ONE way to expand your knowledge and build rapport and respect, but it’s ONLY one way. Leading from the belief that not everyone shares your desire, style of direction, understanding, expertise, and experience is another way that will allow you to convey even more clear messages and earn even greater rapport and respect.