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Most leaders will admit to having lost their patience or even their cool a time or two, but their password? Their password to people, no less? If only people were that easy. A simple user name and password and we’d unlock the system, and all would be smooth sailing. People clearly aren’t software systems. Slightly predictable, and some more transparent than others, if people really did have passwords that revealed their inner coding, leadership would sure be easier. Even if they just had a “Forgot password” option for when we needed a refresh on the relationship, it would be better. But, they don’t. These are people we’re talking about and yet, there are a few actions to be taken by leaders who aspire to be truly effective, when it comes to unlocking the mysteries of those they lead and their many differences.
Just how do you uncover all those differences when conformity is the expectation? How do you invite people to share their differences when every other day someone is yelling about the way in which they are different on national television? How do you create an environment of trust, like passwords are supposed to provide us? You look. Then listen. Begin to create a trusting environment and get started. Those are the four steps of focus for today’s Monday Moment. Embrace these four steps or… just keep trying passwords over and over until somebody locks you out and ceases to be productive.
As a leader, new or tenured, followed or feared, you are leading in a time when a diverse workforce, in which all are included, is imperative. You are leading in a time when the differences you see may not be all of them, and the differences that will cause you the greatest challenges may be kept well below the surface of a person possibly fearful of the consequences of being known to be so different. Look around. Look at the team members you have the privilege of leading. Observe. What do they do when stressed? What do they do when Suzie starts acting all frustrated? What do they do when Bob won’t make a decision? Look at their behaviors and pay attention. Those observations will give you almost as much detail as if you had a password, but some differences are still going to be encrypted, so….
Work on staying close to the grapevine in your organization. It’s never broken and always working and always a source of some semblance of accurate information. Gossip is a good way to learn the tenor and vibe of the team or organization and for that reason, you want to be listening. Listen, as well, to the employees who complain or whine daily in your office. They may bug you, but part of their behavior and even their words, are a gift, if you learn from it. What are they not saying that might be a problem? What are they really looking for that you’re not giving them or that they’re not getting from other team members? Is this an issue where there might be bullying, a lack of inclusion, or other issue that begs for your intervention? Listen finally to what team members say about each other and most importantly, to what they hint at, but won’t say directly. Problems tend to build over time and usually aren’t the product of just one instance.
Create a Trust Filled Environment
To create such an environment or culture could be spread out over many a Monday Moments, however, many of the most important steps are fairly straightforward. Be consistent in communication. Align your values with your actions. Be a person who does what you say and follows through on your commitments. Are we all perfect when it comes to these actions in our leadership? Certainly not, nor is that the aspiration. Work on it. Try. Keep going and make building your trustworthy reputation a priority. Then teach it to those you have the privilege of leading. Provide consequences for people whose actions do not foster this kind of environment. Talk about why trust is important. If the team is one you know well and with whom you have good rapport, ask for input about the areas in which trust might be missing or in danger.
If you’ve followed the first two Monday Moments for February (How to Be a Difference Neutral Leader and The Leader’s Guide to Including Massive Amounts of Diversity, you may have noticed a focus on diversity and inclusion. You may also have noticed those efforts are not always easy. Those efforts are not always about differences you may find pleasing. Those efforts may not always include doing fun things or having fun conversations. What do those three descriptions of D & I efforts lead the average leader to start doing? Procrastinate the heck out of making this a priority. I wouldn’t recommend it as your first option and I’d actually suggest now is the ideal time to get started. Start incorporating a diversity focus. Create a system in which you track your observations and what you hear through the grapevine. Look for trends and patterns. Listen for issues that are building. Avoid putting this focus off until you’re ready or feel you have more spare time in which to add this focus. Get started, even if you have to build slowly. Even complex software systems aren’t built in a moment and people are even more intricate than even the most seemingly secure, password protected program.
Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?
In 2019, with the focus on becoming a better leader by doing more with the leadership knowledge you have and are learning, each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge. This week your mission, should you wish to make rapid improvement ahead of next week’s Monday Moment is this:
- Observe and track the different ways in which team members react, respond, and behave
- Look for trends and patterns and listen for repetitious issues
- Incorporate one action this week that will increase trust in the team you lead
You’re on your way and you’re ready to become that better leader by Monday.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.