It used to be that leadership created an intentional barrier between themselves and their people. A manager would not risk compromising the clean simplicity of working relationships by dragging in the messiness of real life. For better or worse, these days are far behind us. In order lead your employees well, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Your people want to know you, the real you, and share meaningful life experiences in and out of the office. It is possible, however, to go too far into the personal realm and lose your ability to effectively manage. How does the 21st century leader find balance? How can we relate as messy, imperfect people, but still command the respect required to produce results? The following is a collection of simple tips to help you find balance and lead with refreshed sincerity. These are leaders who greatly value human connection, and have used the power of relationships to ultimately improve both the employee and the customer experience.
A great rule of thumb is to envision a model of great customer service and deliver that to your team members. They are after all your internal customers. Listen to them– deeply. If they share about a personal struggle or challenge, take note and follow up with them to see how they’re doing. Do your darndest to be flexible around what’s most important to them– whether it’s taking a longer break to see their kid perform at school or taking off a little early on their birthday. That stuff goes a long way to show transparency and build deeper connection with your staff. – Jeremy Watkin
Being a 21st-century leader means periodically putting away the technology and asking better questions. What’s going on in your home life? What motivates you to come to work every day? What drives you to do well in your job? We have such a tendency to focus on metrics, and KPIs, and goals, and we forget that there is a human behind all of it. I was chatting with Russ Laraway from Candor Inc. recently and he mentioned that leaders are having too many imposter conversations with their teams. They need to be having better conversations. “You have to understand someone’s past and someone’s future in order to know what they will do in their present.” It all starts with better questions. – Sarah Stealey Reed
The best leaders I’ve met are the ones who give employees time and attention before problems flare up. These leaders make themselves available to employees all the time. They hang out. One excellent leader I knew volunteered to serve as a scribe during problem-solving sessions. He did the typing for his staff, a task which caused him to focus and listen to what his employees had to say. His team never had to beg for his attention or beg for a 15-minute slot on his calendar. He demonstrated that leadership doesn’t have to be complicated. Make yourself available. It works. – Leslie O’Flahavan
Abraham Lincoln’s leadership provides a great example that’s still relevant. He would often meet with his generals, cabinet members, and other people in their office so they would feel more comfortable. 21st century leaders can do the same thing. Engage employees in environments where they’re comfortable so you’ll get the real them and they’ll get the real you. This includes physical environments, like the employee’s workstation, but also virtual environments like email, social media. Etc. The one caveat here is a manager should never forget they are the manager, which means they have responsibilities to both the employee and the organization. For example, it’s probably okay for a manager to organize a fun happy hour after work, but it’s not a good idea for the manager to engage employees in a drinking contest. – Jeff Toister
For our one on one meetings, we use a system called MOFO. It stands for Meaningful progress, Obstacles, Focus for next week, and Organizational pulse. We list our work and non-work related items in each category to discuss during the meeting. While we want to get to know our team on a personal level, some people are more guarded than others. Having the MOFO system building a causal structure for discussion, it opens the door to talk about the good, the bad and the challenging happenings that we may otherwise overlook. Another key is to step away from the desks and take a walk outside, grab coffee, or sit in a nearby park. You’d be surprised at how much easier it is to talk when you’re not confined inside of an office. – Jenny Dempsey
1. Know yourself the best: Authenticity requires that we know and understand our purpose and values. If we do not understand what they are and can convey them through various forms of communication people will not be able to see if our actions are congruent with our intent.
2. Admit your mistakes: Being authentic is one of the anchors of trust. By not admitting to your mistakes you will be putting up a false front that will undermine the ability of people to trust you.
3. Convey your limits: Nobody likes a no-it-all. You’re probably not one. Also you know that people dislike liars even more. When you realize you do not know the facts and yet you convey information that you want folks to accept as fact you will compromise your credibility
4. Be courageous: You were born and raised with core beliefs to respect and care for your fellow man (all of mankind). Standing back, judging, harming, blaspheming and eroding any fellow human being is living an untrue life. – Jim Rembach
During one on one meetings with employees I’ve gotten into the habit of turning my computer monitors off and my phone to silent. Scheduling the time with them is great, however if my attention is divided I’m losing a valuable opportunity to establish a real connection with them. Active listening is so rare in our society that when practiced well, the individual will take notice and feel greatly valued. Finding small ways to communicate you care will add up to something big. – Nate Brown
Be authentic, be transparent, and be honest. Otherwise, leadership is not for you. Your team members are people, not metrics. They come to work dealing with real life issues which impact their performance, and emotional well being. Taking the time to connect on a personal level allows you to better serve them, which leads to their success, and yours. This comes by way of building trust, effective communication, and respect. Leaders need to show they care by giving their time, advice and attention. Be present, and involved with your team on a daily basis. They should consider you a part OF the team, not just the boss of the team. – Sean B Hawkins
Leadership is a never-ending chain of activities, attitude(s), and examples. A leader is only as good as her/his last opportunity to lead. Leadership is what happens both when people are watching/listening/paying attention as well as what the leader does when no one else is present. – Neal Topf
Frankly we as leaders need to understand that our people do not come to their jobs without baggage. The new employee you just hired has a learned set of rules (good or not so good) from their past employment experiences. Guidance for the new employee must be top of mind for the leader. All employees have real lives outside of work too with family challenges, sicknesses, losses etc… As leaders we must not only be managers but we also must cater to the human element of feelings, ego, and needs (kinda what we learned from Maslow) then alter how we interact so we can be of true help to our team members giving of our true self to help them. When leaders work in this manner great things happen. – Gerry Barber
We hope this has been a helpful collection! A bit of authenticity can make all the difference in the world as you lead your team. As Karin Hurt and David Dye say in the book “Winning Well” – “You can have all the great plans, six sigma quality programs, and brilliant competitive positioning in the universe, but if the human beings doing the real work lack the competence, confidence, and creativity to pull it off, you’re finished.” As with so many things in life, it always comes down to our people and forming meaningful relationships!