When you receive word that the person you report to, or the CEO, or another senior leader in your organization is coming to see you tomorrow, with no explanation about the purpose, what would you be thinking to yourself?
- I’m getting fired.
- This can’t be good. We never see them unless there is a problem.
- I must be in trouble for something.
- This will be good, I’m sure it’s to thank me for my work.
- This will be good, I’m sure they want my input or feedback on something important.
If you’re honest, you would probably be thinking A, B, or C. I know I would.
And, if you were asked to come to their office, everyone around you would be saying things to you like, “you’re in trouble” or “what did you do?”
Unfortunately, many employees’ only experience meeting leaders when there is a problem. Then their leader shows up with 20/20 vision (hindsight), asking a lot of questions. Sometimes the way they ask their questions implies that someone wasn’t very smart. I doubt they really learn the truth, because most people are defensive if they are being asked questions by someone they don’t know.
I believe the problem is that leaders often miss two basic elements of leadership.
- Success is based on the work of others. The best leaders are like a symphony conductor. They don’t play an instrument but coordinate a group of highly skilled musicians to play their best.
- Visibility is important to employees. In the world today, employees want a visible leader, one they see and know. They also want their leaders to be transparent, willing to truthfully tell them the good and the bad.
Almost 40 years ago, Tom Peters wrote in his best-selling book In Search of Excellence about the concept of “Management by walking around”. Get out of your office and be among your employees. I like his concept, but I think a little structure will help. Your employees will appreciate knowing you are coming, just as we do in our personal lives, so we can be prepared. When you are random, people might miss the day you wander by.
I believe leaders should be “intentionally present”, which for me means regularly scheduling time to visit locations (if you have more than one), departments and employees, instead of just showing up only when there are problems. Engage them, in conversation, ask questions, learn what’s going on. It’s a time commitment on your part as a leader, but it pays dividends.
If you’re an intentionally present leader, who is regularly seen, you’ll reap benefits from your relationship. They will know you and you’ll know them. They’ll offer their thoughts and ideas, they’ll contribute. And, when there is a problem, which there always are, you’ll get more honest answers.
Jesus had a team too, his disciples, who he spent time with and poured into. Then, he sent them out to do more work than could ever be done by one person.
Get out and spend time with the people who are in your care, pour into them, and watch the amazing results.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:2-4
Good advice Dale. I wonder what the future looks like with so many working remotely in their homes. Leaders can’t walk the office and mingle with employees as communication is mostly limited to text, zoom and phone. Less personal in my opinion but another transition to navigate in this post pandemic era.