Why should anyone be led by you?

I recently heard this statement at a leadership course I went to – click here if you want to know what course I attended, highly recommend.

Why should anyone be led by you?

Well sheeeezyyyy,  when you say it like that..

Brings it back into context that leadership isn’t about you. Well that’s what I believe anyway. I’m not alone in my thought’s many a great leadership influencers talk about leadership being a privilege, a sacrifice, not necessarily a one way trip to glory (gives me some grounding that I’m not crazy). 

From what I have seen from my …what 13 years of working, even back when I was a McCounter chick, was good leaders going bad. What did we do? Well people respond to their environments, put good people in poor conditions and sad things will happen. Put great people in positive workplaces and see the fire spark alive.. you get my drift.

We incentivize self-centred leadership, maybe accidentally (or on purpose). The minute you make budgets the greatest incentive (cut X% of the wages) you have put money before people, and many leaders will begin putting themselves first. Imagine that you’re not the saint you are perhaps pretending to be, if you were out in a position where the formula was: hey, if you save $15,000 in wages you’ll get that promotion – your entire leadership experience has become about you.

That was an overly simplistic example, but it brings me back to the words..

… why should anyone be led by you…

Because people have options, they aren’t bound to your business – why should anyone stick around and be led by you? What do you offer… is it…

  • impossible deadlines
  • a workplace with immense pressure to impress shareholders
  • being too busy to really care about your team, so you forget what’s important

or..

  • a workplace where people are treated like people, not transactions
  • a team where achieving goals with a purpose matters
  • opportunities for development including the tough, uncomfortable feedback
  • a relationship with you that includes you saying the words “i’m sorry, I stuffed up, how can we fix this together”

I don’t expect the leaders I work with to be perfect. Far from it, kind of like in any relationship, it’s the imperfections and the flaws that draw you closer, it’s the honestly and the candid conversations that build a connection. Pretending your perfect does nothing, because we know you are pretending.

So, why should anyone be led by you?

 

Further reading.. love this excerpt from HBR – https://hbr.org/2000/09/why-should-anyone-be-led-by-you

We all know that leaders need vision and energy, but after an exhaustive review of the most influential theories on leadership–as well as workshops with thousands of leaders and aspiring leaders–the authors learned that great leaders also share four unexpected qualities.

The first quality of exceptional leaders is that they selectively reveal their weaknesses (weaknesses, not fatal flaws). Doing so lets employees see that they are approachable. It builds an atmosphere of trust and helps galvanize commitment.

The second quality of inspirational leaders is their heavy reliance on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Such leaders are good “situation sensors”–they can sense what’s going on without having things spelled out for them.

Managing employees with “tough empathy” is the third quality of exceptional leadership. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Leaders must empathize passionately and realistically with employees, care intensely about the work they do, and be straightforward with them.

The fourth quality of top-notch leaders is that they capitalize on their differences. They use what’s unique about themselves to create a social distance and to signal separateness, which in turn motivates employees to perform better.

All four qualities are necessary for inspirational leadership, but they cannot be used mechanically; they must be mixed and matched to meet the demands of particular situations. Most important, however, is that the qualities encourage authenticity among leaders. To be a true leader, the authors advise, “Be yourself–more–with skill.”

 

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Why policy and conversation should be bff’s

So I found myself a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn about the use of uniform policies and this guy wrote something along the lines of ..

We work with adults, treat them like adults we don’t need a uniform policy!

Then plenty of others went on to put in their thoughts cheering him on saying “yeah you just need to have a conversation”. Then I came along and rained on everyone’s parade, then the policy police were brought up and then I decided to step away before I said something foolish on social media.

I feel we look at policy the wrong way because we have built this HR rule book feel as a profession. It’s the brand of like HR walking around looking for what people have done wrong and citing the policy. That’s not what I do for a living, no way! But there was a period of time where this was the perceived image of HR – they were the policy police, smacking people for being naughty. So as we emerge from the dark ages and into the dawn of the conversation and HR being more than a compliance team, let’s not be ignorant and let’s think about what policy implementation has taught us.

3 things that we have learned about policy include:

  1. if all you are good for is reciting policy then your career has an expiry date;
  2. if you smack people with policy they really wont like you, their manager or the business; and
  3. policy is kind of essential to keep you out of court and ensure messages are clear.

Businesses are communities, and like any community there are rules you are expected to follow to be part of it.

Think of the communities you belong to whether it be your family, a sport team or a volunteer group. There are expected standards of behaviour of how you will treat each other.

Sometimes we mess up, someone has a conversation with us to see what the hell we were thinking. Sometimes we really make a mess of things, get a talking to and face the consequences. Same goes for at work.

However work has the high stakes of finance, health and safety and legal obligations, so it makes sense to have some kind of documentation to ensure we are on the same page.

So, what does this mean for you as a HR practitioner or line manager? It means we need to respect the policy and treat it like insurance. It’s purpose is a communication tool to share what is expected from people. It serves as a point of reference when an employee claims “they were never told” or “I don’t understand what you mean”.

Have the conversation using the policy to get your facts right, and really, if it escalates then we can start having the tough conversations, that might include, yes a policy reference.