This post was written for leaders and aspiring leaders who are committed to providing the greatest leadership experience for their people. It offers 5 Simple Steps, guaranteed to elevate a quality leader experience for both the member and the leader!
A Tough Pill to Swallow
I remember clearly, as a manager, the first time I heard about research on the poor state of employees; who had or were having negative experiences with their leaders. Almost 6 of 10. Wow! I also remember exactly what I told myself then; “Well that’s not me, I’m a great leader!”.
Over the years, my work forced me to take more seriously, the research on leadership and its impacts. My journey revealed that there are millions of employees having poor-to-negative experiences with leadership. For a long time, I persisted in telling myself the same thing; “Well that’s not me, I’m a great leader!”.
As I continued to interview employees and managers about their leadership experiences, I stumbled across something very interesting. Apparently, I was not the only leader who immediately and positively reassured myself, upon hearing about the epidemic proportion of poor leadership experiences. Most leaders were telling themselves the same thing!
It wasn’t long before an uncomfortable thought crept into my mind and continued to haunt me; “If there were 100 leaders in the room, thinking like me; that we’re all providing a great quality leader-member experience for our people; there was a good chance, as per some rigorous research, that approximately 60 of us in that room, were wrong!”
Uh-oh. Maybe I wasn’t as great as I thought I was. I found out, I wasn’t.
The Need to Embrace Reality
We have interviewed and researched enough to know for certain that, a very real and problematic phenomenon exists; that is:
- 100 % of all leaders want the best for their people.
- Although it varies by sector; approximately 40 – 70% of all employees experience a neutral-to-negative leadership experience.
The incongruence is real! The reality is clear; there are gaps, sometimes small and often massive, between the perceptions of the leader and the experiences of the employee.
Why is this a serious issue?
A leadership experience is powerful. Quality leadership experiences have positive and profound impacts on people. The converse however, is also true; poor leadership experiences, even though they are often unintentional and unknown to the leader, can have profound and negative consequences. As a matter of fact, research demonstrates that poor-to-negative leadership experiences can be detrimental to one’s social, emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Simple and Profound: 5 Steps to a Greater Leadership Experience
Our team continues to have our minds blown; how something that seems so simple, is rarely if ever done…at least not in the way we suggest below.
The 5 steps offered here are simple, straightforward and do-able; by everyone. We have encouraged the use of this approach with a variety of people; from team leaders in human services, to CEO’s in publicly traded companies – 100% of those people who followed the steps below, experienced a positive and/or profound effect, with their people and themselves.
Step 1. Ask Yourself
Find some time to reflect on the following questions. You must take the questions seriously and be honest with yourself. For each person, you are responsible for, consider this:
- Do I care about the well-being and success of (name)?
- Do I want to be “the best” leader for (name)?
- Do I want a great/better working relationship with (name)?
If your answer is an unequivocal “yes” to ALL three questions, then proceed to Step 2.
Step 2. Tell Them
Yes, tell them! The message and subsequent experiences invoked by the messages below range from positive to powerful. All humans want to know, especially from their leaders, that they are cared for and, that their leaders want the best for them. It’s amazing how many leaders assume that their people know this.
Be sure to set aside some time and, do it in-person if you can. Let them know that you have been reflecting on your leadership and, you wanted to share some important things with them.
Here are sample statements – feel free to use variations and language/words that are most comfortable for you:
- I wanted you to know that I care very much about your development and your success.
- It’s important to me, that I provide the best leadership for you.
- I would like to have a great working relationship with you.
Do not expect anything back from them. You just want them to know. If they have any questions, take the time to answer them. Step 3 will help answer some of the questions they may have about your intentions.
Step 3. Ask Them
Now that you have shared these important messages, ask the person if they have input, suggestions and/or feedback on how you can support their success, provide greater leadership and, enhance/strengthen the working relationship.
Here are sample questions – feel free to use variations and language/words that are most comfortable for you:
- I was wondering if there is anything I can do further, or differently to support your development and success?
- Is there anything I can do more of, or differently to be a better leader?
- Do you have any suggestions for me on how to strengthen our working relationship?
It is important to note, that many people for many reasons, can find this experience different, odd or strange. That’s OK. Be prepared that many people might tell you, “everything is fine”. Some may share, some may not – all responses are OK.
It is essential that you give your people the opportunity to share. For some, having the chance to share is enough and, such an opportunity in and of itself, can provide an affirming and validating experience.
If people do not share in that moment, it is OK. Assure them that you do care to hear what they have to say and, you do want to know. Inform them that they can share with you anytime, in any way, when they are ready.
Step 4. Follow-Through
Take everything you hear seriously; Listen, Listen, Listen. Now, you may not be able to do everything they need or desire. That’s OK. There will be some things, however, that you will be able to consider, augment and/or implement (to the extent possible) in your approach to leadership.
Follow-through is critical. It is important that our people know we have heard them and, are willing to do what we can to enhance their success, our relationship and the overall leader-member experience. People are less concerned that we do everything they want/need and more concerned that we are willing to do what we can on their behalf.
Step 5. Check-in
Checking in, essentially brings you back to Step 3 (Ask Them). It demonstrates that you have not forgotten what they shared; that they and their experiences remain important. This Step, like Step 4 (Follow-Through) is very important for many reasons – the biggest above all is, that many people have been asked about their needs, values and desires in the past and have, to their dismay, been let down and disappointed by little-to-no acknowledgement or follow-through.
It is for this reason that many people are reluctant to share what’s important to them; even when their leader asks them directly. Therefore, be prepared that Step 3 (Ask Them) may require some patience and persistence.
We encourage you to trust the process offered here. However, if you find difficulty in the ideas or the approach presented, we suggest that you re-connect with your own purpose and approach to leadership before going any further. You can do this by reflecting on the 5 Questions offered in a previous post: Page 1: Five Essential Questions for Greater Leadership.
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