Following the Thread of Leadership

Can your team see the thread of your leadership at work?

At a human level, people want to see, need to see, the connection between decisions being made and the reasons for those decisions.  Without that, they can feel like automatons simply complying with instructions — like their opinions and contribution don’t matter, without any real personal investment or self worth in the work. You see, people want to know their contribution matters and has influence, and ultimately they want to be able to draw a connection between their contributions and your decisions; a connection between your why and their personal why for why they work with you and do this kind of work. Even if they do everything they’re “supposed to,” it won’t be their best work if they are just going through the motions, with no connections to the personal. When they can see and understand the whys behind your leadership — and how it aligns with their expertise, values and/or dreams — that’s when they give 110%.  When people can’t see connection, they don’t get the value or the point. But when they do see it, not only do they get the value, they will give added value as well!

Here’s a simple example.  Let’s say you ask your team to complete a survey — to learn what’s working and what’s not. That’s a common and reasonable request. But what happens next is what really matters.  For far too many organizations, what happens next is — nothin’!  Make sure you show and discuss with them how you are incorporating their input. If they give a survey and never see any changes, even if you did make changes behind the scenes, they might think to themselves “What’s the point?” Just because you have taken action, doesn’t mean they will connect the dots. For instance, they might be asking for more communication and information, so you decide down the road, the best way to achieve that goal is a weekly email newsletter/update. It certainly falls under the heading of additional communication. But if it’s never discussed that the email is in response to the survey, people might miss the connection. What if they meant more verbal conversation and a chance to contribute to the conversation and decision-making in advance of the final decision? Sometimes leaders act, thinking they are hitting the mark, but never connecting the dots to see if, in fact, they did.

No one does their best work if they feel like their opinion, expertise or contribution is ignored, disregarded or trivialized — it feels hopeless or pointless.

So with regards to the survey example, take the time to draw the connection back to the survey so people can see the effect. Once they get it, they might be ecstatic and exclaim, “Oh! You did solve that problem!  Awesome!!”  Or they may have the courage to say, “Hey, thanks, we really appreciate the effort, but we were really hoping for more direct dialogue and contribution.”  Either way, you win.

When you ask your team to complete a project, make sure they have the why. That’s when they’ll do their best work! Not only will they feel trusted by you, they’ll feel more emotionally connected with what they’re doing.

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash