“I tell them anything just to get them out of my office!” was his comment. He was a leader taking my communication workshop in Oklahoma. He was speaking about his direct reports.
“Come in and I’ll answer all your questions.” was the comment from a different leader who said he likes to have pie and coffee waiting because his door is always open.
As a leader, who would you want to be?
The best answer? Neither.
Most of us look for a leader with confidence, vision, and approachability. How can we do this as leaders?
Clearing paths and unlocking talent
A leader’s greatest assets are the people who are in their stewardship. A quick survey of your team will show they have more talent to give than what is currently require of them. What a wonderful untapped resource!
Demanding more from our teams will not open this reserve. It’s a gift to be given, not a task to be required.
How do we tap into this great reserve of talent? Leaders need to create an environment, through effective communication, where team members can progress through the three levels of social interaction.
Dependence is the beginning
Each of us have been dependent on managers, leaders, and co-workers when we started a new job. This is understandable. As leaders we don’t want our team to remain dependent forever. Instead we want them to become more independent. That is how we unlock that hidden talent.
Opening your door and serving pie and coffee communicates you’re approachable. I would certainly prefer this approach over the frustrated leader saying, “Get out!” But the pie and coffee boss is just filling me with artificial stimulants, has no time to do his own work, and will eventually become frustrated with my constant interruptions.
Both options, “get out” and “pie and coffee”, will eventually net the same results… the employee is a nuisance and the leader has no idea what hidden talents the employee has to offer. When leaders don’t know what talents are available, they can’t tap into them. When you’re the leader, what happens when you are out of the office? Who answers their questions? These dependent workers are at a loss. You have inadvertently trained them to depend on you for both direction before stepping into action. For the dependent worker it’s a safe place because there is no accountability for them. It was your idea. They’re just doing what you say. If the plan fails… It’s your fault.
Independence is Next
Taking the approach of our Oklahoma leader, “get them out of my office” may reduce the number of interruptions, but it also creates animosity. No one wants to deal with you. If there are no followers, then there is no leader! Help your team move from dependence to independence by discovering their personal worth and potential. Help the employee find their unique talents and contributions. Give them a voice. Don’t just answer questions. Instead, ask more questions and listen first. Ask them what they have done so far to explore and find the answer. What conclusions have they reached and how did they get there? Through these types of conversations, the leader discovers the talents and passions hidden within the employee. The effective leader matches these new-found talents to the needs of the team.
Independence is not our final stop
Yes, they are not dependent. Yes, they come to work and know what to do and get it done. They make decisions and don’t bother you. Yet they do not play well with others. How many have lost their jobs because of independence? (Those employees who are known to be solo thinkers, smarter than everyone else or just don’t care.) Some estimates are as high as 90%. Business is about interaction. Co-workers, bosses, and clients all need to communicate effectively. Failure to do so feeds a lack of trust, discontentment, and negative feelings. We end up creating silos to protect ourselves from having to speak to one another.
At the root of this issue is the independent worker. The independent worker is all “me, me, me” and “I, I, I.” Show them through your example by using inclusive language like team, us, we, and together. “I” statements can divide the team. Reward individual effort but never lose sight of the big picture. As a leader, seek out opportunities to practice this communication skill. Teach it, demonstrate it, and give appropriate coaching to others so they can also adopt it.
Interdependence is the highest level of social interaction
Interdependence has all the skills of independence without the lack of caring for others. As a leader, help your team become better listeners before they speak. No one wants to be baffled by brilliance without first being understood. I’ve always thought a good leader is also a good follower. This is a person who is confident enough to be influenced by other’s ideas and also seek out those ideas! The work product of this type of approach is almost always greater than the original idea itself. It’s called the synergy of collaboration. An easier way to say it, “The sum is greater than the parts.”
I once had a co-worker who thought very differently than I did. I originally thought “Who is this guy?” and “What’s wrong with him?” I later came to realize he was my greatest asset. He helped me see more in my ideas than what I could see myself.
You are the best blueprint on leadership for others to read. They will learn by watching you. What will they build for themselves? Will they be a “Get out of my office” leader? Or maybe a “Pie and coffee” leader? Or maybe they will learn to be something completely different by watching you. They will become a leader who is interdependent. By using effective communication, you can build interdependent people and clear a path for unleashing their hidden talent.
Master Instructor at iSpeak