Hat tip to Hugh MacLeod and Gaping Void Art, I’ve been a fan for years and find his advice on leadership to be common sense.
Positive Relationships. Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups.
Good Judgement/Expertise. … the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. They must understand the technical aspects of the work as well as have a depth of experience.
Consistency. … the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do.
(Zenger, J. and Folkman, J. (2019). The 3 Elements of Trust. Harvard Business Review. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019])
And lord, how many jobs have I had where no one, not one executive or manager understood these three basic tenets of good leadership. It always frustrated me that at the lowest end of the totem pole possible, I knew more about leadership than anyone running the company did.
I have watched institutions, big and small, fall completely apart because leadership didn’t understand how to use the Golden Rule. To start with.
As a temp, and sadly, as a woman, I’ve been witness to more sexism and classism I ever thought possible. Because, c’mon I’m educated and smart, I work hard and get the job done. Over the years, my radar has become very finely tuned and can pick up micro-aggressions from across the building.
Most of my life, I’ve been like the canary in the coal mine. I saw it coming but was powerless to do anything about it. Pointing out the flaw in the system was usually dismissed until months later, the problem got too big to ignore. I’m over thinking, “If people would just listen to me …” But I’m just sayin’.
It’s not hard to gain an employees’ trust, if a leader is doing their job right. At a month into my latest day job, I trust them to do right by me. Because they’ve already shown me they know how to be a leader. The company is enormous and, granted, I have purposely stuck my head in the sand because I’m just tired of playing, but this company does things well.
As a contractor, I expected to be left out, for people not to remember my name or even be willing to acknowledge my presence. None of it’s happened. One executive walks through our area every morning greeting us by name, me included. Another manager makes sure the snack drawers are loaded and sets up the monthly birthday potlucks. And make sure to include me.
Cynicism in the workplace has become my go to strategy. That way I’m not hurt or surprised if someone looks right through me because I’m a temp or contractor. It’s happened. More than once.
At first I would get all tangled up and hurt but I’ve moved on. Because what kind of person are you that you stand right in front of someone and completely ignore them while introducing yourself to the person sitting at the table next to them? I’m certainly not the asshole in this scenario.
(Did I tell you the one about being denied access to the extra food which was going to go to waste because I was a temp? True story.)
Oh, and I have a long memory. There’s a list several miles long of people I will never work with again, ever. As a potential leader, I have learned great lessons on what not to do.
If a leader doesn’t treat their staff with respect, asking questions as they go along, the staff will never return that respect. And when crunch time comes, they won’t be motivated to go all in to get the job done.
Probably the worst thing is working for people who have no idea what my job is, how it’s done and what I need to get it done right. At one job, the first week my new manager started, I asked to schedule 1:1s, because I had a lot of questions and we needed to start setting policies. He blew me off. Completely. In his first week as a new manager with a staff of one, he blew that one off.
So, of course, as I continued to fumble along things went horribly awry. I had no back up, no one to turn to, and was set up for failure. The shocking thing is how common this is, across industries in companies small and big.
Over 30 years in Silicon Valley and I could tell stories that would make people weep. I probably have. And it’s so freaking simple. Walk around, introduce yourself (or reintroduce yourself), make yourself available. And show your staff that if you don’t know about their job, you want to learn. Take 15 minutes every week just to walk past and offer your hand, “How can I be of service to you?”
Don’t wait for the bullies to come knocking and watch a major blowup happen to one of your staff members. (Yeah, that happened too.) Set your entire group up to succeed. Lead by example, show them you’re not too good to get in the trenches with them if necessary.
And my goodness, praise them. Thank them for their hard work. Regularly. Don’t save it for meetings. Walk into someone’s cubicle and tell them how much you appreciate their work. Bring lunch in and sit at the table with them. And listen when they talk. Listen to what they have to say, don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
Good leadership isn’t hard. It shouldn’t be and makes me more than a little grouchy when I see how badly people botch it.
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