Wednesday, September 9, 2009

People need time.

Recently, I have been thinking about what it takes to become a good leader.  Actually, I don't know many other people who think about this and study this topic as much as I do who aren't on the book circuit.  I think about it quite a lot because I don't want to let people down who depend on me.  I want people to feel like they matter. Like they are heard.  Because that's what we all want. 

Remember when you were a kid and nobody listened?  You screamed, yelled, stomped your feet and basically caused a scene so your parents would have to respond to you.  As we grew up, we became socialized in school to behave differently.  We were taught to resist these outbursts. But feelings of being ignored or discounted don't go away just because they can't be expressed.  As we got older, we learned to go under ground with our feelings. 

In the world that I observe most of the time, I find that this type of outcry manifests itself in different ways.  Some people are verbal but they can be damaging and hurtful.  Others withdraw and hide and hope to live below the wire and go unnoticed.  Others generally resist what ever it is that happens to be presented to them.

In the corporate world, we use all kinds of code words that leaders should apply, but the concepts alone do not make a good leader.  Performance management is just another way of sitting down with people and laying out expectations.

Lots of time, we don't recognize what performance management is.  I think it's about listening and talking.  If you never meet with your staff, one on one, and don't take an interest in their work lives and who they are as people, you can never break through the barrier. 

Just like in the classroom when I was 6, bad teachers attempted to teach everyone the same way.  Good teachers knew that they had 30 different people, and worked to find ways to reach each child, somehow. 

We are not much different as adults.  Our values define us. Different things motivate us.  Different things matter.  It's about discovering who the person is, and building a relationship based on trust and honesty so that when it comes time to tackle the tough stuff, there is a foundation of safety already in place.

In my own work life, I never feel like I have enough time with people.  And that is my job.  Management gets bogged down in the work and that in itself is a problem.  If managers are actually doing the work, how can they coach and mentor.

And that brings us to another problem these days that is plaguing us.  Most managers are working managers becasue organizations cannot afford managers who are not working.  There are not enough hands in the game as it is. 

But there are some things we can do on purpose.  Meet weekly with each team member, or biweekly to discuss progress, work, issues and concerns.  Dedicate time to development of professional and personal objectives, and then talk about how they are progressing.  Make sure people know what their job is, and what is expected of them, by when.  Ensure work processes are not barriers, and give them permission to change what is not working for them.  Make sure people have the time to do their job.

I wish I was as good a manager as I am able to describe.  I try every day. That's the best I can do.

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