Leadership is hard and the leadership journey is littered with many lessons learned along the way. While its obvious leaders are human and will always make mistakes, leadership behavior will always have a direct impact on the well-being and satisfaction of the people they are privileged to lead. It’s been said people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers and in most cases, I believe this to be true.
Looking back, I have found the times when my leadership has suffered it can be traced back to selfishness. In my mind, I would be asking things like “Why can’t this person be more like me? That’s not how I would do it.” or “How will this mistake someone on my team made reflect on me?” The physical response to these questions would typically result in over-reactions and micro-management.
Over time, I have come to the realization that being a respected, yet selfless leader comes down to saying and meaning two simple phrases that are spoken to your people as frequently as possible. Provide vision, direction, encouragement, and support for your team and then do everything you can to overuse these words:
“I trust you”
I trust you completely without a single doubt in my mind of your abilities.
I trust that you will ask for help if you need it but otherwise, go out and do amazing things.
“I’m proud of you”
I’m proud of the work you create everyday.
I’m proud of the unique ideas you bring.
I’m proud that you tried something out of your comfort zone and “failed.”
I know I’m getting close to overuse when someone will reply with “I know you trust me!” or “I know you’re proud of me!” but I keep saying it anyway…
What if you’re having a tough time saying these words to someone on your team? What if you don’t really trust them? As hard as it is to do sometimes, I start from a position of complete trust and pride for everyone on my team. At the first tinge of doubt that may infringe on my trust in them, I use it as an internal trigger. Not a trigger to figure out what is wrong with him, or start judging them, or start a development plan for her. Rather, I start with what am I NOT doing:
Have I spent enough time teaching, mentoring, or coaching them?
Have I given them every thing they need to do amazing things?
Am I adapting my leadership approach based on their personality and learning traits (and not mine)?
Have I spent enough time with them to find out a little about their life outside of work?
When was the last time I recognized or praised them?
When was the last time I wrote a hand-written note of appreciation for them choosing to work here?