Many leaders drive others harder than they need to. What results is a constant push for their team to achieve those goals. Meetings consist of checking the lists of things to be fixed and get done NOW.
Recently, I listened with awe as leaders described a change of heart following my Coaching for Breakthrough Performance workshop where we spent significant time on skills that build relationships. Many described their newfound recognition of moving relationship building with their stakeholders higher on their priority list.
One poignant example came from a retail leader who told how her days are filled with meetings with store managers. Her normal way of operating is to walk into each store, make lists of problems and then spend her time with the managers telling them what they needed to fix. After the workshop, she committed to spending time in the following week just listening to the store managers.
Many leaders need to move these relationship-building behaviors up to the top of their priority list:
- Listening: When I ask a leader’s stakeholders (especially direct reports) about opportunities for the leader’s improvement, I often hear “I don’t feel heard” – even (especially) about well-respected seasoned leaders! Many leaders feel compelled to let people know how much they know. The truth is that relationships are built by listening to others.
- Asking: Instead of telling your stakeholders everything you know, the catalyst to helping them feel heard is inquiry. I know that you’re skilled at telling people things but it doesn’t do a lot to help others grow and develop. Becoming skilled at asking curious questions that you and your stakeholders don’t know the answers to is a great way for everyone to learn.
- Developing: Helping others to develop is part of your job. Yes, you still need to get results but you’ll discover that as you mentor, coach, teach, and train others, the results will follow. And what follows that is significant satisfaction as they become skilled and you find you don’t need to “push” them to meet goals; they’ll know how to get there.
- Encouraging: Another common theme I hear when I speak to stakeholders is that the leader’s way of operating is to find “what’s wrong.” Criticism and problem solving are the default communication tool. What if you looked for the things that people are doing right and encouraged them by letting them know what you noticed instead?
- Thanking: Don’t wait until the work is completed to say thank you. Find ways to appreciate your stakeholders along the way. A brief email, a handwritten card, or a conversation about what you’ve noticed will go a long way toward helping others to feel good about what they’re doing and repeat it.
I’ve observed first-hand what’s possible leaders take the time to put a higher priority on relationships. You may believe this is unproductive at first. If you stick with it, you’ll notice the commitment, motivation, and engagement in your organization that can result in bottom line impact.
More From Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.