The Major Thing Successful Leaders Do Differently

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Have you ever worked for someone who should have had caution tape wrapped around them so everyone would know they were a predator? The attacks were subtle. Would it be today's "casual" desk drive by or tomorrow's passive aggressive email? 

You never knew when it would happen so your guard was always up. That means you second guessed their intentions and toed the line between wanting to trust them but knowing you couldn't. You worked in fear, scared to make a wrong move because you never knew when they would pounce.

It's because that manager valued results over people.

Leaders who come from the mindset of "as long as we're getting results does it matter how it's being accomplished?" treat their people like prey.

Leaders who come from the mindset of "if I put my people first the results will follow" are much more successful. Because the same qualities that it takes to put people first - humility, empathy, integrity - are the same ones that make results happen. Really. And here's what they look like. 

Successful leaders know that unwritten rules can destroy a team's culture. All teams have unwritten rules that govern how they treat each other. Here are two I see all the time: responding to emails in the middle of the night so everyone thinks they should be doing it too and using BCC in an email chain to passively call someone out. These unwritten rules (aka: it's expected that you work all the time and it's okay to throw each other under the bus) make employees feel like prey. Which means they aren't doing their best work because they don't feel trusted and valued. 

They also give feedback in manageable chunks. Successful leaders (vs. managers who see their team as another item on the to do list) give feedback (positive and constructive!) in the moment. They don't save it all for performance review time. They don't save it all for performance review time. They consistently share the great things that are happening and hold their people accountable for changing behaviors that aren't working. In a nice way. Because when they give constructive feedback, it's not tied to a bonus or year-end review score. It's coming from the heart.

And they say thank you. All the time.  And in different ways, like sending emails, bringing something special to a weekly team meeting (Oh yeah! They do this too!), leaving everyone's favorite snack on their desk, telling everyone to go home early on a Friday, and making personal development a priority.

Put people first and the results follow. Successful leaders know this works and stand out from the crowd because it's not the norm to see managers prioritizing their people and team culture above results and metrics and money. But it's the right thing to do. 

When You Pretend to be Present

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We all know what being present means: not touching our cell phone, turning completely away from the computer, looking the person who is speaking in the eye. Yet so many leaders only pretend to be present and don't realize the toll its taking on the culture of their teams and the perception others have of them.

Presence is a critical leadership skill that isn't being addressed.

So many leaders wear their "multitasking" superhero shirt and pretend to pay attention. They show up on time to meetings, fake listening by nodding and asking questions at the right moments, and even take a few notes. They do it in meetings and they do it with their employees (and then their employees emulate that same behavior). And the outcome is detrimental over time - when encountering leaders who pretend to be present, employees do not feel listened to, respected, or valued.

In The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane defines presence as one of three components to being trusted and liked. "Presence determines whether you're seen as a follower or a leader, whether your ideas get adopted, and how effectively your projects are implemented." Even more, "Being present - paying attention to what's going on rather than being caught up in your own thoughts - can yield immense rewards for leaders."

In a coaching session this week I listened to a Gary describe the impact of not bringing his laptop to meetings. He recently made the change because in a 360 feedback survey his direct reports felt like when they talked to him he really wasn't listening, and he thought that leaving his laptop at his desk would make an impact.

It worked.

Over four weeks, Gary noticed quite a few improvements in the culture of his team. The conversations in his 1:1 meetings were richer. Without asking them to, his direct reports actually stopped bringing their laptops to meetings, which made meetings more efficient (and many were ending early because of it). He was being more intentional on creating a to do list because of the notes he was taking while away from his laptop.

Most importantly - there was not a business crisis and no one lost their mind because Gary was away from his computer for a one hour meeting! This was such a valuable lesson because it was the reason he was glued to his laptop - to answer every email and address every problem the second it came in, out of fear that he would be blamed for something or someone would get angry.

All along, Gary had been pretending to be present, and his team felt it. He was caught up in his own thoughts, often zoning out while they talked (What's your zoned out look? The bobble-head nod, glazed over eyes, no eye contact at all?) or typing away on his laptop.

And all along, the culture of the team was disintegrating. Gary wasn't really trusted or respected . The team felt like they were a burden that got in the way of Gary doing his job. Gary felt frustrated and stressed most of the time.

Presence can't be faked. When we're not paying full attention, people see it. And when we are paying full attention, people feel it. Changing how present you are with your team can have a huge impact on team culture and improve engagement, which will increase morale and work output. And it's probably easier than you think. Start by leaving your laptop at your desk and take note of what happens.

The Charisma Myth changed the way I interact with others. I recommend it to a majority of leaders I coach. If you're looking for tips on how to be present or increase your overall charisma, you won't be disappointed.