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Leadership is my passion. I love to study it, I try to practice it to the best of my ability, I create models to express its concepts in practical and actionable ways, and I find great joy in seeing sparks fly when someone gets inspired to take their leadership effectiveness to the next level.
What fascinates me about being a student and a coach in the area of leadership effectiveness is that it is always personal. It is not a one size fits all thing. There is not a single formula you can apply that is guaranteed to give you the same results. It requires a thorough understanding of the situation and people involved, and masterful navigation and course corrections to create the desired culture and results.
If the leader doesn’t have true passion for and commitment to the people and the mission of the organization, there are no tips, tricks, or hacks that will create a lasting transformation. However, I have found that those of us who have the passion and desire to truly lead and serve our organizations could sometimes use a few ideas that would help us express that desire in meaningful ways.
It is in that spirit that I’d like to share a few ideas for your consideration. I will leave it to you to evaluate these and only apply the ones that you believe are a genuine and authentic expression of your leadership and a fit with your organization’s culture. I do believe if done with genuine intent, these ideas can strongly reinforce your stand as a servant leader who takes interest in people’s engagement and empowerment. With that, here are some of the ideas that have worked for me in the past:
- Mail a hand-written thank you note to someone’s home – This can be such a powerful gesture, particularly when the employee has limited contact with you on a regular basis. Receiving this type of note can spark a conversation that would impart a sense of pride for the employee. It is also sure to reinforce that you cared enough to find out about a specific contribution and take the time to write a personal note and mail it. The watch out is that this practice loses its value if it is automated or over-used. We have all received those impersonal Christmas cards from senior leadership that didn’t really mean anything. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
- Move your office to wherever your people sit – This does so much more than telling people you have an open door policy. It will feel a little weird to people at first to see their boss sitting in the next cubicle, but soon you will find that the communication barriers break down and you will have conversations that people would not have bothered traveling to the corner office to engage you in. By the way, even if you do this for a short period of time, it will be noticed and the lines of communication that have been opened up will continue for quite some time.
- Ask someone who does not regularly interact with you for their opinion on a specific issue – Again, it is one thing to tell people you are interested in their ideas and encourage them to voice their opinion any time, and something entirely different to look them in the eye and ask them, specifically, what they think of a specific topic and what they would do if they were king or queen for a day. If this is not the sort of behavior they would expect of you, it may feel a bit weird to them , and you, for a while but it does wonders as people get the message that you are truly interested in their opinions.
- Mention the accomplishments of one of your team members to your boss and have him/her acknowledge the person – This type of recognition not only builds credibility for your boss as someone who took the time to acknowledge the person. It also causes the person to appreciate that you are confident and secure enough in your capabilities that you freely give credit where it is due.
- Publicly admit that you were wrong and make it right – Often times the gains in a forthright acknowledgement of a mistake and genuine action to rectify it outweigh the damage that was done by making the mistake to begin with.
- Extend trust when the stakes are high – The best way to elevate someone’s view of just how much confidence you have in them is to extend trust to them when the stakes are high and they don’t think they would be trusted to handle the situation. This is not to say we should set people up for failure or leave them to sink or swim, but we have all experienced those moments when someone in a position of authority, be it our parents or a leader, delegated something to us that we thought was so much bigger than we could handle. Those are the defining moments of true growth and development when a person’s view of who they are and what they can do shifts to a higher level.
- Break down organizational barriers by ending an old tradition or starting a new one – We all have the artifacts and evidence of the old culture lingering around long after we have declared our intention to create a new culture. We may take steps to demonstrate our desire to have an inclusive environment but we hold on to those sacred things like the exclusive lunch rooms or parking spots, or whatever other privileges that preserve a division among the have’s and have not’s. It is only when you give up something that hurts that people know you are serious about breaking down the barriers.
Most of these interventions only impact a single person or a small number of people at a time, but you will be amazed at the compounding effect of just how far and wide these genuine acts of engagement and empowerment will spread, and how quickly others in the organization will begin to hear about these behaviors and want to emulate them. What ideas have worked for you? Don't be shy. If you have some ideas, please share them in the comments section.
The Bottom Line:
Thoughtful acts of genuine empowerment, encouragement, and engagement go a long way in communicating to the organization what their leaders values and create lasting impressions that people will talk about for years. If done with the genuine intent to lead and serve, every bit of effort that goes into carrying out thoughtful these gestures is an investment in the culture and results of the organization.
Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! As always, I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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