Category Archives: People Development
Look at the list of professional roles below and see if you can find a leadership trait that each has in common with the rest:
- Circus Ringmaster
- Symphony Conductor
- School Teacher
- Healthcare Professional (Nurse, Doctor, Specialist, Weight Loss Coach)
- Law Officer
What these roles have in common is their sole purpose is to bring out the best in those they interface with, without glory for themselves. This commonality is the core of their leadership, and anyone else’s as well.
Each of these roles function is to make those around them better, while working hard to perfect their calling. They may be the focal point at first glance, but careful discernment shows the prefer others to be focused on instead.
Let’s look quickly at how each one does this and what we can learn from their approach.
Circus Ringmaster. You may think this person is the center stage attraction. Every act they have the spotlight, and their showmanship and persona gain the attention of everyone in the audience. But their core job is to build up excitement and anticipation for the main acts and to slip behind the curtain away from the spotlight to allow the performers to showcase their talents. Great leaders promote their people and never stand in the way of their ability to “Wow” their customers.
Symphony Conductor. It takes years of study to attain to this level of musical mastery, yet the conductor is only 1 of 50, 100 or more people working together. They may be a headliner to a degree (such as Arthur Fiedler) but usually perform with their back towards their audience, having the musicians face the crowd. Their job is to get the best performance of each musician, each section, and create a culture of teamwork and professionalism to give a peak performance, over and over, each night.
School Teacher. To have the power to effect young and impressionable minds of the future should not be a task taken lightly. Teachers are charged with creating foundations for academics, model citizens, and fostering behaviors to mold the next generation of (all-too-soon-to-be) adults. To balance teaching core principles, truth, critical thinking, and mutual respect as well as keeping their students engaged and motivated daily are similar to what many leaders face every day. That all with the focus of getting children to learn and believe in their talents as they are just starting to discover them.
Healthcare Professional. The roles of these women and men may work more on the physical needs, but they work on the mental and emotional needs of those that depend on them. Their goal is a simple one – to make people better, healthier – by their skills and also through education, compassion, and sacrificing themselves. Many of these women and men work long hours to save a life, often putting themselves at risk. A great leader serves others in spite of the inherent danger they may face themselves, without recognition many times. (When a patient heals, it’s almost always said they made a great recovery and rarely does the credit go the to nurse or doctor).
Pastor. A pastor’s true calling is not to build a big mega-church, write best sellers, make people feel better, or have a large video audience. Theirs is a simple yet difficult calling – to faithfully teach the Scriptures to their congregation and help them towards spiritual maturity. Handled properly they can help positively impact many lives; but an incorrect misuse of the text or their office can leave lives, families, and whole communities in shambles. Pastors devote themselves to careful study, long hours, of prayer and ministry, and forego the comforts of their home lifestyle to meet the needs of others in their homes, the hospital, or wherever the need occurs. They grieve when people falter, and are patient and long-suffering to see folks grow slowly over years and decades. They are the true servant leaders who serve others to help them grow spiritually.
Law Officer. While this role may seem out of sorts juxtaposed on this list, their position is a unique one, especially those with integrity. They swear an oath to protect and to serve others, through both enforcing the law and keeping the order and safety of the citizens in their city or town. They serve through all elements (no bad weather days) and oftentimes volunteer to put their bodies and lives at risk to ensure the welfare of others. They personify servant leadership by placing their own well being to the limits in order to ensure citizens have freedom and peace form those who oppose it.
Virtually all of these servant leader roles are thankless jobs; others get the attention and recognition when things go right, and they take all of the blame when things go wrong. Yet true servant leadership is not worried about where the credit goes, they simply want others to do better as a result of their talents and skills and position.
Consider how your own role can model a better servant leader influence. Take some guidance from these noble positions and incorporate their passion into serving others.
Many companies are using employee surveys and other methods to gauge the “temperature” of the company. But how many of them actually take the “temperature” of the individual employees on their teams?
I was privileged to work with an excellent mentor years ago from Britain. Mike was as proper an Englishman as you could come across and was an engaging leader in so many senses of the term. One of his strengths, a practice that I still use to this very day, is what he called a “One-to-One” or, more loosely, a “Temperature Check”. I have used the latter term more commonly over the years, partially as it plays on the daily functions in the hospitality industry, but also in using this as a true indicator of how hot or cold a particular person is in the organization.
The purpose of these checks is to drive down to the core feelings of the team, both individuals, and as a whole. It is a great opportunity to not only find out more of what was happening in the field, but to also build relationships and stronger working bonds that ultimately brings the team more close. To make the most of these checks, we discovered a few guidelines in order to make them most effective:
1. Make “Temperature Checks” informal and light. These are meant to be open communications. Have them in the team members’ area, not your office, or they become nervous and on the defensive that they’re being reprimanded. Have coffee. Ask how their family is doing. Set the tone for casual conversation.
2. Be up front in your expectations. Tell the staff person what you hope to get out of your talk. Let them know they can talk in confidence, with nothing to be held back, even it there is anything negative about you. Let them know your commitment is to make them, the team, and yourself better so work can be both enjoyable and productive.
3. Qualify the 3 F’s – Feelings, Facts, and Fault. You’ll be confronted with all of these in most every temp check. When the person talking says “I feel” or “I’m afraid”, ask them to clarify. Sometimes it’s based on gut rather than objective evidence. When specifics are given, pull out more detail to ensure the facts are accurate. When fault or blame is given, if at all applicable, take it yourself, for the team. This type of responsibility is a breath of fresh air, and will go a long way in bridging any trust gaps between the two of you.
4. Be honest. While it seems so self-explanatory, it’s just good practice. Any lies or embellishment will either be found out then or shortly afterward. If that is the case, you’ve undermined the enitre process, and wasted both of your time.
5. Under-promise and over-deliver. A basic customer service principle that applies just as strongly to this situation – because you are working with your internal customer. Making guarantees to fix something might seem all well and good, until other facts or forces beyond your control hamper you from making the solution happen as you told them. Instead, let them know you will both commit to finding a solution, and to keep them appraised of the steps towards resolving their concerns. Then follow through. By keeping them up to date, they see you are taking their concerns seriously, and respecting their input.
6. Thank them for their efforts. Leave the conversation making sure that the person knows their value to the company, and that you recognize it as well. Lead them to be inspired to better action, attitude, and trust by letting them know you appreciate them and that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside them.
Temperature checks can be great, informal ways to have a dialogue with your people and get their views on your culture and what’s working, or not. By following the above steps you can transform your culture, deepen employee engagement, and build stronger levels of trust by simply valuing your people’s feelings, thoughts, and skills.
There are two types of leaders.
Those who are critics, and those who are cheerleaders.
Critics are those types of leaders who feel their knowledge and experience give them a superiority over everyone else.
These are leaders who look down on others, and don’t believe anyone can tell them anything that they don’t already know.
One of the fatal flaws a critical leader commits is discounting someone’s input because they feel their experience is inferior and not qualified to matter. They discount the hourly employee’s input who is new to the job, the young manager who only has an associate’s degree, or someone’s view on workflow because they don’t work on the factory floor but in the office. They fail to realize that people many times have valid viewpoints based on their observations and collective experience.
These leaders don’t build others up or develop people. Instead, they put them down and find people with the similar critical spirit to enter into their circles, creating more of the same spirit throughout the organization. This enables toxic and untrustworthy behavior and is always short-sighted. They also usually make very poor personnel decisions due to their elevated sense of self and contempt for those they deem lesser than themselves.
The other end of the spectrum are those leaders that are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are not necessarily a “ra-ra” motivational personality. Instead they are the steady leadership style that elevates everyone around them to grow and develop.
Cheerleading leaders give higher value to their people, their insight, and their development. They give each person and equal value and voice and cast a vision within them to inspire them to give feedback for the greater mission.
These types of leaders have no problem stepping aside and giving others credit, leadership in projects, and a platform for input. They are more tolerable and forgiving for mistakes, and while demanding a high degree of performance, know that their people need time to develop and learn.
They esteem others more than themselves, knowing that the best organizations are more than the leader but the sum of all it’s constituents. They usually make the best personnel decisions which lead to more sustainable growth and achievement of the company’s goals. Cheerleaders are the ones who better develop future leaders.
Work to be a cheerleader who looks up to your people, not a critic who look down at others. Only one mindset can make a positive, lasting impact.
(image: wikimedia commons)