Sunday, April 18, 2010

Leading your staff more than just with your brain

The truth is that building strong and good work relationship amongst our office staff and within the organization can be tough and challenging for office leaders. Most of us naturally are inclined to lead with our heads, believing we are experience and intelligent, through organized planning, extensive review and as usual a steady temperament. That approach has generally suited everyone but not a perfect approach.

By leading with our heads is also the same trait that tempts us to head to the running trails for a solo workout instead of walking around to chat with office staff. Often we leave a room as soon as a meeting is over to get to the next assignment, instead of sticking around for a few extra minutes to connect with colleagues on a more personal level. Normally we do not do more “personnel contact”. In certain cases, that could be a good thing for a leader; it's important to maintain independence and a little distance. But, like any leadership strength, self-reliance and playing things close to the vest can be overdone.

In hard times, as some of us are facing now, leading with our heads is not enough. Our staff need more than sheer business expertise, whether it be a smart strategy, the right organizational structure, or clever technical solutions. It is also hard for leaders to build trust with their people—and without that trust it's hard to accomplish much. In many organizations, most of the colleagues are working more hours for less pay and benefits.

Then there are some practical steps to leading more than just with your head. The more we practice them, the better you'll become at connecting with your staff and colleagues.

• Listen to individual

Now more than ever, we need to be a CLO, Chief Listening Officer in your organization. Make sure you devote several meetings each week simply to listening to colleagues, customers and your peers. When you're in these meetings, maintain eye contact, lean forward, nod. Show you're engaged.

Just as significantly, pay attention to what the other person is expressing, not only with their words but also through their tone of voice, facial expressions, and posture. Can you accurately summarize the thoughts and feelings being shared with you? If not clear, suggest ask for clarifications. Do not practice “mind reading” as we know there is no such skill and able to accurately read others mind of what they are thinking. Also do not ever try to be a psychologist and guess what others have in their mind.

• Be known in the office

It's often the practice to eat a quick lunch at your desk so that there is a chance to make phone calls, check through reports and read or clear some e-mails. Make a point once a week of sitting down at a table and joining your staff and get engage in conversation over lunch.

• Show gratitude

A word of “thank you” to an overworked, underappreciated employee can make a huge difference. It's even more important when a bad economy last year restrain or prevent the company to reward staff financially. Be specific, and they'll know you understand something about their role—and that makes your praise all the more and meaningful.
• Invest in staff development

Ensure that your teams are engaged in meaningful work and that you have good development plans for the staff members. If things are slow for one team, turn its members loose on key projects that are important for the future of the organization and that will help build their skills. Nothing is more important than showing interest in the professional development of your staff —so the company should try to invest more often in the training of staff they need.

I do not believe there is a guarantee that following this advice will suddenly help you lead as authentically. But at the very least, we can all get considerably better at connecting with our office colleagues through focus and practice. We need to make leading of our staff with our hearts as one of the many staff management priorities. When we don't, we jeopardize all the magnificent plans in our mind and worst of all, the company or organization will not be progressing fast and better than it’s competitors over the present competitive global arena.

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