I consider myself to be a good leader. Considerate, thoughtful, strategic, helpful, a good mentor, coach, attentive listener, and, a fairly nice guy. I also consider myself to be the kind of person that gets things done. Effective, efficient, proficient, strategic, great at my craft, with finely honed skills, vast experience, and above all, accountable to myself and others. My wife will take exception with much of this, as may more than a few others, but please bear with me. There is a method to this madness.
Look, let’s get one thing straight, I am not bragging, and don’t have such a lofty opinion of myself that I can’t be objective. I do recognize and acknowledge my weaknesses and shortcomings. I have a lot of them! I have spent a life time examining myself, being introspective, and working on my issues, problems, blind spots, weaknesses and the areas of my life where I am deficient.
I have been through 360 Reviews, Steven Covey 7 Habits, 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last and Start With Why, Excellent Cultures training and MOLOs (More of Less of) and other seminars, webinars, and various and sundry other training sessions, not to mention dozens and dozens of self help and personal development courses and books.
I take personal development and continuous improvement seriously. And although there certainly is plenty of room in my personal development plan for more improvement, I believe that I have made significant strides in many areas. But… as I found out…and as you will come to know if you read on, as a leader, what YOU believe, is not nearly as important as what others perceive and believe.
You see, I recently had an experience that brought things to a head for me. This experience caused me to rethink my entire approach to how I saw myself working with and treating people, how I went about working on the self improvement things I had decided were important to focus on, and how I actually carried out my day to day activities.
The experience itself is not that important to describe, but I should tell you a bit about it so that you can appreciate the rest of what I am about to share. Suffice to say that members of my team became concerned with the way I was interacting with them, how I had conducted myself in meetings and sessions where we were working on solutions to issues and project related work, and disgusted (yes, disgusted) with my dialog and treatment of them. The bottom line is that they came forward to my superiors to voice their concerns. If I can paraphrase, the consensus was, “We never know which Henry is going to show up, the good Henry, or the bad Henry.” The bright side is that at least there was a Good Henry!
Wake up call! Clang Clang Clang!
So let’s cut to the chase. Here are the 6 Leadership Lessons I took away from the entirety of the circumstances surrounding these sets of events.
Your perception, is not as important as what others perceive
Unless you are destined to be a jerk, or a hermit, or are going to star in the remake of Castaway, and especially if you want to be a truly effective leader, how others perceive you is important. I just don’t know any other way to state this, and how important it is. You MUST know how others perceive you and it MUST be important to you. It MUST drive how you interact, behave, and deal with others.
Perception is reality to most people
Most times there is a gap, big or small, between perception and reality. No matter. You MUST be aware of it, you MUST figure it out, and you MUST close the gap. The closer the reality is to the perception of who you are, the more effective a leader you will be.
Other’s realities are the realities you ought to be concerned with
Its more important to be concerned with other people’s reality than yours. See your reality as subservient of their reality. Be a Servant Leader. And if the issue is that you find someone has a mistaken sense of reality, and you are sure, because other people see things as you see things, and they don’t agree with the others whose realities are different than yours, then help them to work towards the collectively help reality. That was a bit of a logic pretzel, but hopefully, I was able to make myself clear.
You MUST be on guard all the time
As a leader, you are on stage all the time. You are observed all the time, you are listened to all the time. What you say, how you say it, how you behave, the talk AND the walk, are observed, and judged all the time. Leaders are held to a higher standard. Unfair you say? Face it, deal with it. If you don’t like it, perhaps leadership is not for you. Now, everyone has a bad day here and there, but you should be aware of who showed up for work today as much as you possibly can, and if you don’t feel up to your usual self now and again, considering calling in sick (smile). Or be on double guard, and if you catch yourself in a behavior or saying something that you realize is not consistent with who you want and/or need to be, correct it on the spot, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Feelings are part of the equation
People are not project resources, not the means to get sh*t done. They are PEOPLE. They have feelings, dreams, wants, needs, fears, aspirations. They are frail, as strong as they might appear from time to time. Never forget this. Treat people as the human beings they are, and with the care and compassion and patience they deserve.
Stand Up Comedy is only appropriate at Open Mike Night at The Improv
You can be witty, you can use humor, but you cannot be witty or humorous or sarcastic at the expense of others. Err on the side of caution. One person’s humor is another’s insult or offense. Watch what you say, and how you say it. If you have a doubt about something, don’t say it. What Jimmy Kimmel or Fallon or Conan said last night, is only appropriate in that context, not in your context as a leader. Also, as a reminder to myself, more than anything, people have given names, and self-accepted nicknames. These are the only ones that are appropriate to use.
There they are. A half dozen bruising lessons for me. Hopefully helpful for you as well.
You might be asking, “so where’s the How To here, Hank?”. It’s OK to call me Hank. Hardly anyone does, except for a VERY few close friends. Consider me a close friend! Well, I am not going to get into a detailed “How To” here. That’s better left for another post. But I will share a few bullet points, without much elaboration.
2 – Find people who will give you honest feedback about you and how you walk and talk
3 – Get a 360 done or a MOLO (write to me or sign up on my blog and I will tell you how)
4 – Spend time every day, at the end of the day being introspective and taking inventory on what and how you did – BTW, Alcoholics Anonymous, AA, has an EXCELLENT Self Inventory HERE which is part of Step 10.
5 – Buy a few good books and read them. Write to me, and I’ll share a list with you.
Even self improvement and personal development is a means to an end. The end is not just about a better you. It’s about a better you in how you lead, work and collaborate with, and interact with people. Your people. All people.
This was a tough one to write.
Let me know what you think. I am listening. Honestly.