When you meet them, instantly you feel comfortable, like you've known them forever. They don't play bullshit games of phony hierarchies -- yet there's no doubt whose in charge. You can't wait to work with them, because when you do, you feel like you can do anything because they believe in you and your ability to get things done. They give you assignments, knowing that they are vague and rely on you to come through. As you present your solution, they praise you, enhancing your good idea with a few suggestions that make it even better. They make you feel like you can fly because they give you the wings you need to lift off.
I've learned the most from those people who have been generous with their time and their knowledge and most of all, their trust in me. By entrusting me, they gave me not only the confidence to perform well, but the impetus to perform at my best. Was it to please them? Partially, yes. But it was also to prove to myself that I was as smart as they thought I was.
In my line of work (management, marketing, data & analytics) I have seen many very book smart people who lack EQ (emotional quotient.) They know what to do, but they have no idea how to really relate to other people (other than superficially) or how to really motivate them. They don't know how to empower their teams. They use authoritarian styles of management, and have a very difficult time thinking quickly on their feet because they haven't developed an ability to trust their guts. Their teams often stagnate because they don't feel like they are trusted or empowered to act on their own. They can't fly when their wings are clipped. They stop caring and start pointing fingers when things go awry. They tell the boss exactly what the boss wants to hear because they know they aren't really going to be heard anyway.
I've also been on teams filled with racehorses, ready to go, but the leader provides little direction so the team gallops off in different directions, stirring up a lot of dust. Have you ever watched a crew race? You'll never win if you're not all rowing in the same direction with a strong person at stern as your coxswain. Leaders who don't appreciate and channel the strong members of their teams will wind up having people go rogue or worse, leave and go to the competition. Frustration builds among those who remain and nothing substantial gets accomplished.
My mentors have always treated me with respect and I hope that I've done the same for those who have worked with me. I feel that each person who comes to you has a special gift and it's up to you as a leader to figure out what that gift is. You need to determine how to use it towards your mission, or how to place that person in another role where he or she can shine.
Everyone wants to do well. Everyone wants to be successful and grow. It's up to the leaders to take good, hard looks in the mirror and constantly assess how to better articulate the vision, chart the course forward, and use the biggest damned macheté to cut down anything in the path of success of the team, including yourself when your ego gets in the way. Because strong leaders and strong teams together? They are unstoppable!
- This post is dedicated to Ann, Erica, Julia & Frank & Debbie & Steve & Judy - amazing mentors, all, in different ways. And special thanks to Wendy who got me riffing off her post...