I once was a part of an organization with two key leaders at the top. Occasionally, you'd see one of them in the lunch room pouring a cup of coffee and people would rush in to get a cup themselves (even if they didn't want it), just to rub shoulders with that leader. Conversely, oftentimes people who were really needing their daily cup would turn around and go back later if the other leader was there. People are excited to see certain leaders and not excited to see others. Yet how does this coffee bar run-in illustrate deeper issues of leadership?
Let's face it, rare is the person who doesn't really want to be valued and appreciated. And one of the challenges many leaders face is the desire to be 'liked' by others. Yet sadly many leader never take the time to process through this simple litmus test about the impact of people skills on leadership:
Are people excited to see you?
It's been said hundreds of times before -- If you're leading and no one is following, you're just going for a walk. And yet all too often we never take the time to consider, really, who is following? Are all these people choosing to follow in my footsteps, or are they just stuck on the conveyer belt? Here are a few key questions leaders can ask themselves to determine the quality of your people skills as a leader:
- Are people excited to see you? Ask the simple question. Now, don't ask it directly of the people are on your team--they'll probably lie because they're too scared to tell the truth. But ask a trusted advisor, an outside coach, or someone you have particularly good trust with on the team. Are people excited to see you?
- Go a step further. After you get the answer to question number one, ask a follow up. If the answer is, "yes", why is that the case? Is it really about your relationship, trust, and personal impact? Or is it another, more superficial reason? If the answer is, "no", why is that? Are you intimidating, threatening, or just no fun to be around? Process through why these answers are what they are and determine your own course of action on how to get where you want to be.
- Determine what happens when you're gone. Take a week away, stay out of touch, and see what the response is like when you get back. Are others scrambling before you return because they're anxious about your presence? How was the culture while you were away? Did things get accomplished while you were gone and yet you're highly stressed when you got back? Could it be that you've built a well-functioning machine that actually slows down and stresses out when you're back? Or do you add grease to the cogs and make things run all the smoother when you're back?
- Take a walk around. Take some time away from your desk, out of your office, and walk around. Do people stop what they're doing to come be with you? Or do they stay focused, head-down? It could be the volume of work they have that keeps them from coming to you; but it's equally possible that they just don't want to be around you for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, most people will briefly pause what they're working on to come spend time with a leader they respect.
It's worth noting that leadership is not a popularity contest. The goal is not to be well-liked. However, quality leaders are respected and appreciated and people are excited to see them and be around them. Don't address a potential problem by trying a gimmicky response to be liked; but really get underneath the issues of your approachability.
The next time you're at the coffee pot, will people come over to get a little impromptu time with you? Or are they moving on because you're that hard to be around?
Need help evaluating your approachability? Know you need help in this area but aren't sure where to begin? Contact us today. We can help.