Being a manager means you track numbers, quotas, vacation days, attendance, and other tactical, measurable figures. Leadership is focusing on the people you have the privilege of leading while still keeping an eye and a handle on those figures that run the business, department, organization, or team and keep everyone employed and productive. Leadership is a matter of the head AND the heart. How do you balance the two?
Sometimes as leaders with a title, we forget that the people we work with have lives, challenges, stressors, and other things going on besides the job you’ve asked them to complete. Not that these outside issues are to be used as excuses, but not everyone is able to ignore the rest of their life and maintain productivity. Nor should they always have to. The people you lead are just that, people. They’re not mere hash marks on a budget or a line item on a P&L. They have birthdays, anniversaries, families, kids, and hobbies. The more you remember that, the more effective you will be at leading them, regardless of what life may put in their path.
Even Contagious Leaders have been guilty of saying “Check your emotions at the door”. We say it even knowing that only 25% of the population can actually do that and that most, merely stuff these emotions when you tell them to leave them outside. Give team members a place to vent emotions and share them or deal with them. Maybe it’s a 30 minute vent time in your office. Maybe it’s a designated wallowing area. You can make it lighthearted and yet give them an outlet, otherwise you masterfully create ticking time bombs who might have an emotional explosion at the most inopportune moment.
Everyone handles change differently including the members of the team you lead. They won’t all accept it just because you’ve said “That’s it. Here’s what the new deal is.” They won’t all do it “because you said so” and most importantly, human nature dictates that we struggle with change of any kind. There is a process, a phase a, b, c, approach, that we go through to accept change. The Phase B is where we struggle with the emotional piece and if you as a leader interrupt or cut too short, this natural process, you’re likely to create more damage control than the change would have initially caused. Meet them where they are, give them time to work through it and express themselves, and then request a move forward. People came to you as employees with minds of their own and that means you may accept the change before they do, particularly if you created it. If you want great results on changes with the people you lead, meet them where they are with it and guide them through the process.
Some of these tips may sound like you are going to some extraordinary lengths for the people you have the privilege of leading. The reality is they have a job to do and so do you, yet the reality we often forget is that you couldn’t DO your job without the people you lead. Thus, meeting them where they are, remembering that they are real people with real emotions, may help you to stay productive without the long periods of downtime that happen when we ignore or forget these facts. If you want to merely be a boss who says “do it because I said so”, go into computer programming where you’re telling a machine to follow your every command.