As leaders, our words hold power.
What we say and how we say it, whether in tone and inflection or body language, are all interpreted by our audience based on their individual lenses. Regardless of our intent, it is that individual perception that most influences reality.
Every communication has a purpose, from informing to influencing. It could be setting objectives for the year, rallying the troops to meet a key deadline, or announcing organizational change.
Starting a new job is like starting a new relationship. It can be intoxicating, making you want to spend all your time with it. It can be stressful, learning new things about yourself and others. It can be as comforting as a warm blanket.
While each job is different, as each relationship is different, there are patterns that emerge over time.
Recognizing a pattern, and determining if it’s a healthy or unhealthy one, is the only way to make sure we achieve the outcomes we desire. This can make the difference between a long-term commitment and a short-term crash and burn.
Months ago, a senior leader asked me how I move my B players along to free up room for my A players. I told him I don’t.
Instead, I explained that I have a system that allows me to get the best performance out of what someone else might consider a B player. That my methods often make them perform like A’s.
It’s easy to see where the question is coming from. There are some individuals that seem to excel, no matter the conditions or expectations. It could be they just haven’t been put in the right (or wrong) conditions to falter, but they are out there.
However, even talented, high-potential individuals may struggle in a role that is undefined, a poor fit and/or lacking leadership support.
Most of what we do in a work environment involves problem solving. At its core, the best problem solving goes back to the scientific method, an approach I learned and embraced in 8th grade science class. It resonates with me to this day.
What astounds me is that more people do not seem to follow it. Several key steps – knowing the problem, understanding the environment we are operating in, and checking at the end to make sure the problem has been solved, are often bypassed for going right to the solution.
Forgetting these steps is like using a ready, fire, aim approach with a weapon. Without understanding the environment, we can shoot at the target all day long and miss. If our aim is off, or non-existent, we are unlikely to hit the mark. The result is a waste of precious time and ammunition (resources) doing it again.
It’s been 9 months since I started meeting regularly with a small group of aspiring women leaders. Every month, we get together and talk about a myriad of topics. This week, I was running a few minutes late to our lunch gathering and witnessed something magical.
They didn’t wait for me.
Instead, they were connecting on their own, asking each other questions about work and life, opportunities and challenges. It was beautiful to behold.
Recently, our organization brought someone new on board. In our first meeting, I felt an immediate kinship with him. Though we just met, each time we talk, it’s like we’ve known each other for years. Sometimes it’s like that – an effortless connection or affinity with someone new.
When he asked me for insight to the politics and people of the organization, I was happy to oblige. But first, I had to explain to him the way I “see” people.
I evaluate two things – intent and alignment – when I want to engage, pitch, and otherwise work with others. When evaluating intent, the question I try to answer is “does the person mean well?” For alignment, it’s “are we coming at this [issue/opportunity] from the same perspective?”