I have a confession to make: My boss can read me in a second.
Ones who know me in person might say that’s not too hard – I’m like an open book. I say whatever is on my mind. Often, when no one wants to hear it.
But I also have hidden pages. And my boss can read them as well. And we don’t even work in the same country.
But the point of this post is not to give compliments to my boss, although she deserves it, but to point out one extremely important characteristic of exceptional leaders: when they read their team members well, they use it for the wellbeing of everyone else (and the business), instead of misusing it by taking advantage or making them feel bad.
Although we all work for companies, goals and money, we also work with or for people.
Personally, I work mostly for people during the last few years of my career. And I say that loud and clear to everyone around me.
That’s why I find it even more important that my superior understands why I’m exposing some vulnerable sides of me.
In most cases, people aren’t even close to feeling safe enough to expose their weaknesses. Because, many bosses will misuse that. Maybe not because they are evil people, but because they don’t feel secure enough and they see their team members as threats or sometimes because they don’t have the capacity – emotional intelligence – to act differently. It’s much easier to attack and to push someone towards the edge (they call it stretching in HR nowadays), then to really understand one’s behaviour, motivation and work with it to get the best possible results.
One may argue that term “use” is also very negative. And that I should not put it in a people management and leadership context.
But lets be fair: in a corporate environment people are being used to achieve one’s own goals.
Multinationals nowadays wrap that in a nicer package of purpose, mission and vision, but at the end, a corporate puzzle has the ultimate goal of achieving results and bringing money to shareholders and bonuses to managers. And that’s fine. Even the non-business environments like charities or NGOs work on the basis of cruel principles of modern capitalism. And we sign the contract saying that our knowledge and skills will be used for achieving the company goal.
So the difference is within the style of the people around you, that is – whether you feel used or misused while you are achieving your goals.
As people manager and leader, especially of highly intelligent and capable employees, I would say that you have two major tasks:
- To listen to your people carefully and dedicate your time to listening – which many of us are not doing
- To act upon what you heard from them by addressing their problems and influencing their motivation in a positive way
If you are not good at performing those two tasks, you have to practice. If you can’t achieve improvement by practicing – then leadership is not for you. It will become the source of frustration for you and for people that you are managing. But, if you are very good at doing it, then a new challenge is there. Not to overuse it or leave an impression among employees that the reason you listen and understand them is because you want to show them how powerful you are instead of wanting to help them individually. I believe this can be a frequent challenge among young leaders or talented first time people managers.
The power of well-managed teams who don’t feel misused is incredible. I was lucky to witness that couple of times. It’s worth to invest time and energy to create such teams.
Cheers! Let’s have a glass of mulled wine together. It’s that time of the year and makes you warm and safe.