Seriously, why should anyone follow you? Ponder that for a moment.
Let’s turn that question on its head: Think of a leader you have known, who you would follow to the ends of the earth; walk over hot coals for. It could be someone you have worked for, or someone in your family, a community, sports club or religious leader.
What made you think of them? What exactly was it about that leader that engendered this loyalty, this respect?
I’m willing to bet, that thinking of that leader, you can tick off the majority of these points:
- You intuitively understood and could buy-into what they stood for, their values; you believed in them.
- You knew where you stood with them, they were consistent and fair.
- They listened to you, respected your opinion, were open to influence from you but also reasoned and negotiated with you. They took time to be with you.
- They would back you all the way, but also challenge you robustly when needed.
- They would tackle a tricky conversation head on; they asked, listened openly, shared their views constructively and found some common ground with you.
- When you had concerns, they never pushed their solution, instead you always felt you had permission to “say it how it is”
I really hope you were able to think of a leader you admired and respected straight away at the start of this article. If you’re struggling, instead think of the worst manager you ever worked for. Recheck the list above. How many of these points can you award for this manager?
All these points come down to two main things:
- Did they explicitly share their values with you (that doesn’t necessarily mean they sat you down and read out a list of values) but did they take the time for most of their major decisions, to take you with them in their thinking, to share what was important to them and why, what they hoped to achieve and what that would mean to them?
- Did they treat you with respect; value you as a whole, creative, intelligent human being, capable of finding your own solutions, seeing things they may have missed, contributing valuable intelligence?
And now it’s time for some honest, soul searching reflection. If I asked your team these questions, how would they score you?
If I asked them; what do you stand for, what’s important to you, what are your values, what would they say?… What would you say? Could you benefit from achieving a little more alignment?
Have you thought about your values lately?
Whether you have already given this a great deal of thought and have a clear idea of your values or if it’s been some time since you gave this any headroom, there’s always room for a little more self-reflection. Things may have changed; we all grow and change with time and experience. Ponder this: where do you invest your time and where do you invest your money? Then in each case, take a long hard look at why. What is the underlying need that you are looking to satisfy with that (time or money) investment?
Here are some good quality free questionnaires and tools if you’d like some help to explore your values more fully.
Your team need to know where they stand with you. If you want your team to make even more decisions for themselves, to take even more empowerment, to build even more self-reliance and to feel the need to come to you with questions just a little less, they need to have an intuitive framework to work within. What would the boss do? What’s important here?
But every situation is different. The world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. You need to be flexible enough to change tack as the environment changes. So how can you do that whilst maintaining consistency?
The answer is all in your values. It’s far deeper than each decision you make, it’s about what is core to your being, what drives you, what do you strive for, who do you want to be?
If your team know and buy-into your values, they have a reason to follow you and more importantly they know what to do in any situation, they can see the reasoning behind your decisions and feel the consistency, no matter how changeable your environment.
Who’s got time…
…to consult, discuss, negotiate and agree the way forward with the team every time?
…to coach team members when they come with a quick question expecting a quick answer?
We’re all under pressure to perform and quickly! It’s easy to feel there’s no time. It’s easy to feel the pressure to give the quick answer.
How much reliance on you are you unconsciously building within your team? If your team could take just a little extra empowerment, how much time would that free up?
How much are you living your values and how do you know?
Every time you say or do something that niggles at you, makes you feel even a tiny bit uncomfortable or causes you to pause, that is the time to stop and take a breath, ask yourself: are you living your values? What is causing the (even tiny bit of) distress? What would you rather be doing or saying? What is stopping you?
Something that might be causing this is that we’re all juggling a lot of objectives, crises and politics every day. Pause in that moment of pressure and ask yourself:
- Who are you trying to please by taking this action that you’re struggling to reconcile to?
- What (or whose) rule are you following that is making you act this way?
- Who or what are you placing above your own needs or values and why?
When you’re asking these questions of yourself, how could you choose a more authentic path, to speak up, to tackle difficult conversations head on? How do you need to be, to hold those difficult conversations calmly, openly, with curiosity and empathy, to ensure you build the relationship through that conversation?
How much better might you feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally if you can make a small change and how much more connection and buy-in might you get from your team?
Lindsey Byrne, Senior Training Consultant, Tack TMI UK
Tack TMI are on hand to support you in developing your Authentic Leadership skills. Get in touch today for further information.
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