By that, I mean, organizations are led by those who believe in more consensus-driven decision-making, allowing those at every level to contribute opinions. Or, they are driven by leaders who are more directive and dominant, making decisions for their team and driving how that decision is executed.
But, whether it's a higher or flatter hierarchy, I believe there are three powerful concepts that leaders--of any style--need to pay more attention to.
This month, I'll be featuring leadership best practices shared in my recent conversations with other thought leaders in the consulting space who also work in global and/or cross cultural contexts.
This week I spoke with Bill Treasurer, author of the upcoming A Leadership Kick in the Ass, and our conversation shed light on the importance of three drastically undervalued concepts:
In Steven M.R. Covey's bestselling book Speed of Trust, he makes the case for trust as a critical, highly relevant, performance multiplier. And according to Covey, "The best motive in building trust is genuinely caring about people."
Caring is of utmost importance as a leader. It builds trust between you and the people you manage. Thus, leaders need to ask their employees about their personal lives and get to know them as human beings. In short, they need to care.
Bill shared with me a story of a leader at a construction company who came down hard on his team whenever there was a safety violation. He would fire those who were responsible.
The leader's intent was to make the company safer and to show safety was of utmost importance. But the unintended consequence was the complete opposite. It created an atmosphere of distrust and made people feel they needed to hide near misses.
To address the issue, the company underwent a cultural transformation--when there was a safety breach, instead of the leadership asking, "Who did this?", they asked, "What went wrong and how do we fix it?" This created an atmosphere of trust where people felt comfortable outing mistakes. And the result was a safer work environment--what the leader wanted all along.
I've said this time and again but I believe the ability to listen is the most important quality a leader should have. So, if leaders could spend less time controlling and directing and more time having honest conversations, then they would be empowered with more information, trust, and feedback.
As Bill put it, "What does it take to listen? How about not talking! The same letters that are in the word 'listen' are in the word 'silent.'" Bill coaches over-talkative executives to mentally recite this acronym: WAIT - Why Am I Talking? This helps them learn that listening keeps the channels of communication open.
It takes courage to have honest conversations. It also takes courage to put people in the room who might not otherwise be together to have those courageous conversations.
Bill had a great example of this. He was facilitating a meeting for a client who questioned whether bringing those in the field and those in management together into a meeting was a good idea. They decided it was. At first, it was clear that these two groups didn't talk with one another much and, as a result, misunderstandings were running rampant.
But, in this case, and so many others, having the courage to get these people talking, creates understanding, compassion, and empathy--not to mention the ability to get things done faster and better.
No matter what kind of organization, hierarchical or flat, big or small, when working globally, across cultures, it's even more important to show you care, truly listen to what people think or need, and not to be afraid to make courageous decisions and have courageous conversations.