“Justin, I need you to bring in everything you can this quarter.”
“Okay…” I said, waiting for him to continue.
“It would really help me out. If we hit this next payout tier it would mean a lot to me.” he finishes.
“Alright, I’ll do it.” I responded back to my boss, surprised at the level of motivation that seemed to materialize in an instant.
This simple conversation had a profound impact on me. It was around 6:30am, no one else was in the office and we were mid-way through Q4. Our team was tracking strong for both the quarter and the year and my manager wanted to me go after everything I could - and I was happy to do it.
If you recall from my previous posts, I was fighting off both disengagement and resentment toward the company. I know it’s not right, but at that time I wouldn’t have cared if the company around me burned to the ground, as long as I could still hit my numbers. However, when my boss asked me to do something for him, it was like a fire was suddenly lit. In that moment, I regained a sense of motivation and determination that had been lost.
I was no longer working for the company, I was working for my manager.
As this mini-series comes to a close, the theme I continue to circle back to is the importance of talented leadership and the powerful effect it can have on the people you lead. The more apt you are at leading your people, the more effective you’ll be in executing your projects and driving the business forward.
In this post we’ll take a look back at what my manager did that caused his simple ask to have such a significant impact on me. Previously, we looked at why you need to create the right environment for your people to flourish. Now, we’ll consider practical ways you can lead and influence those under you.
There’s much more that can be written on this, but for the sake of brevity I’ve boiled it down to the five key elements I saw in my manager that makes him a great leader. Let’s take a look at each one below:
- Developing relationships
I used to think emotions were for the weak. “You have a goal, there’s a process for achieving it, so just get it done. If you’re going to let your emotions get in the way of your success then you’re weak-willed.” I thought.
Daniel Goleman says everything you do as a leader will be less effective if you’re unable to address the emotional component of people. People act on their feelings, they don’t act on their thinking. My disposition toward the company was an emotional one, it affected me and my performance. A good leader is one who can move other’s emotions in a positive direction, to not only avoid poor performance but to also get the best from their people.
What I respect most about my manager was his ability to develop a genuine relationship with me. This relationship was central to shifting my emotions back toward a positive place. I didn’t make it easy on him - I’ve been told (by many people) that I can be emotionally aloof, cold, even standoffish. I’m not the easiest person to connect with, but my manager didn’t give up. He was able to get me out of my shell and develop a relationship that caused me to work harder and genuinely enjoy putting in the extra effort. There’s a direct tie to business results here, relationships do matter and will effect your bottom line.
One important factor to keep in mind as you develop relationships and deeper connections with those you lead; examine your intentions. Why are you doing this? I’ve had many leaders ‘go through the motions’ in trying to develop relationships simply because they know it’s what they should do, rather than something they wanted to do. People can spot insincerity from a mile away; if you’re operating from a place of self-centeredness your people will pick up on it and won’t respond well to it. This is one of the reasons I think leadership is so challenging, it’s about genuinely caring about your people just as much as you do yourself and the results of the business.
Trust went both ways in the relationship. I trusted that my manager wanted the best for me, and my manager trusted that I would get the job done. He didn’t feel the need to micro-manage, he allowed me to work in the best way I knew how, and he gave me the freedom to try new things.
I often went to my boss with a problem hoping he would spoon-feed me the solution. That rarely happened. Instead, he would challenge me to think through the problem out-loud and come to my own conclusion before moving forward. Only after I found a solution would he share any advice.
At first, I was annoyed by this. It was difficult. It caused me to think. It would be so much easier for him to just tell me what to do, I now realize that it challenged me and forced my growth. I’m thankful for it.
There are three types of feedback: Coaching, Evaluative, and Acknowledgement.
Coaching feedback is when someone shares helpful information to make you better. Evaluative feedback is when someone lets you know where you stand. Acknowledgement is positive feedback - praise and acknowledgement for a job well done.
There are many challenges with feedback, both giving and receiving it. You need to know what type of feedback you’re giving, why you’re giving it, what type of feedback the other person wants to receive, and all of the implications that might go along with the message you’re sending.
My manager was skilled in giving the right feedback at the right time and in the right way. It was a continual conversation throughout the year and contributed greatly to the relationship and the level of trust. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I’d highly recommend getting, Thanks for the Feedback and researching David Rock’s ‘SCARF model’.
There are many different perspectives on delegation: some think it’s a good thing, others think it’s a bad thing, some see it as imperative, others see it as unnecessary. My manager was able to utilize it as a tool for my own development and engagement. He was keenly aware that I wanted additional responsibility and had high levels of interest in taking on additional projects. He advocated for me to join projects, collaborate with others, and spend a portion of my time working on things outside of my job description. He saw that with each additional growth opportunity he brought to me through delegation, I became more engaged.
As I wrap up this mini-series I feel like we’re only scratching the surface when talking about the importance of leadership and the practical steps you can take to develop yourself into a leader people are excited to follow. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend any books by Daniel Goleman, Daniel Pink, and David Rock. If you’re not a reader, feel free to ask me questions and I’ll be happy to respond. If you’re more of a hands-on learner, I’d recommend checking out Fierce Conversations - they offer two day workshops and you’ll leave with step-by-step tools that you can put into practice immediately.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, or any feedback you might have for me. Thanks again for reading and best of luck as you go out and lead your projects!