Whether you are the CEO of a global organization or running a local restaurant, you may be grossly underestimating the impact you have on the lives of those working for you. That’s because as a leader it’s much easier to put energy into providing feedback to those who work for you, instead of seeking to understand—and then truly owning—how your direct reports are experiencing you. I am a former case in point.
I recently re-read 360 degree feedback I had received from a talented person who I led on a large operational excellence engagement team years ago. He shared that I gave more weight to the opinions of the client and my leader than to the opinions of the team. Bottom line: I likely was not the best leader that this person had ever worked for! While I spent a lot of energy working to care for my team, I did not fully embrace their needs as I should have. It was easier for me to tune in to the needs of the client and of my leader than those of my team. And although my intention was to serve my team, my execution fell short because I didn’t truly own their experience.
I recently met an executive who shared her own leadership story. She had taken on the leadership of a team that had a lot of challenges. She was committed to serving the team and leading them to a more successful place. She invested a great deal of time building trust with team members by listening to each person and getting to know them.
At first, her role as a leader felt overwhelming, and she was tempted to “pull up” from her failing team. However, she continued to address their challenges, needs, and issues head on even though it drained her and took a lot of time. Soon, however, she was able to make decisions that were for the best of her people and the organization alike. She was able to build trust with her team, who soon saw her competence (an underrated aspect of high trust workplaces) and felt her authentic care. The pile of challenges started getting smaller and smaller. She was able to start moving her team with a speed they hadn’t experienced before. This leader now has one of the highest trust teams in the organization and is seen by many as their “best leader ever.”
The challenge I have for you is this: Find out how what percentage of your direct reports think you are the best leader they have ever had. If you are not, fully learn and explore with them what the best things you could do going forward would be. The conversations may be difficult to have. However, being the best leader for your people will greatly benefit them, your organization, and you more than you would believe.