The best leadership tool you have is you
There are many ways to communicate your message as a leader - conferences, team meetings, focus groups, 1-2-1s etc - but what about the messages you send with your actions or your behaviour?
We can often send mixed messages to our teams. For example:
- Telling your team their wellbeing is important and you don't want them working outside of hours but then sending emails late at night. Even if you have said you don't expect a response, their brain will start whirring and they will be thinking about whatever it is you sent.
- Setting everything up before you go away on holiday, making the team feel trusted and then checking in every few days "just to make sure everything is alright".
- Advocating diversity and then creating a job advert with no flexibility and very specific experience or qualifications.
All of the above send mixed messages; your actions and behaviours aren't matching your words. And I'm sure you can add other examples you have experienced.
Often the â€˜what if's?' start to cloud our thinking. Imagine you are away on holiday:
'What if my team don't really need me anymore?' Well, brilliant - if you have done the best job at giving them the skills and knowledge to work without you, that is amazing.
'What if it's better in the team without me around?' This is unlikely if you have a good relationship with your people and you are the provider of the team vision, the support and the challenge. But if it is a worry, ask them; What was it like while I was away? The pace of work, the atmosphere, the workload. What should we keep? What needs to be different?
'What if something has happened but they don't want to bother me while I'm away?' Well, good! They are being respectful of your recharge time, and they will find a way or someone else to ask. Just remember to return the favour when they are away from work.
We all know it's hard looking after people. Our own beliefs, wants, needs and experiences can get in the way of what is best for our team. Or the culture of the business you are working in have boundaries and expectations that constrict your own actions.
But the best tool in your leadership toolbox is you. Creating psychological safety for your team will lead to higher performance and engagement - the rest, i.e. the results, will follow.