Being great in leadership
This post is about building meaningful connections with other people. It is focused on sensitivity and true character nature needed to have fulfilling connections. It is about leadership and showing how to be a good leader. You will find why some leaders have people doing things for them without supervision, and why others would not get the same commitment when they're not present.
You will also find some good audiobooks in here, which have helped me in my understanding of my leadership. How they shaped my view and understanding of why some of my teams were less successful than others.
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The hardship and suffering of team leading
The challenges that I have faced in team leadership were a little bit beyond what I have imagined. Regardless of my high desire to be the best team leader/ manager on planet earth it wasn't always going well.
I thought if I was going to be nice to my team, open about our goals and needs, and offer help, support and trust to my team everyone will thrive and live in a perfect harmony.
This is the impression I was getting from learning about people management from books and motivational speakers. I kind of had this impression that certain words, body language and a nice open communication would make it all work just fine.
Until I came across the real-live experience of staff not wanting to achieve the same level of success. The experience of some people to have a miserable attitude to work, trying to cut corners, getting into argumentative situations.
One of the biggest and painful experience as manager or team leader was the betrayal of trust. Where I have asked nicely what tasks have been completed without checking. So by simply having the trust that people tell you truth and as a result letting them finish. To then find half an hour later that I have been lied to.
So what have I learned?
I learned that not everything is on you. I used to beat myself up about people reacting this way and doing all the nasty things. I used to blame it on me, that I should know better how to lead and how to create a good team. Since this is was a field of my three years of advanced university education.
However over time I have realised that some people cannot be helped. Some people are harder to deal with, due to their upbringing. We're all different and react in different ways. Some people were great in my teams some weren't. Everyone sees world through their own filters.
However there is way to try and win over a higher percentage of people. This is something that I practiced my self. However for a long period of time I was not aware of the actual method. It was something that I just did, and thanks to the books that I will mention in this blog post, I was enlightened as to the actual methods I was using.
When do we succeed with people?
To truly succeed with people, people leadership and team management we need to show commitment and sensitivity. We need to listen with empathy and truly care. You need to want to get to know your people and understand what they like and what they're up to and this takes time and patience.
There’s no events, or a single thing that you could do in leadership to get people to follow you. You cannot do a single magical thing that will make others trust you. It doesn’t work this way.
I have my self learned this following my leaders and managers. The reason why I achieved great results with some and why I didn't do so well with others.
I had the opportunity to succeed with people as a leader and fail as a leader too. Understanding this basic concept has helped me to reflect on my teams. This basic human connection concept is a great help in leadership.
What I have learned is that building a true connection is a result of accumulation of small events. It is about consistency and caring about your people.
The "true north"
To get the right results in life, leadership and actually have fulfilling connections you need to truly care about your team like mentioned above. You should listen and observe, and not just wait to be heard.
One of the main reasons why we fail is because we are pretending to care, and actually we are just focused on the goal it self that we need to achieve. We are not interested in the source that produces our results. We are not interested in our goose that lay our golden eggs; our people. It seems like a lot of us only pretend to care using personality techniques to get the results.
The great difference between pretending and actually caring, was greatly explained by Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Stephen presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by what he calls “true north”. The author explains the big difference between character ethic and personality ethic.
The character ethic is where you truly speak your mind, for example; when you ask someone “How are you” and actually care about the answer. Whereas personality ethic is where you use learned methods of communication with people, but really do not care about the answer.
We can sense and feel, when we are talking to someone that cares, and when someone is just being polite but do not give a toss.
Maturity and Interdependence
The level that we should aim to achieve with our people is interdependence, where we rely on our people and when they rely on you.
Stephen Covey also talks about maturity continuum, with three successive stages of increasing maturity: Dependence, Independence and Interdependence. The last one, Interdependence is the highest level of maturity needed in good leaders, good teams, marriages and organisations. It is about depending on one another and the attitude of “we”: we can co-operate, we can be a team and we can combine our talents.
How is this related? More on that later.
How to achieve the level of trust and interdependence in leadership
So to get the desired results, and have the right interdependence connection with people, we need to think in a Win-Win paradigm. A thinking paradigm where you really want the partnership with other people to bring benefits for them and for you. It is doing things that help others, in what they want to achieve for themselves.
This means you may need to do something for your people first to get them to trust you. It is like paying money into your bank account so you can use it later. The more you pay in, and the more regular you pay in, the more you can withdraw and even go into credit later. This is because you gain trust.
This means you may need to do loads and loads of small things in leadership, that by themselves may not change a single thing, but an accumulation of those things will be meaningful.
Interdependence, win-win thinking and doing small things are all linked together to build up the trust you need in leadership. It all combines as reserves to deposit on the emotional bank account of our people.
Paying into the emotional bank account
This method of thinking is about having the attitude that you want the other person to get what they want, and also achieve what you need.
By having this intention, and making this intention clear to your people you are putting reserves on people's trust. This is where you are fulfilling the desire of your people to be heard first, and showing that you care about them. It gives them space for mental breathing.
I think to illustrate how this could be used in practice I will use the example of my first promotion to a team leading role.
How I got promoted to leadership
To answer this question I am going to share with you how I used the Win-Win paradigm.
A Win-Win situation where I started to use this approach, was when I travelled and worked in Italy. At the time, I did not know about this method or Stephen Covey’s book. I only realised why my team was such a good team after I've read this book and had some time to reflect on it.
So to give you an example of the Win-Win scenario I will start by illustrating a Win-Lose scenario.
In Italy I was a very good and very fast at my job and I would finish my tasks for the day quicker than others. I could go away to mind my own business and relax on the beach, get a cocktail and some snacks and be off.
This is a Win-Lose scenario. I was in the win for finishing first, while others still needed work. Perhaps the tasks I had were easy for me, I learned quicker and I was more experienced.
However, because we had equal amount of work I was free to leave and be in the win, as work was equally distributed.
This is how the season started. This really quickly turned into a toxic atmosphere. So others finish late, they are more tired than you and in a bad mood. Especially when they see you relaxed doing nothing.
Now because they struggled and finished late I thought to improve the team atmosphere I will try to help. I thrived through my day, and completed all my tasks and instead of finishing I helped the rest.
First benefit: Now rather than me finishing at 11am and my co-workers finishing at 1pm, we all finish at 12pm so we can eat lunch together.
Second benefit: I help them with the areas they struggle with and hate the most, so I gain their approval and trust.
Third benefit: I teach them, or show them ways to do things better and quicker, so they improve. This helps the whole team, the team leader and team morale.
Now I have paid into their emotional reserves and gained their trust and approval because I offered to help. We all now have company to go for lunch together, which makes my day and their day a little bit better. Sometimes they even offer to cook the lunch for me, to say thank you and appreciate the help.
Because I was pro-active to offer help I now do not have any Lose-Win situations where I have to stay over on my own. Whenever I could be in a Lose-Win position, I wasn’t because my co-workers would have offered to help me, when I was over loaded with work. Plus I have gained friends for life.
I used this approach through out the whole summer season, also helping my team leader and manager when they were busy.
The promotion came naturally, as I was good at my job, I was good with the team and my team leader. I was good at helping and teaching others to work as efficient as possible, and also due to pro-active approach to help my team leader I learned most of his job duties too.
Comparing leadership to the gym
To illustrate how it works, I will draw from an example I have seen in this video from Fearless Soul.
Try to compare leadership to the gym. You start going to the gym, you want to lose weight and gain some muscle.
You go one day. What do you see?
You go second day. What do you see?
So there’s is no result, we cannot measure it and therefore it’s not effective so we quit.
Is that what you do when you want to lose weight and gain muscle?
Of course not. You commit yourself to the regime and the exercise. You can probably screw up sometime. Eat a burger, pizza or a chocolate one day. Or a few days in a row. You may skip the gym a day or two every now and then.
The regime will allow for that.
However if you stick to it, and commit to it, I am not sure when but the day will come. You and others will see the results. You will start getting into shape. Everyone will see that you care.
It kind of works the same with people. If you help, or ask about someone's day once or twice you won't see anything. If you do it every day for 2 or 3 months it will start making a difference.
Comparing leadership to dating
To illustrate how it works with team leadership I will draw another example from the video mentioned in the gym example.
I will use a sensitive example. Imagine trying to impress a girl you like. Imagine you want to get someone to fall in love with you. What do you do?
So the girl you like has a birthday and you buy her flowers, or you take her out to dinner on Valentine’s day.
What happens? Does she love me now?
So what? this doesn’t work, so I will give up. I will quit. Is that what you do?
Of course not, because if you believe there is something there then you commit. You commit to a series of events where you proof that you care.
It is not about the intensity, or the actual events. It is about being consistent. It is not about how big your help or input is, if it's only done once, or twice. It needs to be regular and consistent.
Take a look at the gym example again. Exercise for 7 hours one day of the week would not get you into shape. But an hour ever day of the week would.
Why Do We Fail in Leadership?
A lot of people grow up losing the sensitivity, consistency and we forget to care. It may not be your fault, or your parents. All we see in media is intense events, big celebrations and content to make you go wow. So we are getting programmed to live this way.
All the movies are about intensity and short emotional charge. Same goes for social media, our friends and family only post big glamorous life events like holidays, weddings and other similar events.
It's all just BIG BIG BIG!
So what do we do? We do the same. We want to think big. We want to think how can we save the whole company and planet.
We forget to care about small life events. The problem with leadership today is that we treat it with intensity. Our leaders invite a bunch of speakers, give everyone certificates for completing courses and degrees and boom you’re a leader.
We forget that these are just the tools and knowledge. People do not remember it is an ongoing process.
It is like mentioned in the Fearless Soul video. It is like going to the dentist, or a personal trainer. It is important to acquire new knowledge, learn new lessons, keeping us on the right track and reminding us about certain things.
However the most important thing is to do the daily practice. It is about brushing your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes, and getting yourself off the couch to go to the gym, and to eat healthy everyday.
It is also about doing the monotonous little boring things, that matter the most.
Intensity - She didn’t fall for your flowers
Likewise with dating and team leadership. It is not the size of flowers you gave her for the birthday that made her fall in love with you. It is not the glamours expensive dinner you invited her for on Valentine’s day. It is about the thought, the idea and the effort. There is no single event that make women click and think I love you.
It is the silly little faces you make when she is overwhelmed with work in her office. Helping her get home quicker, or bringing in some snacks while she is still working.
The small afternoon walks to the park, or a small trip on the kayak in the afternoon. This could even be a bike ride, or helping her with the shopping. Saying good morning before you check your phone. Bringing her some small breakfast when you go and get yours.
Doing a lot of small things, over and over again would win more people that a motivational speech once a week.
This works exactly the same in leadership
From the seasonal work I did, I observed when I lost this important character virtue and when I had loads of it. These observations made it clear to me what impacts it had on people around me.
How close and good of a team I had when I did small things for others and when others did small things for me. Small things on a regular basis, that show you actually care about the other person.
I can see why I had difficult relationships with managers who only visited once a month, and when I had managers that were always around to help.
I can see how the managers who just cared about the stats and results influenced my own performance. These managers who make big meeting once a week to try and motivate to do better. Where to performance would never improve.
Whereas when I had managers who cared about me, the relationship helped in establishing results without the need for motivational meetings. Where the regular meetings were just gatherings to chat with the team and have some time off work, not to try change everything.
Thanks to these kind of people I have achieved things I have not even thought about.
The great managers, mentors and leaders I had, where I achieved great results all really cared. They have been supportive when I needed them the most, they were sometimes going out of their way to do something that was meaningful to me.
Let's go back to my education to illustrate it even more 👇🏻
Why did I end up with a first in my degree? Or a degree whatsoever?
My degree has purely came from my hard work which was influenced by the great tutors. It came about from people that truly cared. People who day after day, would listen, help and encourage to do better, because they actually cared.
If I didn’t have teachers that day after day truly wanted me to do well, I would 100% be a drop out of University.
University was different, it was hard to me when I started. I was not made for it at all. The reason why I have even signed up for it was because of my teachers from College.
One teacher in particular, the course leader really wanted me to go to university. Day after day, of listening and actually caring, she put a lot of payments into my emotional bank account.
Thanks to those regular payments, I was more open to listen to her suggestions. When the right time come my results were great, and I had faith I could achieve even more.
Previously to signing up for the Travel and Tourism course at college, I was doing A levels, and failed miserably. Not just me, but most in my A level class have dropped out after the first year. After years I see why, the teachers at A levels did not really listen, or tried to understand the students. They were more focused on what they had to say, and what results they needed than understanding our needs.
When I failed in team leadership and why
So before I started to learn about the techniques of leadership I was following character ethic. I truly cared about my co-workers and I wanted to make sure everyone gets involved in everything. It was genuine, and people paid back with their empathy, trust and friendliness. I really wanted to help. This resulted in a promotion to may first team leading role.
This is where people loved their job and when they do not care how much is someone else willing to pay. It is when people are devoted to other people working with you, and desperately care about each other. As if they were family.
As mentioned in the Fearless Soul video; In business we have colleagues and co-workers, in military they have brothers and sisters. This is the mindset we need, in everyday life.
I feel like learning about techniques re-directed my focus to be thinking that people are some kind of robots, and if I use those techniques I will be a successful leader. This is the impression I got from reading some of the leadership and management text books at university. That is when there were these negative experiences I have experienced within my teams. Less people would be on the good side, if you just focus on goals but not the people.
These techniques help, but they need to come from within. Your true intention need to be the intention of your character, not your personality. You can change your personality, but if you do not change your character it won't work. More on this can be found in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and also in "How to Win Friends and Influence People".
My best teams pretty much all happened before I started studying the techniques to manage people at University. It happened before I had the companies I worked for to give me training on their ways to manage others.
My bad teams
When I learned about set techniques to motivate others, to lead and how to manage people my thinking paradigm quickly changed to personality ethic. I was more focused on the learned techniques, than about being genuine. I was focused on what to do, how to behave and what to say more than on what I really felt. How stupid I was to believe you could achieve anything with this kind of thinking.
Very quickly I learned people can sense this. People know when you truly are yourself. Once they sense you are using techniques the trust just goes to trash.
However to win the trust back, takes much more work than gaining trust in the first place. When you live with personality ethic, it is almost impossible to gain trust from others. It is visible and people can feel that it does not come from within.
Unfortunately the common training and education is based on techniques, intense events, and using the power of authority. Where you can win a battle, but you lose the war. You can refer to your position, threats and your power and others will be forced to do what you say, but you have created resistance towards yourself.
A true leadership is when you care about your workers success. It is like being a parent where you want to teach your children skills, help them build their self confidence so they can go on and achieve something more than you could have ever imagined to achieve for yourself. It is an absolute love and devotion for your people who have committed their time and live for this company.
We can feel when we do something good, and when we do something bad. We can feel social awkwardness and when we do things well. Compare it to eating healthy and eating a greasy meal. You know how your body feels. You know which one is good for you and which one is not, despite the taste.
It is like comparing it to short term gains, we feel great short term but long term the effects will destroy us and make us feel bad.
To build trust we need to focus on long term goals, we need to focus on Stephen Covey’s interpretation of the fable story of the goose that laid the golden eggs. To get the desired results we need to balance the goal we want to achieve with caring for that which produces those results.
Someone may say your results are great, you are producing more than anyone else, but maybe you are exploiting your people. Maybe the machine you are using isn’t getting serviced properly and you are using it on top setting which in a few months time will blow. People won’t trust you and the machine that produced golden eggs will die, and then you will have no golden eggs at all. Maybe the scale of your success breaks things, especially in human beings.
Hope you enjoyed this article, if you did please share it 😌✌️👇🏻
Also if you would like to get some more experience, getting exposed to different teams dynamics then check out my posts about getting a job in the tourism industry. This is a great way to experience life, new cultures and how you can fit into unfamiliar environment. Check out my posts below 👇🏻