People gravitate toward other people who make them feel good about themselves, people who are approachable, and who share similar values and ethics. We’ve also made mistakes and had to admit failure, so we commiserate with others in the same predicament. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a boss who is imperfect and admits mistakes is not seen as weak. In fact, it’s that very imperfection that can build a fierce team loyalty to a senior leader — someone they see not only as a boss, but also as an important member of their team.
Put a Face on Your Job Title
Even if you can’t personally meet, one-on-one, with every member of your team, you should be seen and be approachable. E-mail communications should encourage interaction and convey a positive message. Get out of your office and check on projects personally. Let your employees know that you see their dedication and appreciate their work. Ask them what you can do to help. If they ask for help, give it freely and quickly. You may not meet every single team member, but they’ll hear stories and feel like they already know you.
Be The Person You Want on Your Team
No team can succeed if a member makes mistakes but doesn’t own them. The same goes for senior leadership. Take ownership of mistakes (without pointing fingers), and then admit them with grace and humility. Explain why you made the choice, why it turned out to be wrong, and what you’re doing to set things right. When a leader says, “I’m sorry,” it demonstrates a vulnerability and a humanity with which employees can identify. Admitting mistakes and apologizing helps a team leader build trust, and it sets an example for the rest of the team that honesty and open communication are encouraged in your organization.
Share Some “Down Time” With Your Team
If you’re going to be approachable as a team leader, you need the team to see your real personality when you’re not at work. Maybe your company hosts a family picnic or a corporate softball team, or you might just make the rounds at the Christmas party once a year. However your employees unwind, join in now and then and reveal your human side. Introduce your family and meet your employees’ families. They need to see that you have a life outside of work in order to truly see you as human and engage in your cause.
Your employees spend more waking hours at work than they do at home. This level of commitment requires a commitment from you to make the team a success, and successful teams truly care about the other people on the team — including the leadership. But, first you have to be seen as a person.
Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal, Advanced Leadership Consulting
carl @ leadershipconsulting.com
We help maximize the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by helping them improve their ability to lead, work together, select and develop their people.