Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Leadership

Leadership Doesn't Have to be Puzzling

I had crashed on the sunroom sofa after a full afternoon of being “Super-BeBe”. (BeBe is my grandmother name.) Scarlett, my five-year-old granddaughter (and yes, she is a real Southern Belle), emptied one of her intricate puzzles out on the floor right beside me.

“BeBe, will you come and do this puzzle with me?” she asked.

I replied with all my psychological finesse, “Scarlett, BeBe is really tired right now. You do it and I’ll watch. You do such a good job with your puzzles.”

“Oh, Bebe,” she replied, “I don’t do so well with puzzles by myself. Besides, I’d MUCH prefer to do it with someone I love!”

Wait a minute, who’s the psychologist here?!?

(Of course, you know where I was about 7 seconds later.)

We Like to Work With People We Love (Or At Least Like!)

Yes, Scarlett, it’s true. We all work better when we’re working with those we respect and like.

Especially important are the attitudes and actions of leaders. Consider these research findings:

  • Fifty to seventy percent of how employees feel about the organizational climate can be traced to the actions and attitudes of their leader.
  • Climate impacts key organizational metrics. In a major research study, climate alone accurately sorted companies into high vs. low profits and growth in about 75% of the cases. Additionally, for every 1% improvement in the service climate, there is a 2 % increase in revenue.
  • The percentage of time people feel positive emotions at work is the greatest predictor of job satisfaction and loyalty.
  • In a Yale study, 9 of 10 incidents of bad feelings of employees came from interactions with their leader, above interactions with customers, work pressures, company policies, or personal problems.
  • People who are distressed and upset lack empathy for others. (Imagine a work world where no one can sense and care about the feelings of others.)
  • Good feelings lead to good performance and retention.
  • Research demonstrates that a leader who creates the kind of emotional climate where talents can flourish is more likely to enjoy a team that is positive, mentally efficient, helpful, flexible, and productive.
  • Most people don’t leave a company; they leave a manager.

3 Simple Lessons in Leadership From the Sunroom Floor

As a formal leader in your organization or as an informal influencer of others, your actions and attitudes definitely have an impact on the quality of your work experience as well as that of all the people around you. I’d like to share three insights from my recent experience with Scarlett that just may help you become a more positive force in your workplace. Will you join me in a quick comparison of your leadership skills with those of this young expert?

1. She got close to me. I am constantly amazed at the people who purport to lead, yet spend the great majority of their lives in the inner sanctum of their offices or in top-level meetings.

Additionally, will you please explain to me how a leader can coach and appraise the performance of a person on the night shift, when the manager never shows up past 5:00 P.M.?

Leadership is based on relationship. Building and maintaining a relationship requires meaningful contact and communication. Trust, a key ingredient in a relationship, cannot be built in a vacuum. Trust is built by consistent, positive contact over time.

If you want to become a better leader, get up close and personal!

2. She knows me, and she appealed to the things she knows I value most. Can you motivate someone? Despite claims to the contrary, I think not.

Is everyone motivated? Yes. True, they may not be turned on in the areas you’d choose, but they are motivated.

Your task as a leader is to discover those types of experiences that light the fire of each individual. Then, see that they are involved in functions and projects that tap into their strengths and passions.

Take the time to really get to know each person you want to impact. Go beyond assumptions, surface impressions, and stereotypes. Find out how that person defines success, fulfillment, and reward and look for ways to make that happen. Hear what things are the individual’s greatest hassles and headaches and run interference to get as many of those out of the way as possible.

Hesketh Pearson summed it up this way: “Human beings are not influenced by anything to which they are not naturally disposed.”

Add this thought from Daniel Considine: “To get the best out of a man, go to what is best in him.

3. She made me feel needed and wanted. When Gallup studied the practices of top managers for 25 years, they identified 12 variables that predicted employee satisfaction, productivity, profitability, and/or retention. Marcus Buckingham reported their findings in his excellent book, “First, Break All the Rules.” One of the most powerful predictors of all four outcomes was this question: “Does someone in my organization really seem to care about me as a person?”

True leaders know how to make each individual feel that their contribution matters, that they are an important part of the achievement of the overall goal. They have a way of making everybody feel that they are on the first team, not the second team.

A particular danger is to neglect recognition of people in support positions. Without them working behind the scenes, the “out-front” accomplishments of others would be impossible.

Consider the metaphor of the human body with respect to the important roles that support people play. The face and the rest of the externally visible human form are what people notice. However, without the brain and heart and lungs and intestines - unseen supports – the face and visible body would be lifeless. Be diligent in showing genuine appreciation for those who work to make the accomplishments of you and others possible.

The Challenge

Today, I’ve asked you to look in the mirror to see if you:

  • get close to people;
  • take the time to learn what people value, and help them get it; and,
  • make everyone with whom you work feel needed and wanted.

In closing, I want to ask you to push just a little further in this exercise.

  1. Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the vertical center.
  2. Think of the best leader you’ve ever personally experienced. On the left side of the paper, write phrases that describe that person’s actions or attitudes that caused you to select him or her as your ideal.
  3. Now think of the worst experience you’ve had with a boss, coach, or other authority figure. On the right side of your paper, list that person’s characteristics.
  4. Now go back and read what you’ve written and ask yourself, “If others rated me on all of these items, which ones would be the most descriptive of my attitudes and interactions?”

What do you need to do today to become the kind of leader whose positive influence is memorable and life-changing?

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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