By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to gain EVEN more productivity from your staff.
“Getting to know you.
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to feel free and easy
When I’m with you.
Getting to know what to say.”
—From “The King and I”
I am convinced that Anna’s song in The King and I is the anthem of the most effective leaders I have known. Those leaders don’t have to study the research that says the MOST important leadership skill is taking a sincere personal interest in your employees. They already know it.
In fact, the most effective leaders know it is more productive for them to understand their followers than it is for their followers to understand them, as author Garry Wills notes in his book Certain Trumpets.
Forget the touchy/feeling stuff. There’s a bottom-line, performance-driven significance to that getting-to-know-you focus on followers.
Consider the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the three-year, 7,000-mile plus exploration of unknown land from the Dakotas to the Pacific that would virtually double the size of the United States of America.
Lewis and Clark persisted, leading their team over the Rocky Mountains, despite hardship, hostile natives and illness. They succeeded in part because they got to know their followers, as noted historian Stephen Ambrose notes in his book Undaunted Courage. They knew the “strengths and skills of their men intimately,” observed historian Stephen Ambrose in his book Undaunted Courage.
Their getting-to-know-you strategy was the result of what the author called “outstanding leadership” … that “welded the Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark’s team) into a tough, superbly disciplined family. “
They knew “the strengths and skills of their men intimately.” That use of the word –intimately– from a prominent historian caught my eye the first time I read it. Then the more I thought about it, the more I understood the significance of that insight: The most effective leaders do develop intimate relationships with their followers.
Forget the sexual connotation.
My dictionary says intimacy is “marked by a warm friendship developed through a long association.” Of course, this is not the buddy-buddy, let’s-have-a-beer together friendship.
This is a workplace relationship that puts work in its place –in context –with the vast array of outside-of- work activities–from family to hobbies to dreams etc.– that comprises one’s life.
Leaders set the tone for this getting-to-know-you relationship. The more the leader reveals herself or himself personally, the more their followers will follow their lead. Then the more leaders will learn about their followers — beyond the usual status reports and budget reviews that dominate too many one-on-one staff meetings
The Leader’s Fundamental Act
Then when the most effective leaders come to know their followers so well they execute the fundamental act of a leader, according to James MacGregor Burns in his book Leadership:
“The leader’s fundamental act is to induce people to be aware or conscious of what they feel – to feel their true needs so strongly, to define their values so meaningfully, that they can be moved to purposeful action (p. 44).
Moving people to purposeful action begins with the getting-to- know-you initiatives as author Dale Carnegie observed in his seminal book How to Win Friends and Influence People .
The more you are intimately interested in your staff — in their lives in and out of work– the more your staff will be interested in your mission; the more engaged they will be in your vision and the more aligned they will be in your team’s achievements.
Get to know your staff more personally
to keep your leadership skills in mint condition.
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