Today I thought I would share some of my thoughts on relationships and conscious leadership. While I do not profess to any level of expertise, I am hopeful that over my 45 years in the working world I have made a few salient observations.
OK–I am on my little soapbox now, so here are my thoughts:
The action and effort of just making a connection is usually first on the list. Showing up always matters, but it is absolutely vital if you don’t have daily contact with those you are leading or working with. Being physically apart from our teams, which may now include the distance of oceans and continents, means we may have to get creative in terms of how the connections happen. I believe that the connections must be nurtured before there are fires to be put out and, in this evolving cyber world, it could be calling, emailing, or skyping. People who feel seen and heard are happy people. The greatest gift we can give another person is that of our unfettered time with no distractions. If I give you 15-20 minutes of my focused attention with no distractions and I really listen to you, what is that worth? When I am fully engaged with someone I am also investing my heart along with my energy and time with that person. I have often thought that there is a subtle connection between the old-fashioned concept of ‘hospility’ and good business practice. Think about the impact of the first 3-4 minutes that you spend in any connective activity; this could be personal or business. If you don’t feel the person you are interacting with is really listening to you or cares about what you think or are saying, then you are probably not going to maintain the connection. I believe we all know when people are really tuned into us and not just posturing with surface listening techniques. I also believe that most people expect some kind of a response as any communication that is not a monologue is, at the very least, a two-way street.
When I/we have listened (or shared) and I/we are asked for our ideas relative to specific topics and then fail to respond or no action is taken, our credibility levels drop like the proverbial rock. In fact I think it is even more damaging to credibility and more disappointing to expect a response after sharing and then not get one–even more so than it would have been not been asked for input at all. People can never be fully certain that they were heard in the first place if we do not take the time to respond. Responding and doing so in a timely manner goes hand-in-hand with common courtesy, good business practice, not to mention successful communication skills and healthy relationship building. People are waiting on that affirmation of worth and personal value. Moving out beyond the listening part and into the response mode completes the circle. Our responses do not have to be lengthy–a simple “Got your email”, “Thanks for the input”, or “I heard you.” can suffice. We do not need to wait for perfection to respond; just be willing to do so and to do it in a timely manner. I am currently reading an excellent book called The Zen of Listening, by Rebecca Z. Shafir. The author revisits Abraham Maslow and his thoughts on what he termed a ‘self-actualized’ person. Ms. Shafir writes, ” If you are self-actualized, you are eager to reach a level of understanding that eventually frees you from focusing on yourself and allows you to focus on others instead. Self-actualized people listen as though no one on earth exists in the moment.” I don’t know anyone who would not be grateful for this level of attentiveness on occasion.
The next topic I will tackle is R E S P E C T. I may not agree with someone I am listening to, but I will try to acknowledge that they have every right to their opinions and thoughts. Hopefully I am aware of and able to manage any and all counter-productive mannerisms (sighing, eye-rolling, squirming in my chair, interrupting, etc.) and am practicing my best and highest listening skills set. I make an effort to be candid and specific when needed and hope to avoid being rude or uncaring. If I am aware of an error on my part, then I try to speak to it and set things right. I have never worked at any job where my co-workers did not want or expect respect in their jobs or in the workplace. Being willing to listen and demonstrate understanding goes a long way in cultivating respect between people. When respect levels are high in a relationship, then the trust levels will follow in equal measure. I subscribe to the circle method of leadership as defined by Christina Baldwin in her landmark book, Calling The Circle. This is an excellent book if you are interested in changing up your team dynamics in your own workplace *highly recommended*.
Art Linkletter had a television show called, “People Are Funny.” Yes, we are silly and we are also unpredictable, messy, extreme, intense, private, and sometimes overly emotional and in a chaos mode. I do not think we are a fragmented collection of beings, but that we are all interconnected. This radical thought/premise is supported not only by Quantum Physics, systems theories , but by good old common sense. A divorce in a friend or co-workers family or the death of someones mother affects us all. I think of this as the relationship version of the “butterfly effect.”
In both our work arena’s and in our personal lives,folks like to be told in a tangible way that they are appreciated for the very one they are in this exact moment. This type of appreciation goes way beyond any superficial handholding stuff and into the heart of the”I See You” recognition level that is spoken to in the movie AVATAR. Be real, be specific and tell them sooner rather than later.
My dad always said never to expect anyone to do something that you yourself were not willing to do. Sage advice. I think that when I roll up my sleeves and dive into the mix of things; work, love, and play, then I increase my enjoyment and my credibility and expand my skill set. I am in awe of and so very appreciative of everyone who has different gifts and talents than myself. I find it boorish of people to assume that the only skills of value are those that require years of high level education. I know what I know and what I need to rely on others to help me with. Thank God we have different areas of knowledge and talents. I could not fly a jet, build a bridge or repair an engine if my life depended on it, nor build a deck (well, I might try my hand at the deck with a book and some skilled helpers) We shine by sharing the things we love to do and are good at doing.
Finally, I try to never forget the value of good manners and kindness. Aesop had it right when he wrote that, “No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
May we all learn to lead with an open heart as well as an open mind.
A great big Thank You and YES! to all those who have modeled how to be a wonderful human and a great leader to me.