What’s the one thing about leadership you need to know? What is it your boss needs to know you know?
It’s got to be said: everything a leader says or does creates an impact. Body language, the way he or she walks into the room; what they say and the way the say it. The leader has the single biggest impact on driving performance: up or down.
Team members are looking for direction from our leaders, explicitly or otherwise; and our leaders hand down that direction in the subtlest of ways. The team will pick up on a vocal nuance, a raised eyebrow, or the way papers are shuffled at the beginning of a meeting. The interpretation they make of these actions will impact upon what happens outside that room as they apply the direction they’ve ‘heard’.
I’m hearing this feedback from the leaders I coach and members of their teams, as well as from directing my own teams. The good news is that their experience is backed up by organisational research evidence. To remind myself of these sources, I turned to the work of Daniel Goleman, the ’emotional intelligence’ expert, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, who together wrote a book published in the US under the title ‘Primal Leadership*’ and in the UK as ‘The New Leaders’.
Their focus is on the ‘resonant leader’ and they used a “global database of 3,871 executives in which several factors that influenced the working environment were assessed”. Two key findings were that “leadership styles affected financial results, such as return on sales, revenue growth, efficiency, and profitability”; and “leaders who used styles with a positive emotional impact saw decidedly better returns than those that did not”.
What this tells us, regardless of whether you work for the private, public or not-for-profit sector, is that your bottom line – however measured – is impacted on by your leaders.
Cutting to the chase, what’s the one thing we can do as leaders to improve our bottom line (however measured)? Find out what motivates the people who work for us – one by one – and play to their strengths. Leadership isn’t all about us; it’s about a successful team and we unlock that success when we know what their strengths are and what really motivates people.
Watching the Australia/England cricket highlights this week I heard a great line which I’m paraphrasing here: ‘play to your team’s strengths, not to the opposition’s weaknesses’. We can only do this when we truly get to know the people who work with and for us.
So if you’re having a tough week at work and the signals you’re getting from your boss are driving down your motivation and performance, print this out and leave it in a prominent place. Your boss needs to know how to unlock your success and he/she needs to know that you know it too.
*Quoted from: “Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence”, Goleman D., Boyatzis R., McKee A., Harvard Business School Press, 2002, pp53/54. The reference to the original database is set out on p.265.