I remember this moment distinctly from early on in my own management career. The time I had to escape from my desk, lock myself in the ladies toilet and swear blue murder at the top of my voice! What had caused me to scream in sheer frustration – it was my team of course?
Four days earlier in – what I had thought was a very well managed and clearly communicated team briefing - I had shared my plan, given suggested guidelines for execution, agreed timescales for delivery and fired everyone up to get on with the task in hand.
Four days later and I was now hiding in the ladies loos because I may have well have delivered my message in five different languages simultaneously, including double dutch – because now I found myself dealing with five variations of what I’d asked for and none of them bore any resemblance to the group objective!
And that’s when I had my lightbulb moment. Surely if I was their Team Leader, then it was my responsibility to lead them, to work out how to get the best from each individual, what strategies to use, how to communicate, how to motivate and reward, and what I realised in that moment was that this may mean taking a different approach to every individual in my team. I had just worked out that it was highly likely Person A will have different needs and expectations from my leadership than person B and so on.
So, that meant, rather than applying a one size fits all approach to leading and managing my team, instead I needed to adapt my own behaviour in order to get the best out of them and so the philosophy Leadership Inside Out was born. So too was my personal fascination and study of human behaviour, leadership and motivation over the next 25 years.
So on this quest to become a better leader myself, and to always strive to provide everyone of my direct reports with what they need from me in order to draw out of them their best behaviour, obviously all aligned with our team, group and business objectives.
Therefore, always, always manage your own behaviour and particularly your own emotional responses first. The more stressful or extreme a situation the more level-headed you need to be in order to think clearly and direct your team. No one responds well to a leader in a crisis who turns into a quivering jellyfish – that’s when you need to be strong emotionally so your team can see you have it under control.
Every human interaction leaves an emotional imprint. A positive, negative or neutral imprint. The more you leave positive imprints on your people after every interaction the more they’ll respond positively to you in return.
By Nicola Cook, CEO, Company Shortcuts an agency dedicated to excellence in sales.