I have to confess that these thoughts are spawned by a blog entry from a good friend of mine and a gentle leadership genius (see his blog here) Stosh Walsh, and I quote…

What refreshes your leadership? Your life? Where can you be safe from the ever-present demands of measurement? Who needs a hug instead of “feedback”? What are you giving as a leader that isn’t merited because of some kind of measurement?

Hidden in Stosh’s thoughts are three ideas I want to expand.  Are you showing your followers (by your actions) that their joy and success is also important to you? What are you doing to refresh your Leadership, your life? Is any aspect of the way you lead, unmerited or without prior measurement? i.e from the heart not from a report.

Their Joy Matters.

Modern perspectives are split over the value of this kind of contribution to your team. One school of thought debunks the power of caring saying that there is little empirical evidence to show productivity improvement as a result of increased ‘caring’ from the leaders. The other side of the camp embraces the emotional support of their employees, citing Peter Senge and other prominent contributors in the emotional intelligence space as showing undeniable evidence that emotion and performance are joined at the hip.

Regardless of which side of the argument you embrace, a little encouragement goes a long way, especially when times are tough and demands are higher than ever. My biggest personal endorsement for encouraging the actions that provide joy to the employee, is affirmation. By endorsing your employee’s actions that lead to their joy, you are indirectly affirming that THEY, not just what they do, are important. That contributes to a higher level of engagement from your staff that cannot be attained through performance and measurement alone. Higher engagement ends up benefiting you and them.

Your Joy Matters.

Recently my wife asked me what was wrong. Apparently I had been snapping at the kids and her and she felt it was unmerited and so asked what was irking me? I realized that I was carrying a sense of aggravation over an upcoming project that was out of whack and I was not in a relaxed or joyful state. I had been biting and short and irritable toward the people that are important to me, without even realizing it and over an issue that had nothing to do with them. In contrast, being in a more relaxed and fulfilled place, allows me to respond to situations from a place of balance rather than tension. It almost always means everyone else sees a happier side of me.

The wearying effects of constant problem solving can install a sense of tension in me that depletes me and no-one likes working with a worn out grouch. Besides, as the chief thermostat in the organization, if the leader is in a funk, the whole team ends up in a funk, because that is the temperature I set for the whole environment. It is important to take the time to recharge yourself by doing what you love. If not for you, then for those around you. The tricky part can sometimes be identifying what truly restores you and brings you joy. Without it, you will struggle to lead with joy.

From the Heart.

If the only interaction you have with your team is around stuff that has been measured(productivity), then whether you intend to or not, you are sending an indirect message to the team that says: ‘only what you do is worth talking about’. In this kind of environment where tasks and productivity are king, there is little room for personal expression or risk. Any leader worth their salt will know that if there is no risk, you are not trying or pushing hard enough. Also, people don’t feel comfortable enough to try or risk something, until they feel that THEY are seen and found important. As a leader you can only convey these things from the heart, meaning you gotta care not just about what gets done, but who is doing it and why. Call it authentic leadership.

These days we (as people) seem to have evolved a new sense, a 6th sense if you will. It is a sniffer for authenticity. Perhaps all the advertisements trying to sell us deals we know aren’t real, have taught us how to tell. However we have come upon this sense, we seem to have developed a keen sniffer for authenticity. Our employees have it and so do we. It goes off every time we feel ‘played’ by someone or something trying ‘get’ us to do or buy something. Don’t allow your influence as a leader to be neutralized by a lack of authenticity. Your employees can tell, they have keen sniffers.

Two questions then:

  • How often does your leadership come from task or report demands?
  • If you chose to manage the tasks, but lead the people, what would that look like?