I have the great privilege of delivering certified and non-certified leadership and development training in the GCC region. I meet a mix of leaders at different stages of their leadership journey. Some have been instructed to attend my courses, others have self-enrolled. Some are eager to learn and grow, others are more not yet ready. Of course, this is a reflection of the variation we see across the entire workforce, and is absolutely normal.
For the leaders I work with, time and again the same issue comes up.
Many often explain to me that this is the only leadership development they’ve ever been offered by their organisations, despite being in leadership roles for several years. Many feel proud to have earned their current position as a result of their technical competence, but are increasingly feeling that they are out of their depth from a people leadership perspective. Often, it is hard for them to admit this, and I always thank them for their courage when they do. Because once that acknowlegement is present, it often leads to a much richer, more engaging, and more valuable development experience.
At different points in the training, many leaders explain that they are at a loss when it comes to overcoming the people challenges in their teams. They look at me with exasperated and frustrated expressions and say things like:
“They are so apathetic, they aren’t motivated to go the extra mile”.
“All they do is moan and complain, rather than focussing on the job in hand”
“They come to me with every little problem, they are incapable of solving anything by themselves.”
I am empathetic, however, in the kindest way, it is time for some home truths, and I very frequently find myself explaining that…
“You are not a leader if you don’t have followers. It is up to you to find ways to inspire them to follow you. That is what leadership is. If your current methods are not working for you, them, or the org, then something has to change, and that something starts with you.”
For some, this is a perspective they really struggle with. They believe that as the leader, they have the power to demand their subordinates follow them. For others, those who are ready to evolve, this can be a huge ‘aha!’ moment. As a facilitator, it is so awesome to see that moment take place, you can almost see the mind relax, as they realise that the door they’ve felt trapped behind for so long, does in fact, have a key.
So, when deciding what to prepare for this week’s article, I thought I’d share a little of what we goes on in class, once we have these breakthroughs.
I invite the leaders to begin by rescripting their language and their reasoning, in order to adopt some personal accountability for the challenges they are facing. The results look something like this;
“I have not created the conditions for my team to feel motivated to give their full potential”
“I have not created the conditions for my team to feel clear and focussed about our collective mission”
“I have created a team with an overdependence on me, who do not feel empowered or confident to succeed independently”
When we speak in terms of ‘they‘ we disempower ourselves and feel helpless. When we change the perspective to ‘I‘ we can begin moving in a new direction in which we are now in control. It can be incredibly liberating.
Next, I encourage them to ask for feedback from their team members to see where there are opportunities to make improvements that will demonstrate to their team that they care, they are listening, and they are prepared to do the work to make things better.
If you’d like to do the same, you could ask your team to rate statements like the ones below using the a scale of 1-5 (1 – completely disagree, 3 – neutral, 5 – completely agree). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should spark some thoughts.
NB: It may need to be anonymous for them to be candid.
1) I always understand what we are trying to achieve
2) I understand how my contribution adds value to the goals of my team and the organisation
3) My manager takes the time to understand what is important to me and enables me to give those things the attention and time they need (inc non-work-related factors)
4) We have a great team-spirit where everyone supports each other and feels comfortable raising concerns, admitting mistakes, and making suggestions for improvement
5) I am trusted to use my best judgement use my autonomy over how I deliver results
6) I know I will be recognised and/or rewarded for the value I add
Research continues to show us how misaligned the opinions and experiences of employees are compared to their managers and leaders. The longer this misalignment is allowed to perpetuate, the wider and deeper it becomes.
As leaders, we can either find a way for the ‘fish’ to follow us willingly and with enthusiasm, or we can trap them in a net and try dragging them in the direction we need them to go, often while they swim in the opposite direction.
Only one of these approaches leads to long-term, sustainable success, with improved wellbeing outcomes for all.