As a leader it is important that we are present. We need to avoid seeming distracted. We need to give them our full attention. If we don’t do this they may feel unheard or not listened to.
I noticed when I was a leader that sometimes a team member would come and ask for my advice. They would the share the problem with me and then go onto solve their problem. They would then thank me for the help. I thought “I’ve not done anything” . But I realize what I did, was to give them the space to think through the problem giving them my full attention. This was a powerful lesson for me. I was being present.
When I work with leaders who are not engaging well with their direct reports, it is often that the Leader has become very transactional. They have become focused on the tasks rather than the bigger picture. When I probe further, they start to acknowledge that actually they have stopped engaging with their teams. They no longer ask them questions. When their team do engage with them, they can often be distracted or worse still, hurry them along to get to the point.
This means that they are not getting the best from each other. They may start to withhold information or not seek support that they require. The leader loses this vital contact with the team. They may start to get involved in the detail to gain the answers they would normally get from their team members. As a by product the leader then starts to neglect their strategic role.
This transactional relationship, leaves the team member feeling like they do not have a voice. This will start to impact their sense of empowerment. As this happens, they make seek more validation or ask questions, as their confidence has been knocked. This becomes self-fulfilling. The leader might start to believe the person isn’t up to the job, and this exacerbates their sense of need to be in the detail. This vicious circle could be avoided by the leader connecting with the team member.
My 3 thoughts to becoming a more present leader are:
- Avoid distractions: close the lid of your laptop, turn over your phone and keep your eyes on the person speaking
- Give full attention: clear your mind, feel easeful and relaxed and avoid hurrying them along with fast nodding or hand gestures
- Be absent: If you are not able to do the above, recognize that you are not in the right frame of mind or have something you need to do, then schedule the session in for a more appropriate time.
By doing this we will both enhance our and our team’s experience. Great leaders are present for their team and understand the impact that they have on others.