Lynda’s High 5 for Leaders
5 ways leaders might be causing drama in the workplace
by: Lynda McNutt Foster
Being a leader is neither easy or sexy. The amount of responsibility that most of you have is extreme. The hours you dedicate to your organization, your team and the work you do is impressive. Here’s the thing. You might be doing some things that are causing drama with your team members and you don’t even know it. They can be super simple things you wouldn’t even think are having an impact, but they are. The good news is that they are pretty easy to modify if you find you are doing them.
Here’s a list of the 5 ways you might be causing drama in your workplace that I have found to be the most common:
- Not greeting team members as you arrive. I have had several clients that were so focused on their tasks for the day they would walk through their offices, passing many team members and peers, and not saying a word to them. The amount of drama this can cause can be quite impactful. The result of being passed without any acknowledgment can result in team members wondering whether you are mad at them. They begin hypothesizing about whether they did something to upset you. They begin asking other team members whether you are upset. Yes, as simple at this sounds, leaders in our armed services are taught to acknowledge every member as they pass them when they are arriving. One of my clients refused to change this behavior because he thought it was ridiculous. Ridiculous or not, the result was that he was passed over for a promotion by his superiors because so many team members complained of the leaders lack of regard for others.
- Not responding to emails. When your team members send you a request they may have been thinking for days about how to word it to you and when to send it. You may not be able to answer their question immediately and may need time to think or gather information for the decision or full response they need. Simply responding with something like, “Thanks for sending this. I need some time to think about it. I will get back to you by the end of the week,” communicates that you received their correspondence, what you are doing with it, and when you will get back to them. No response, for days and days, leaves the team member in a state of having no idea, without making assumptions, as to whether you even got their request or not.
- Using your body language, tone or sarcasm to convey what you are thinking. Your silence, unemotional or harsh resting face, curt tone, or dripping sarcasm has to be interpreted. Depending on someone’s behavioral style, what they are focused on and their past experiences with you, how they interpret any of these things could work for you or against you. Silence could mean to one person that you are “thinking about” what they said. To someone else, silence, for long periods, could be interpreted that you are mad at them. To someone else, silence is pure torture. Just state your truth, from your point of view, as clearly as you are able and ask the other person what they heard you say if it is a difficult situation or conversation. Asking others to read your mind will not serve you to get what you need or want from team members.
- Only communicating in writing. Email is for transferring information, not having a conversation. Our brains are programmed to look for danger during a change. Any type of change is first scanned for how it can negatively effect the receiver. It’s best to communicate to people in small groups, allow for discussion around the change, and then follow up with an email detailing the change and what was discussed. Some behavioral styles would rather write 20 emails instead of having to have an open discussion team meeting. Others would rather shoot a quick email out as they see it as an “efficient” way to convey change. An email sent regarding a change in policy, procedure, or process can quickly turn into a tidal wave of gossip and misinterpretation. Don’t blindside your team with change communicated through email.
- Only communicating verbally. Some leaders love to talk to everyone on their team consistently. They share all information verbally and have lots of conversations around any changes that are occurring. These same leaders dread putting things in writing. It’s necessary to do both. As a leader, your job is to convey the vision of the organization and department with clarity and consistency. Following up by putting things in writing will help solidify and clarify what you have said verbally. If tasks and changes that you want to see occurring aren’t, try issuing written correspondence that will allow team members to know exactly what you meant by some of the things you said. It will also allow some of your less verbal team members to respond to that correspondence with questions they may have.
As a side dish to this, get rid of your “open door policy”. The behavioral styles that will charge through the door to tell you what they really think are going to do it anyway. Others will come through the “open door” and talk endlessly about things that have nothing to do with why you set up the policy in the first place. Still others would never want to bother you so they will not go through your “open door”. A much better policy is to consistently find ways to go to your team members, individually, and check in with them. “What’s going right?” you might ask them. Or, “What would you like to see done differently moving forward?” Or, “In the last month, what do you think I could stop or start doing that would help you be more effective in executing your job?”
This leadership thing is tough stuff. You’ve chosen it and you will need the engagement, cooperation and cohesion of your team members to reach your potential at it. You got this, though. It just doesn’t feel like you do sometimes.
For more on drama in the workplace, see: The Power of TED*, The Empowerment Dynamic by David Emerald.
If you missed last week’s segment of Becky Freemal’s new segment with me, on WFXR, regarding Designing Your Time, here you go: Virginia At Work