Have you ever known someone who leaves a great opportunity only to flounder and as a result never bounces back to a level that they were before? Perhaps they are the type to jump headfirst into the newest financial fad without thinking through the implications. Maybe they are constantly job hopping instead of taking time to plan out a true career journey.
There are times when we all could have benefitted from a person helping us see the larger picture before making a foolish or rash decision. Here are some ways that you can help protect your people from themselves when they need it most.
Keep a close connection when they are struggling
Sometimes it is quite easy to see when someone is struggling in their work or personal life. They act out, they may lower their level of care for themselves and others, or they may begin cutting themselves off from critical relationships among other signs. For others, the signs are much more subtle. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I didn’t know that they were struggling or had an issue,” until it was too late.
Find the right balance: Are you figuratively smothering the person or do you need to be even more present with them? It’s hard to tell at times, and the level of connection needed can change depending on what the root cause of the other person’s struggle is. Adding to the complexity is the fact that we all need different amounts of quiet and space to process. Some great activities that always help include – taking care of some of their daily tasks, helping them get a change of scenery, and providing them with extra support. Make sure that the person is open to the help first.
Listen or problem-solve?: Being there for someone will typically fall into one of two categories: helping them problem-solve through the situation or simply being present and available for the person. A great strategy here, for both home and work, is to just ask the question, “Do you want me to help problem-solve, or do you need a good listener right now?” This gives the person an opportunity to share what their need is and a clear direction for you during the conversation.
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A person may believe that they are making good decisions or acting in a way that props themselves up for success, or at a minimum, helps them move away from a situation that is not good for them. In reality, they may be unknowingly setting themselves up for failure.
Ever make a poor choice because you later learned that you were missing critical information? People have created irreversible harm to their relationships and careers because they were acting on skewed or incomplete information.
Help your people see and understand the bigger picture. Speaking in anecdotes and what-ifs only can cause more confusion which leads to further disengagement down the path of a decision that can have unintended consequences on their career.
There may be circumstances when you can’t share fully for a number of reasons. In this circumstance, let them know that you aren’t able to share any information at the current time, but give them a timeline of when you’ll follow up with them. Mark the time commitment in your calendar so that you don’t forget to re-engage on the topic.
Give them a chance to share their struggles
Providing the person the psychologically safe space to openly share their struggles is important. There is a high likelihood that the person firmly believes that some of their needs are not being met by the team or organization. Give them a chance to express their frustration and share what their needs or aspirations are. What you learn here may give you an easy path to set things right.
Give them a way back
Let’s say the person is a wonderful contribution to your team, but they end up moving on. Let them know that they will have a place on your team if they ever change their mind. Over the years, I’ve spoken to several people who left an organization, only to return. Their loyalty and appreciation are nearly always higher as a result. Be sure to help them work through any embarrassment that they may feel as they re-onboard with the team.
We should always want the best for those on our teams, and that sometimes means letting them move on to bigger and better things. In those times when a person may be making a hasty decision, move in to provide extra support to help prevent them from making a move that they will later regret.
Thank you so much for listening to the show, whether today’s your first show or you have been with us from the beginning. Today, Zack, Neha, and Mike get together and discuss the past year, share some stories, preview some things coming in year 8 and answer listener questions from our mailbox!
As an adult, you spend the majority of your productive hours of the week working with and alongside other people. In order for you to be the most productive and carry a good sense of belonging, you need to have great working relationships with those that you interact with.
With personality rubs, competing personal priorities, and an uneven amount of compassion and empathy, talking about the importance of great working relationships is easier said than done. Here are some simple approaches to implement to start building those relationships today.
Communicate & stay in touch
One of my biggest hurdles when wanting to better a working relationship is the communication cadence. The relationship might not be where it needs to be simply because there isn’t a relationship in the first place. It’s hard to build a relationship with someone that you don’t talk to!
Be mindful to reach out regularly. It may feel a bit forced at first, but by approaching it with genuine care and curiosity, you can help smooth over any awkwardness.
Be thoughtful in your communication approach as well. We all have our preferred vehicle for communication and it may not be the same for the person that you are trying to build a relationship with.
Look for opportunities to connect
I like to show up to meetings early because then I have the opportunity to connect with others without an agenda attached to the time. The conversations can range anywhere from work-related to small talk to learning about others.
Before one meeting last week, we talked about Nashville and its wild people gatherings on Broad Street. From there I learned that someone on the team lived there, other people’s musical preferences, and what they have done in the city. All great info to have when building relationships with others. (And none involving work!)
Show to meetings early and/or be the last to leave. Also, consider other opportunities like shared work breaks and lunches together. It shows others that you have a genuine interest in them and it’s a natural way to have more connections with others.
Great working relationships are grounded in trust and a level of mutual respect. You can show respect to others by:
Meeting and exceeding your commitments to them and the team.
Being on time (or early) to meetings and communicating early when a situation prevents you from attending.
Honor people’s time. Don’t keep them too long if they need to be moving on to the next thing.
Listen more than you talk in meetings.
Stay away from office politics and gossip. Even if it’s not involving the other person, they will see that you are participating in the gossip and may wonder what you are saying about them when they are not around.
Be accountable for any missteps that happen as you build the relationship. We all make mistakes. It’s important to own them so the other person sees and understands that you recognize your growth opportunities.
Lean into the positive
There is a time and place for venting and sharing frustration, but the time you are investing in relationship building is not the proper time.
Keep away from complaining about others because it doesn’t help as you try to build trust and respect with others. Look for positive solutions to problems that people take for granted. Keeping a positive focus will naturally draw others to you and accelerate those relationships to want to strengthen.
Stay in touch with the people you are building relationships with and look for natural points to build rapport and add value. Show respect and communicate in a way that meets their personal preference. Stepping out of your comfort zone a little in order to grow relationships will be a valuable step of faith.
Whether it’s a larger promotion in leadership, or your first time leading others, jumping into a new role can be exciting and rewarding long term. Despite all of your goals, dreams, and ambitions, you can flounder in your new role, if you approach it the wrong way. You must be able to change yourself, your leadership style, and your priorities in order to be successful in your new role.
The phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you where are going” certainly applies to this critical juncture as you transition in your own leadership.
Be willing to let go of things that you love
We all have things that we love to do in our jobs. From the super quirky to the very relevant, there are just things that we love to do ourselves. It’s also highly likely that you are the best person at whatever the particular task is and you also get a nice level of satisfaction for completing the task.
One of the personal rubs that you will have to overcome in your transition, are the things that you love doing. Those projects or tasks that you enjoyed so much are likely not appropriate for you to be doing at that next level of leadership.
Continuing to do those old things that you loved will mean that you are leading a level down, which means that you are likely going to frustrate those that you are serving and cause things to be less efficient.
Let go of those old things that you love and give grace and space to those that take up your previous passion projects. Rest assured, the work will still get done and you’re likely to find a whole host of new passion projects in your new role.
Adapt how you lead
Your leadership style is going to need to change as you make your transition, regardless of your current leadership status.
For those leading others for the first time: You need to really lean into delegation and supporting your team to avoid the temptation to try to do it all yourself. Stay close to your direct leader and a trusted advisor or mentor to help keep you on track with what to prioritize and delegate.
For those that were previously leading people: You are now likely leading leaders instead of individual contributors, or you are leading a full segment of the business. Your influencing skills need to take center stage for you know as you lead leaders. Prioritize your direct reports and make sure that they are prioritizing their direct reports (instead of you) to ensure the vision, and the message are getting down to the front line people.
Other items that you’ll need to assess and change are your communication style, how you spend your time and the way that you carry yourself among other things.
Consider your sweet spot
I’ve seen many leaders over the years get unpleasantly surprised with then promote a great employee from within. They showed all the right signs; high performance, and dedication to the job and to others while having a can-do attitude. Once these great people got into their new roles they floundered. The leader was frustrated, efficiency dropped and many times the employee ended up leaving.
The person was extended one past their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is your calling. It’s your happy place where you are the most impactful and feel the reward in what you do. You are typically very good at what you do and that’s why leaders are naturally drawn to give these people promotions. They think, “They are wonderful at this role, then they’ll be great at the next one.” Once the person is extended past their sweet spot, they will drop in engagement and capability. It’s not really the person’s fault. They just aren’t in the role that was meant for them anymore.
Based on your personal goals, passing and personal calling, you should have a fairly good sense of knowing if you’ve hit your sweet spot or not. Once you do, don’t continue to move up the organizational ladder. You’ll be doing the company and yourself a disservice. Instead of passing through a leadership transition that you shouldn’t, invest in yourself by going deeper in your expertise or by gaining new knowledge. This will keep you relevant for the future and help you from getting bored in your everyday work.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader