Many of the leaders I coach are so focused on their work, and the attainment of goals, that they forget to “see” the people delivering the results. Others say they are cold, aloof, uncaring or worse – scary, brutal, a jerk to work with. Yet, typically, it’s a lack of attention to the skills of interpersonal relations that’s the problem. Layer on natural introversion and a desire to stick-to-the-facts, and you can see how some successful business leaders end up with only reluctant followers.
You’re sitting in front of an employee whose negative outlook and constant complaining is making it difficult for others to work with him. Or, a colleague has just sent you a note saying that unfortunately, no one on his team has time to participate in your strategic cross-functional project team. Your boss tells you, with great excitement, that she’s made an unrealistic promise to a significant client, and now she’s depending on you to make it happen.
In all these cases you’re faced with a dilemma: How do you tell the other person your side of the story without alienating them or damaging the relationship – and perhaps your career?
Employee turnover is the greatest issue facing HR I read today. Leaders say, forget retention, millennials are on the move, they don’t want to stay for more than a few years, we must expect that. The people under 40 that I know say: We don’t want to move all the time, we have no choice. Because we are told it’s a great place to work and then realize it’s a sweatshop. Because the pay isn’t there. Because the flat structures mean there are no opportunities offered to us.
Self-confidence can be a game-changer for leaders, and so it comes up in Coaching. Followers expect to work with self-assured leaders. Confidence is different than a “know-it-all” attitude: It’s more about feeling strong in your abilities. In every workplace, it’s not just about what you know that demonstrates leadership – it’s how confidently you lead when you don’t know.
For example, M. has taken on a new job, after being downsized from a 20-year career in a completely different industry.
In preparation to facilitate new groups, I’m often warned by the leader about the team member who won’t participate. They mean that there will be one or more persons who sit in the room, but don’t speak. While this might be typical behaviour, I find that often – with the right atmosphere and attention – their contribution level rises. Introversion can be part of a natural inclination, and reticence may also be due to a negative work history or hidden team dynamics.