Leadership Assessment #7 – Connects Well with People
Connects Well with People
A good way to evaluate the quality of a leader is to watch the way he connects with people both upward and downward. Great leaders are known for being real rather than phony. People describe the great ones as being "a nice guy" or "approachable" or "like a friend." The idea is the leader does not act aloof and talk down to people. There is no pedestal separating the leader from people in the organization.
There are numerous ways a leader can demonstrate the genuine connection with people. For example, John chambers, CEO of Cisco works from a 12X12 foot cubicle and answers his own phone. There is no executive washroom and no corporate plane. Other leaders dress more like the workers in jeans and polo shirt rather than suit and tie. Probably the most helpful way to be connected to people is to walk the deck often. There is a way you can tell if you are getting enough face time with people.
When you approach a group of workers on the shop floor, watch their body language. If they stiffen up and change their posture, you know that your visit it too much of a special event. If the group continues with the same body language, but just welcomes you into the conversation, then you are doing enough walking of the deck. They used to call this habit MBWA - short for Management By Walking Around. It is, by far, the most enjoyable and easiest way to stay connected with people.
Likewise, the great leader knows how to stay connected with the people above him. In this case MBWA does not work too well because there is no real "shop floor" for upper management. Being accessible helps, so know the layout and drop by on occasion to check in. Do not be a pest - there is a fine line.
One suggestion is to experiment with the preferred modes of communication of your superiors. For example I can recall the best way to keep in touch with one of my bosses was through voice mail. Another boss would rarely reply to voice mail or e-mail, so I would make sure to stop by to see her physically.
One tip that was helpful to me was to arrive very early in the morning - before any of the bosses were present. Most executives arrive at work before the general population to prepare for the day and get some quiet work done before the masses arrive. I would always be in my office working when the bossarrived. There were many occasions when something had to be done to help the boss very early in the morning. Since I was the only one around, I had the opportunity to do little favors for the boss to help her out. Over time that builds up a kind of bond.
Beating the boss in to work consistently demonstrates a kind of dedication. The boss has no way of knowing when you arrived. You could have gotten there just 5 minutes before her or already been hard at work for an hour. I always enjoyed having my car make the first set of tracks in the snow of the manager's parking lot. Over time, that built up a helpful reputation for me that paid off.