Leading with Discernment
It wasn't until I left the corporate world and returned to my grassroots of psychology and healing that I began to ponder certain aspects of leadership. Thinking over the various companies I had worked with and, more importantly, the relationships that existed between people, I reviewed the plethora of cultural norms and leadership beliefs that I had come across. I realised that I had struggled to embrace many of these because they were simply not who I was, nor did they serve the changing needs of the business. I also thought of how easy it would be to lead if we could just remove one important variable... that is... PEOPLE! So I'd like to briefly discuss the subject of people and leadership.
'Phenomenology' is the way a person sees the world and makes meaning of it; although this can be described/theorised in many ways, somewhere down the line it always links back to personal experience. As we all have different life experiences, it is possible to view, feel, and interpret the same situation/object in various ways. Why is this so important to leadership? Because one of the biggest challenges for any leader is when the people we are trying to lead are directly opposed to us. The focus of many leaders is to make money, seeing people as merely spokes in the money-making-wheel. I want to challenge this and suggest that leaders actually need to better understand their people's point of view, and include them as vital parts of the overall system. It is these people, after all, who support and give the wheel it's shape and stability - without them the wheel will collapse. Therefore, leaders need to be open to and embrace difference. Being challenged is a good thing.
People matter to every business - both internally and externally. And how well we work with differences in people will be our difference in business. When we change the structure or policies of a business it affects people; when we employ new staff or implement training it affects people. Not just internally but also externally, because customers matter and reputation matters. It is proven that if employees feel valued, productive, and that they are making a contribution, then performance improves. If a customer feels heard and their needs are met they will continue to purchase. Therefore the way we, as leaders, choose to make contact with people and our ability to form healthy relationships will influence our present and future business growth.
Leading is not just about seeing things through our eyes with everyone else following. This authoritative approach is best reserved for war and crisis situations. In business the concept is to introduce our service/product to a target market and for people to adopt it. What if someone in our business knows more than us, has a better idea, is worried about the ethics of business practices we are adopting, or a customer is disenfranchised? Will we, as leaders, remain open minded, listen and perhaps embrace what they are sharing, or will we allow our need for control and power, fear of change, or personal insecurity shut them down?
What constitutes a healthy relationship between people? Here are some points to think about...
- Care - I about "we". Because employees and customers can sense if they are just a number or whether they really matter to the business.
- Commitment - to taking the time needed to establish trust, and the effort to maintaining a relationship. Small business often relies on word of mouth referrals, and return business is very important.
- Respect - it is a universal human right and the basis of trust. We all have personal boundaries that we need to be aware of within ourselves and for others.
- Honesty and reliability - with ourselves and others. When we know where we stand, others will too. There are no hidden agendas.
- Self awareness and taking responsibility - because there are many possibilities and we always have a choice. We are each responsible for our contribution to a relationship. If we make a mistake we can own it, learn from it, and move on. If something is not working for us as a leader, we can have the courage to face it, feel it, heal it, learn how to do things differently, and then do it. Leadership, relationships, and life is a journey of potentiality.
- Ability to dialogue - genuine unreserved communication between people is a skill. Everyone has an innate need to be seen and feel heard, and this is the biggest gift a leader can provide and is key to resolving conflict. It is amazing how quickly issues can be resolved once the aggrieved person feels heard. Listening is a skill and there are ways to communicate to maintain respect, foster growth, minimise hurt, and empower people. Find a course and invest in yourself - and make no excuses!