When leaders reorganize, the process generally calls for and results in new market segmentation, department names, support functions and promotions. It also calls for a road trip. Typically, the leadership team irrespective of size takes off for a resort/conference center for work and play.
My team conferences were structured in the usual way: the daily agenda allowed for each team to present their identify, goals and reciprocal support arrangements using charts, graphs, videos and any other visual aid needed to display as much information as possible within their allotted time. In contrast, the evening "agenda" focused on socializing and getting to know each other better to improve the business alliances we would pursue to be successful. There was also lots and lots of drinks. By day two of our usual three day event we were exhausted and ready to head home.
This brings to mind something that I experienced at an event I attended a few years back. It was the third day of a three day conference and it was the critical one for me and my team. My department head, Linda, was scheduled to close the conference. My colleagues and I had assembled a well thought - out and rather large presentation for her to present on our behalf. We put an enormous amount of work into this effort. We were anxious and alert and hoping in spite of our social activities the night before, the rest of the team would be as well.
When Linda reached the podium she acknowledged us for our hard work over the past two days. Linda then spoke - without that presentation that we had put together - asking us to believe in the purpose of the organization; trust that we had collectively used our best information; placed our best people and developed the best products and methodology for success. She went on to say that what was most impressive about this was that our hard work in preparing for the conference and detailing our respective business plans demonstrated our faith in the mission and eventual success of the team.
Rather than speaking to organizational charts and functions, Linda chose to share her favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." She went on to offer that although we could not absolutely see how the year would play out, that this conference was our first step towards success. After promising to send out her presentation and make us, her team, available to review it as needed, Linda thanked us and sat down. She didn't use one slide; and yet, we were energized and inspired.
When I think about Linda's actions in the context of emotional intelligence as a leadership tool, I can see that she was:
- Self Aware - she recognized her own emotions, i.e., fatigue and information overload, and their effect.
- She understood her Self Impact. Linda was able to transform emotions to action by changing up her approach and choosing to connect and show rather then tell.
- She had Social Awareness. Clearly Linda was able to empathize with us. She had insight into what we were thinking and feeling. And finally, she leveraged well developed
- Social Skills by using her talents to communicate and influence for the best possible outcome at that one particular time.
The takeaway here is that having empathy is a critical ingredient for real leaders and one worth cultivating. It helps us understand how others are reacting to situations and then matches strategy and tactics to those situations. Empathy not only improves our people skills, it helps inform our decisions and gain the respect of those important to our mission.
RLA's business coaching is a great tool to use when thinking about how empathy and the emotional intelligence framework factors into your day to day interaction with your management and those you manage. Contact Beth for more information.
Thanksgiving is almost here and as it approaches I would like to thank you, my friends and colleagues, for your ongoing support. Have a wonderful Turkey Day celebration! I'll be back next month to share my take on end of year "to do's". Enjoy!