Today’s work environment is often called dynamic and change referred to as the new normal, but let’s call it what it really is. It’s chaotic, confronting, continually alarming at best, and downright petrifying at worst.
There is so little you can rely on in today’s world because technology changes at the speed of light and a job for life no longer exists. The traditional concept of a work colleague has now been replaced by “fly by night” portfolio workers like me who fly into an organisation, sprinkle their fairy dust over projects and move on without a backwards glance.
So where do we find an anchor, a ballast in these crazily shifting sands? Where do we find something meaningful that can give ourselves and those tasked with working with us a foundation for success?
There’s genuinely no point looking around you in the work environment to find something to hitch your wagon to because in most offices these days no-one even has a desk to call their own. The whole concept of “hot desks” quite frankly leaves a lot of us “stone cold”.
That’s why, if you can be real and surprise those who work with and for you with a massive dose of authenticity and consistency, you have the potential to win hearts, minds, loyalty, contracts, promotions, favours and maybe even a few friends along the way. Be that YOU that got you the job in the first place, be that YOU that your friends and family love and appreciate, be that YOU you always hoped you could have had as a leader. With a bit of self-discipline, self-awareness and self-control, it really is possible.
A guy called Timothy J McClimon wrote a great article for Forbes in 2018 called The Four Ps of Leadership. In that article he discusses how important it is for leaders to focus on their Plan, Purpose, People and Power. He’s right – getting these four things humming is crazy important. My message to you is that if you want to have your People on board and be able to appropriately fulfill your Purpose, communicate your Plan and find and use your Power for good not evil, you need to know yourself, be real and stay classy! Here’s a few tips for how to make this happen.
7 tips for being a Classy Leader.
1. Don’t be scared to share a little of the real you
Teams long for connection with their leader and if you give them some insight into who you are at work and at home, they will respond really positively. Reveal a little of who you are in all aspects of your life. Don’t be afraid to rock a photo of your kids on your desk, don’t shy away from a little light hearted banter, and if you are tired, frustrated, proud, excited about the progress of a work project, feel free to share that in a measured and mature fashion.
This “human” stuff is a fast track to team loyalty.
2. Reveal a little of your position on subjects
Authenticity doesn’t mean you need to be a completely open book – sometimes teams are best delivered information on a need to know basis or handed information in bite sized pieces to manage expectations or avoid overwhelm. But when it is appropriate to share information, don’t be afraid to include some information about how you feel and your personal position on a topic – as long as that opinion isn’t directly flying in the face of an organisational directive. It’s not a great idea to shoot organisational strategy in the foot just to appear cool or popular with your team.
Sharing helps your people learn more about you as a leader and is a powerful way to encourage your team to share their views as well.
3. Encourage those around you to share their thoughts/points of view.
Make your team environment a safe place to share thoughts and feelings on subjects – as long as their delivery of this information is respectful and calm. This can be achieved by leading by example and providing some guidelines around what’s ok and what’s not when it comes to being authentic. Ask your team questions to learn more about their viewpoint and thoughts on issues, opportunities and problems. Always make it crystal clear you value this information because often it takes a lot of courage and commitment to state your position. You will get much better team outcomes if those in your care feel like they can be themselves and that what they think and feel matters – PLUS it’s very likely your team will have some great ideas to contribute.
4. Think about other’s feelings!
Before expressing your opinion, offering feedback or engaging in workplace debate take a minute to explore how that will make other people feel. Take the time to make sure you are in the right place, that it is the right time to share, and that you have the right audience. Being authentic doesn’t mean being brash and inappropriate.
4. Don’t be afraid to say when you were wrong
Actively seek feedback from those around you and make it clear that you are open to honest feedback – good or bad. Don’t dismiss it when people share with you feelings about your approach or performance. Ask questions to make sure you understand and encourage teams under your control to do the same.
When you screw up (and let’s face it – we all mess up sometimes) make a point of thinking through how things may have resulted in a better outcome and then share your learnings with others.
5. If you say you’ll do it, DO IT!
Don’t make promises you can’t keep! Letting people down has never been a recipe for the foundation of a good relationship – in either your personal or professional life. Young or new leaders are renowned for doing this in order to please people but if you can’t guarantee it can happen – don’t say you can! You can say you will explore some options and get back to the team – but don’t promise the world and deliver nothing.
If you do make a promise or commitment of any kind, I recommend keeping a list of these in a place you are exposed to all the time(inside front cover of daily notebook, notes section of ipad, or task list on a calendar) to keep you accountable. Refer to this on a regular basis to make sure you keep your word.
Rise to challenges in a mature and measured way
When you get challenged, hold yourself to account and make sure that you don’t get defensive. Ask heaps of questions to make sure you understand rather than launching into defensive comments (that sometimes will have big scary conversational horns on them that are fabulous at eroding trust). Be as self aware as possible at these critical times in the lifecycle of a team. This is where massive trust hemorrhages happen so try and avoid losing your cool. Take the temperature on your mood and slip out of the room or situation for a minute if you think things are getting hot and sticky!
Be a known quantity. Something teams can rely on in very uncertain times
Remember earlier we talked about how your leadership needs to be a something teams can hold on to in times of massive change. When the inevitable tsunami of chaos that accompanies change and organisational uncertainty rolls in, make sure you can be counted on to be a steadying influence. This isn’t easy because the tsunami will be raining down on you as well, but if you take a few precautions, you can manage your response and keep yourself – and others who depend on you – as calm as possible and best able to ride that wave. Grab a few deep breaths, take a walk around the block, put pen to paper to write down the pros and cons, have a quick chat with your leader to get the best information possible to give to your team – whatever works to ensure that you can be the leader your guys need in crazy situations.
Authenticity and consistency is the key to classy leadership and in today’s business world, they are the best tools we can have to help us find the courage and the power to meet the demands placed on us. In the spirit of Will Ferrell’s wonderful Ron Burgundy I want you to be brave, be bold and stay classy people!