It’s been a while since I’ve posted. My time since the last post was taken up with being an in house communications director and change manager, working with a variety of C-Suite executives at Fortune 100 companies. And in that time, I learned a lot about leadership, but not just from the perspective of the leader. I learned that it doesn’t matter how a leader perceives him or herself if they aren’t authentic in how they present themselves.
The best employee town hall I worked on was for a new female leader who replaced someone who was quite popular. She knew he had been loved by the employee group, but she knew she could win them over, too. And she did it spectacularly. How? By being authentic. She told her life story with details about how she felt about each step along the way. She also shared information about her family, her favorite hobbies, sports teams, and her hopes for the team. She admitted what she did know about the role, what she needed to figure out, and her hopes. She laughed, she asked questions, she answered hard questions, and she took the time to chat with folks one-on-one once the event was over. The result? Sky high reviews. The comment field was flooded with optimism and expressions of trust. Her debut to her team was successful.
Another leader I worked with had an opposite experience. This leader never left her office. Canceled or rescheduled meetings with the members of her team – frequently after the start of those meetings. And when she presented, she used the latest buzz words to a team of innovators without authentically understanding what the words meant. It didn’t take long for her peers to declare a lack of trust in her or for the employees to decide that she didn’t care about them. The most common comment, “What is she really thinking? I don’t trust her.”
The big lesson? Be open, be approachable, understand the words you say. Employees want to connect with real people.