If your team (and family) was being 100% honest, would they say they love being around you?
I know, these are the questions that keep us up at night, or at least should.
I would says the answer for me is sometimes yes, and sadly, sometimes not so much.
How about you?
Earlier this week I had a refreshing experience. It happened on a good day.
I was boarding a flight to Houston, finishing up a phone conversation with one of my new team members. He’d had a busy few weeks and I was just checking in on how he was doing. I hung up as we were about to take off.
After we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant came over to me and asked me:
“Was that one of your employees you were talking to?”
“Yes, actually, it was. He just started with me.”
“I’d like an application please.”
It took me back, so I asked him why.
He said this: “I wished I had a boss that cared about me that way.”
Now I promise you, he caught me on a good day. I’m not always an amazing boss or human being. I could point out many other days when people should have quit or divorced me.
But it reminded me of how rare it is to be treated well in this world, at work or at home.
So how can you become a kinder, better boss and human being (as in spouse, parent, friend, citizen)?
Here are 15 small things that can make a big difference.
1. Remember how you feel when others (mis)treat you
How did you like to be treated when you weren’t the leader?
Remember that (remembering is a discipline), and then decide to treat people accordingly. This act of remembering can be a powerful motivator.
Nothing is quite as convicting as to have other people treat you as poorly as you treat them. Remember that.
2. Ask how more than what
Life can be so transactional.
As a boss, spouse or parent, it’s easy to focus on what has to happen next, whether it’s a major project or soccer practice.
But as my friend Jeff Henderson taught me, great people ask how someone is doing not just what they’re doing.
So…ask them how they’re doing even more than you ask them what they’re doing. Ask what they did on the weekend, how they’re feeling, what’s interesting to them.
Ask how someone is doing more often than you ask them what they’re doing, and you’ll have very grateful people around you.
3. Say thanks
Whether you are leading a paid team or volunteer team, say thanks a lot.
Gratitude is a powerful motivator.
Most employees rarely get thanked but love it when they do.
They can work for someone else you know.
4. Write personal notes of thanks
Whether you include a specific thank you in an email you’re already sending, or write a hand-written thank you note, be sure you thank people regularly.
Expressing gratitude actually makes you more grateful. And yep, this is a discipline for me. But one worthwhile.
Smiling is sometimes a discipline. Even if you have to make yourself smile, it will ultimately make you feel better than when you don’t.
And it will convey a powerful message to the person you’re talking to.
6. Look people in the eye
Eye contact is also rarer these days than ever before.
Smiling while you look at someone will encourage them in a very powerful way.
Many people feel like other people don’t like them. A smile and your full attention convey that you do.
7. Get good at what you do
Increasing your skill level will make you like what you do more, but it will help your team respect you.
You’ll feel more positive and so will they.
Don’t expect other people to pull their weight if you won’t pull yours. This goes for leadership at work, but also for home life when the trash needs to be taken out (again).
8. Share some of your weaknesses
You don’t need to share everything, but when you share a few things you might struggle with it goes a long way toward building trust and empathy.
Moreover, you won’t feel as much pressure to put on a ‘show,’ and they will feel less pressure to measure up to an impossible standard. This really helps.
People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.
9. Take time off
Yes, you’re a leader and you’ve got a crazy life.
But all work and no play = stressed, angry and dull.
10. Have some fun
Many people don’t like their jobs because they are boring.
We have done everything from trying to make origami without instructions, to road rallies, to going to the movies, to high ropes, to throwing themed parties for staff and volunteers, to simple lunches where we celebrate milestones and people.
If people come to love where they work, they tend to work diligently. Laughter can really break the tension. We laugh a lot on our team, and it makes work a fun place to be.
Uptight people…want a short cut to fun? Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
11. Schedule margin
I struggle most when my schedule is back to back meetings.
If I schedule breaks between meetings, time to get out to stretch my legs at lunch and time between events, I show up more refreshed. You probably do too.
Rest up. I’m at my most kind when I’m at my most rested. You are too.
12. Celebrate wins
We try to start each meeting with what we call “wins” – how do we know we’re accomplishing our mission?
This is a great discipline because often as a leader I only see the challenges ahead, not the victories that are happening.
Most leaders have far more to be grateful for what they see in any given moment.
13. Think more about others than you think about yourself
I’m basically a selfish person. I think most of us are.
If I go into meetings thinking about how I can help others, I do better than when I go into a meeting thinking about what I can get out of it.
And others enjoy those meetings far more.
As C.S. Lewis said, “True humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
14. Get some help
Still grumpy and angry at the world? Get some help.
I have used counselors in the past and I always have coaches and mentors building into me to help me see my blind spots and get better as a leader.
They really help me work through my issues and grow a more positive spirit.
15. Pray about it
Prayer. It’s a good idea.
It’s kind of an assumption on this blog that the Christian leaders who read it are reading their Bibles and praying, but just to make the implicit explicit, pray about this.
(And yes, I read your comments about “Where’s God and prayer and the Bible on this blog?” I promise you it undergirds every post…really. It’s just every post would be the same if I mentioned them all the time. This blog is about the less obvious.)
If you really struggle with mood, make sure you really pray about it.
Your bad attitude is not news to God or others, and God (and others) will be glad you are talking about it with Him.
You’ll never address what you don’t confess.
What Do You See?
What helps you be a kinder, gentler leader and human being?
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