Every single one of us makes a difference. In our daily interactions with people, we affect them in some small, often insignificant ways. And sometimes bigger ways too.
Whether it’s the questions we ask people as we go about our lives, or the way we listen to others when they want our attention, the way we communicate can make profound differences to people.
As leaders, we carry a bigger responsibility. From the relationships we create with the people in our teams, what we say and do may have a greater impact than you might appreciate.
For we cause ripples across their relationships too.
For the shy introvert who stands at the back and never says anything. To the battered insecurities of those affected by the uncaring words and actions of others they have been exposed to. For the individuals who don’t do what we expect and we give feedback to. For the capable and yet unfulfilled we work with to realise their potential.
Every one of them takes home with them how they feel.
As leaders, we can darken their days when we are disrespectful. We can cause them to hide their light under a rock, when we make fun of them in an inconsiderate way. We can hurt them by failing to act differently than we might do when they need our support.
And that knocks on to those they interact with too.
Every one of these things we can do differently, for the opportunity is within us to brighten shattered and beaten lives.
We can light up the lives of our people by the way we behave with them. When we take the time to understand people and what their needs are, we can help them shape their lives positively, both in the workplace and in their bigger lives with friends and family.
It is within us to help those in our care, to become much greater than they might believe they have the possibilities for. Because we have the capability to see the potential beneath the surface, so often well hidden. Hidden by the filters protect them, from those who sought to damage them; scare them, and even belittle them. Just because of the impactful insecurities of those so-called leaders they came across in their past.
So, if you felt that leadership was challenging already, here is another thought. You can change the lives not only the people who work for you in your teams, but you can also impact positively (or negatively if you choose to, but definitely not recommended!) of those they love and live with when they aren't in the workplace with you.
All it takes is an understanding of the power that you have when you lead people, and your ability to amend your behaviours to meet the needs of each individual in your care. It takes time and energy to appreciate where people are, and to meet their own hopes of becoming their best.
Whilst challenging, this is one of the most wonderful elements of leadership, fulfilling that greatest desire inside most great leaders, to be the best for the people they lead.
Here are some thoughts to take you forward:
- Give people your time, where you listen fully and pay attention, not always the words they say, but also the way they say it and hear the words beneath.
- Ask about what interests and what is most important to them (hint: it’s not always work!), thereby building trust between you and showing them they are of value and you care.
- Seek to fully understand them - without making assumptions - even if they do not always achieve what you expect of them.
- Respect the individual at all times, even when things go wrong, treating such times as live learning opportunities.
- Give feedback regularly - both positive and constructive - to help them build their confidence on the one hand, and to get better at what they do on the other.
- Give praise often, when it is deserved. Even if you only have time for a smile and a ‘Thank you’. It is quick and effective, making such a difference to them.
- Delegate actively – with support - to develop people in new tasks. When people are challenged and they are successful, it makes a huge difference to who they become, not only in the workplace as an asset to you, but also at home as a member of the family and with friends.
- Be humble in the way you are with others. For they have the potential to be brilliant. They might need to recognise that everyone has to start somewhere – including you.
You can make a difference to everyone you touch in your workplace. You have a true duty of care for the well-being of those in your care. And the spin-off for you is that you will grow truly wonderful employees, not only to support your team goals, but also in the wider environment of their world too.
Go forth and make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Martin Haworth is an experienced UK-based coach and trainer with TNM Coaching, working worldwide with enlightened organisations who see the light in leadership and management development.