Sitting in my office, at the end of a very hectic day, when my mind started to flood with thoughts of past leaders. Many of them had a tremendous impact in my career. I thought about nearly all of them but there was one experience that I could not stop thinking about. It involves someone that managed me in a way she, herself wanted to be managed.
It began when I applied for a position with one of the major hospitality facilities in town, Clarion. After waiting two weeks without a follow up call from the hiring manager, I took matters into my own hands and called the company’s switchboard operator. I requested to be transferred to the department in which I applied.
Once my call was transferred, the person that answered the phone was quite rude to say the least. The lady answered and asked, “You have reached QRS department, may I know who is calling and how may I assist you?” I introduced myself and informed her about my job application and then asked when I should expect to get an interview? She irritably replied “I’m the Assistant to the Director of QRS department and we are not hiring!” and then she hung-up the phone. I was devastated but I assured myself that when one door closes, another – and even better door always opens.
About thirty minutes later, my phone rang! I answered it and it was her (the same person who had hung up in my face) calling back to ask if I would come in for an interview the following Wednesday. This was a complete 180-degree turn. Despite her rudeness, I agreed to the interview. I met with the Director (not the Assistant) and for an interview. The Director’s name is Kate, by the way. After spending ten minutes with me, she hired me. And at the end of the interview she even walked me to my car.
Although I didn’t like the Assistant’s behavior towards me over the phone, I never approached her about it, I never asked any questions about it, I just begun working and pretended it didn’t happen.
After the ninety-day probationary period, Kate invited me for a one-on-one meeting. Not sure what to expect, I sat in the cafeteria eagerly waiting her arrival. When she got there, she ordered a wrap sandwich and a diet Coca-Cola; and I ordered a Philly cheese steak, a bottle of water and a slice of lime. Once the cafeteria attendant left the table and was out of earshot, I asked Kate why the invitation for lunch and if the meeting was about my job performance?
She looked straight in my eyes and smiled. Her smile reassured me, so I asked again, why did you hired me? And she said, “Gut Instinct”! Humbled by the response, I waited with bated breath to hear more. At this point as she took a bite of her BLT whole-wheat wrap sandwich. After a few seconds of chewing, she continued with “I saw a drive in you, I don’t see in most job seekers that want to come and work in my department” she continued on, “I overheard how my assistant treated you over the phone the day you called in and I was personally embarrassed.”
“Her behavior did not align with my department’s culture nor our organizational core values. I had to address the behavior immediately because I didn’t want it to become a debilitating factor in recruiting potential candidates for the department and the organization as a whole.”
Effective leaders first understand that leadership starts with them from within. This means there is a willingness to improve themselves and their skills. There’s no denial that great leaders inspire us to do our best at work, and a successful leader is one who realizes that learning is a lifelong process.
“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.” –Brian Tracy
I’ve worked with leaders who are overly controlling and suffocating their employees. And I’ve also worked with leaders who have little to no control over what’s going on in their departments, with the result being a bit like a roller coaster ride without the safety harness.
Respect for people is the value most often overlooked. Motivating employees to do their best work is far from simple task.
Here are some key qualities that every successful leader possesses:
- A leader needs to hold themselves accountable for the actions and performance of the team.
- A leader needs to engage their employees and make them feel a connection with the organization’s mission.
- A leader needs to promote alliance and collaboration across business units.
- A leader needs to focus efforts on those actions and initiatives that provide greatest value to the organization.
- A leader needs to accept constructive criticism without becoming defensive.
- A leader needs to encourage open sharing of ideas and information and challenge the status quo, by asking if there is a better way to get the work done.
- A leader needs to assist, teach and support their direct reports in order to help them display behaviors that are consistent with business values.
- A leader must clarify consequences with his/her team and celebrate successful behavioral changes.
- A leader must share responsibility the employees’ successes and failures.
- A leader must be supportive by promoting honesty, trust and mutual respect.
- A leader must focus his/ her attention on solving problems. In critical situations, problems should be viewed as a learning opportunity and not for identifying people for punishment.
- A leader must create an inclusive environment. Responding to employee’s questions and issues with empathy to build a value – driven organization.
- A leader must value consistency. Consistency reduces uncertainty.
- A leader must be strategically opportunistic. They must anticipate opportunities and leverage those opportunities towards their long-term goals.