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Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP

 

A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
April 2013   |   By Dan Gaynor

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The Doctrine of Distance

Early in my career I underwent some management testing. I had just been appointed as a new sales supervisor to lead a group of fewer than ten people. After answering a battery of questions, I sat down for my briefing with the consultant. She told me something that redirected my thinking that day. She told me I should get closer to the people I was leading, that I was too distant.

How could she criticize something that was so essential to effective leadership - separation and objectivity. She was right about the distance. I had been taught that it was the right way to lead. Without some "professional distance" I wouldn't be as objective about the company's interests. I wouldn't be able make the tough calls. I'm sure I did my best in that moment to correct her thinking. She told me it didn't have to be an "either, or" situation, I could do both.

Over the coming weeks, I began to think more about her suggestion. As much as I had been drilled with the "doctrine of distance" something about what she said just made sense. I started to think about the idea that I could build closer relationships and still make the tough calls when I had to.

I tried it. I made an effort to get to know the people who worked in my group much better. I scheduled time to ride along with them as they went about their sales calls. We talked about families, about passions and about frustrations. Right away, it felt much more natural and it changed the way we worked together. I tried harder for them and I know they tried harder for me. Very soon, I saw that when I made an effort get to know them, they shared their thoughts with me. This helped me lead them more effectively. I discovered a powerful leadership truth: People care about leaders who care about them.

Closer relationships made my work with them more purposeful, more successful and immeasurably more rewarding and it didn't compromise my objectivity. As is often the case, I had to make some changes on that team. I learned that getting closer made those tough decisions more informed. Those relationships also opened the door for important conversations about job fit when they were necessary. The advice she gave me could not have been more correct.

When that consultant debunked an old and tired leadership myth and encouraged me to think about the importance of relationships, she turned me in an important new direction. In the years that have passed since, I have seen her advice proven right many times over.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How well do you know the people you are leading?
  2. How well do you know the people you are leading?
  3. What practical steps could you take to spend more time with them?

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Bookmark and Share

A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
April 2013   |   By Dan Gaynor

 

Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.



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