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Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP

 

A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
August 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

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The Doctrine of Distance

Early in my career, and just appointed to my first supervisory role, I underwent my first round of management testing. After answering a battery of questions, I sat down for my briefing with the consultant. She told me something that day that changed my approach to leadership. She told me I should get closer to the people I was leading, that I was too distant.

At first, I was aghast. How could she criticize something that I was taught was so essential to effective leadership – separation and objectivity. She was right about the distance. I argued that without some professional distance I wouldn't be as objective as I needed to be. I needed to be the company's man, to make the tough calls. She paused for a moment and then told me it didn't have to be an "either, or" situation, I could do both. I could build strong relationships and still make the tough calls when they were necessary.

Over the coming weeks, I began to think more about her suggestion. As much as I had been drilled with the "doctrine of distance" as I've come to call it, something about what she said just made sense.

I tried it. I made an effort to get to know the people who worked on my small team much better. I scheduled time to ride along with them as they went about their sales calls. We talked about work, families, passions, frustrations and more. 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. I discovered what I now believe is among the most important of leadership truths: followers care about leaders who care about them.

Caring doesn't mean pandering. This is not what people want from their leaders. They want leaders to treat them as though they and their work matter. This starts with spending time with the people you lead. Your priorities are revealed in the way you spend time. Caring leaders spend time inspiring others with new possibilities, coaching, providing feedback, communicating and yes, holding those tough conversations when someone's work or attitude isn't measuring up.

Discovering how much relationships matter made my work more purposeful, more successful and immeasurably more satisfying 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. I had more confidence in them when they had to be made.

When that consultant debunked an old and tired management myth and challenged me to build closer relationships with the people I led, she turned me in an important new direction. In the years that have passed since that day, I have seen her advice proven correct many times over.

Want to know more about how to build relationships that inspire dedication and high performance? Check out my newly released book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders, available as an e-book or softcover.

Discussion Questions:

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

To go deeper on leadership call or write about a half day workshop or a keynote address.

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
August 2014   |   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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