Have you ever looked out over the water and it seemed as though it was moving in one direction? Or another? Or maybe switching directions even as you watch?
Water currents don’t work that way. Streams flow in one direction. Even though major bodies of water like Lake Michigan may have a shift in current, the water generally flows in one direction.
The water on the surface can appear to move in one direction while the current underneath pulls in the other. A body of water may appear peaceful on the surface and yet it may have a strong undertow.
You can’t measure the force of a current by the surface alone. You need to know what’s happening in the deeper water.
Amid the Great Resignation, many leaders know they need help to navigate these troubled waters. We understand this anxiety and yet still see opportunity on the horizon.
In the second part of our current leadership series, we’re going to consider one of the most critical competencies for any leader: listening.
We’re going to ask you to take a vulnerable risk. Will you look beneath the surface of your current listening skills and consider your motives?
Engaging the Heart of Your Employees
The greatest resource in your company is the people. Employees are not tools to be utilized to accomplish a purpose. They are human beings with a full life.
Just as it is for a leader, so it is for a team member. Work may be a crucial part of life, but it’s just one part of a bigger whole.
Do you care about the work-life harmony of the people on your team? When you correct an employee, do you consider how it will impact their relationships outside of work?
When you see an employee settling for being good when you know they could be great – do you factor in what may be going on in their home?
Of course, no leader should try to be the best friend or counselor to everyone on the team. No human being has the capacity for that.
Our question to you is simply this – do you care?
You can be filled with vision and insight, know exactly how to chart a course to success, even navigate choppy and turbulent waters with contagious confidence.
But how deeply do you care about your crew?
Reflect on some of your favorite leaders from your life. Maybe a boss, a teacher, or a coach.
Why did they leave a lasting impression on you? Was it their skill, insight, or humor? Or was it something deeper?
Could you sense that they cared about you? Could you tell that they wanted the best for you?
People will not care what you know until they know that you care.
Leadership Beneath the Surface
This is why mastering leadership techniques can fall short. Active listening. Reflective listening. Patience with silence. All of these skills are good. Necessary, even.
But the motivational current underneath the listening skill will be felt by the team. For better and worse.
That current will influence a culture among the team that will carry it in one direction or another. Regardless of how things look on the surface.
Emotional health, trust, and vulnerability cannot be cultivated by outward skill.
As the captain of a boat, there are times when I need to give commands. Even in rapid order. That’s ok – if my crew knows that I care about them. They’ll be more likely to absorb hard coaching if they know that I have their best interest in mind.
But if I bark out the best orders to chart the safest and most efficient course all the while being irritated or annoyed by my crew, they’ll feel it.
And eventually, they’ll jump ship.
Running with the Wind
Acquiring listening skills is easy. Cultivating emotional health is hard.
But when you genuinely care about the people in your life, the people on your team, you will want to listen. You will yearn to understand. You will desire to know how you can be supportive so that they can flourish.
When that is your motivation, the skills will come easily.
Actively listening while not actually caring is like trying to sail without wind.
Hoist the sail, direct the rudder, strive with all your might. You’re not going to get far.
When the wind is blowing, though, and you have the tools and the team to harness its energy, magic happens.
Building a Winning Team
What is the “win” for your team? Revenue? Platform? Contracts?
Wherever you are going, the best way to get there is with a healthy team who knows they are cared for.
A recent study by the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.
As the research team put it, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
At the Harvard Business Review, Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron, studying numerous sources concluded this:
“A positive workplace is more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and well-being. This, in turn, improves people’s relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and their creativity.
It buffers against negative experiences such as stress, thus improving employees’ ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties while bolstering their health. And, it attracts employees, making them more loyal to the leader and to the organization as well as bringing out their best strengths.”
The evidence is staggering. No doubt it matches your personal experience. When you feel cared for, trust your leaders, and get along with your team – you perform better.
Let’s Set Sail Together
At Full Sail Leadership Academy, we are equipped to support you as you navigate these waters. Reach out today for a free 30-minute consultation and learn how we can help you sail to a brighter future.
If you listen, you’ll hear the wind picking up. Let us help you hone the skills you need so that you can capitalize on the opportunity on the horizon.