This One is for Everyone Else...
Have you ever wondered why emotionally intelligent leaders are effective? I know, I know, it is important to point out that emotional intelligence does speak directly to a leader’s ability to connect and engage with their respective team where they are emotionally. This is good and important stuff, however, while I am fundamentally a believer in the “build the leader in you movement,” it’s like the prosperity gospel of human resources. It allows for an elaborate engagement of opinions about the high-level themes that interest people seeking to drive their personal and professional development.
Now let me state for the record, the opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. That said, while these leadership and other personal development initiatives are fine, why does it seem to look beyond the most obvious fact that not everyone works in an environment where they lead a team or work alone. In fact, most people work as part of a team or have the responsibility of working in an environment where someone else validates their work. Even with COVID having changed the way we collaborate with each other; the dynamic has not changed...teams produce, and their work is validated by a team leader. Now that is a fact, and while we all should aspire to do and be great, it is difficult if I (the people professional) am constantly providing “mountain top insights,” for someone stuck in a professional valley.
In my view, this is tantamount to professional malpractice, because a large percentage of our respective workforces, or teams, or whatever may have latent leadership skills that can and should be developed, where are the messages, quotes, and inspiration that drive the vast majority of those people to be more productive, more efficient, or better teammates? This my friends is the opportunity zone, where the greatest impact can be achieved. Let us target those wishing, seeking, and fighting to get to the next level. For this reason, trying not to be a hypocrite I wanted to provide these three starter points for that person out there hoping to zero in on what is next.
1. Be Productive! You have to know your job and excel at it. It is easy to get caught up on everything else, especially when your current opportunity is less than ideal, or let us face it, you hate it! However, nothing demonstrates your capacity and skill, than proficiency in your current role. Nothing secures success like high productivity and efficiency. I know that sounds cliché but think about this, even if you are correct and your current role is a dead-end, knowing that provides you with the necessary push to find something that will once again re-engage your interest and your many skillsets.
2. Provide support and assistance to teammates: No one likes working with “that guy or that girl.” You know the one that always is unable to chip in on the assignment or blows through deadlines, putting pressure on everyone else. That is tough, I have personally been there however, let me suggest something that I know is not groundbreaking, but it is not consistent with the philosophy that is out there. Here it is, “sometimes teams fight, and it is not pretty, but it is sometimes necessary to ensure cohesion, engagement, and clarity.” The goal of those moments is to make the breakdown useful and harness it for the betterment of the team. However, sometimes this is not immediately apparent, but you work at it anyway.
3. Learn to manage up: There are those who will tell you that when done with work, wait for them to assign more work. This is a strategic error, even in circumstances where the leadership of your department or team is less than ideal, learn to engage them. Ask questions, gain insight, and if nothing else seek to hold them accountable by constantly seeking guidance. I will admit, sometimes this can be tricky, but in most instances, they (team lead) usually find the engagement useful and to the benefit of the team.
In my view, these are just a few of the things I have learned in my professional journey as I sought to “level up.” The one thing I will leave you with is that there is always a lesson to be learned, wherever you are in that journey. Sure, I can give all the insights in the world regarding leadership and the like, but it is useless to you at the moment if you are not there yet. It becomes just another archived moment for later. That said, what I can tell you is that I learned quite a few facts due to those archived moments, stuff like:
FACT: Honest conversations are not always honest, neither are they conversations; they are sometimes one-sided and only involve one opinion.
FACT: Holding someone accountable does not always result in the desired outcome. Sometimes they push back, and it becomes clear that they just do not belong. It happens and it is not the end of the world.
FACT: Sometimes leaders will abuse your trust and misrepresent or fail to recognize your contribution to do what is expedient for them personally and not the team; and finally,
FACT: You will walk away from jobs you love because of your integrity and unwillingness to compromise. Unfortunately, that is also a fact!
I started working immediately after graduating high school. My first full-time job was working on a pool deck folding towels for a large hotel. It was hard work, laying out beach chairs in the morning and stacking them at the end of the day. It made me appreciate the pointers the guys I worked with gave me from day to day to save on the back pain and other stuff. Fast forward a few decades, having negotiated labor contracts for tradesmen and people who work in roles like Pool Attendant, I am acutely aware of the importance of respecting all work, because of my own personal experience. Nothing you do along the way will be wasted, no lesson, no experience, no disappointment; it will all contribute to the professional and leader you will become.