Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Last Minute Leadership

It's fall and it's the season for leaders everywhere to start disappearing behind closed doors to prepare for the advancement process, year-end updates, bonuses, performance reviews, making the numbers, going on campus recruiting visits, starting to think about next year and a hundred other things from helping kids with homework to getting flu shots to making ball games and school plays on time.

It's easy to forget about communicating. It's the first thing that gets forgotten and employees notice - especially after a year like this. That's when this cliche rears its ugly head..."in the absence of information, people make up their own"

These days, it's rarely positive. So stay in touch. Keep your finger on the pulse of the people. Be visible. It's fairly simple to stay in touch if you lead 30 people. If it's 300 or 3,000 or 30,000, not so easy.

Try this. Talk to one person a day in your organization for 10 minutes by phone or face to face. Make it someone you don't normally talk to on a regular basis. Maybe pick someone who'll be surprised you called or that you even know who they are. Pick diverse roles and hit every level - from executives to executive assistants to the guard at the front door.

Ask them three open-ended questions - how's your business doing? how's your team doing? and most importantly, how are you doing?

Their business could be making copies or millions. Their team could be 50 people or just themselves. It doesn't matter. What matters is the boss knows who they are, what they're doing and why it's important. And best of all the boss knows their name and cares enough to find out about their life, not just their work.

Then they tell colleagues, "guess who I talked to today?"

I know it's a pain and it sounds hokey and you think you don't have the time, but it works. It's a simple choice - 10 more minutes on the stairmaster or 10 minutes with the people who make you great.

Your choice.


  1. Hey Andy I like just about everything here...and I would add, "Use the 10 minutes on the stairmaster to think of who to talk to..." Keep exercising your heart as well as your communication skills--they go hand-in-hand!

  2. I'd concur with the "keep committed to the stairmaster" and find the 10 minutes with more effective email review and follow up. You might want even invite the staff member to stairmaster...

    Your points are all good ones. I would add another open ended question like...."What do you want to do next with your career...and what would it take to make you feel like we are very committed to helping you achieve it?" A bit wordy but you get the point... Keep up these posts.