People won’t follow your leadership if you’re not fully present with them.
If you are not present with people, you are not connecting with them. Without connections, the leader/follower relationship breaks down and trust is undermined. People feel devalued. You’re sending a signal that they are not important. As a result, they won’t commit to follow you from their hearts because you weren’t engaged with them.
But wait, you say, “In this age of high-tech and hyperspeed, I’ve got to multi-task. You don’t understand what I have to juggle: downsized staffs; cut budgets; doing more with less; 24/7 communications and social media; a bulging and relentless email inbox; conference calls across time zones; sleep deprivation; competitive threats; organizational politics; and more. And that’s just at work. Don’t forget my spouse/partner, children, extended family, and friends.”
Many of us are “crazy busy” these days. (See our previous blog on “The Glorification of Busy” And some people are time-sinks, draining your precious time with interruptions and “administrivia.”
Leaders must reframe this conflict between pressures and presence. Harvard University’s Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky remind us that “the work is through the people.” People aren’t the problem; people are the solution. People are not the obstacle to the work; people with whom you are present become your working collaborators.
Unless you multiply your efforts by unleashing other people and inspiring their full engagement, you will drown in your overflowing inbox and action items. The amount of work that arrives at your desk will be unmanageable.
You need to lead, manage, follow, and unleash other leaders. To do that you must connect with them; you must be present. Not present with everyone all the time. Not with some people at all. (Avoid the gossipers, mutterers, and energy vampires.) But you must be present with your team, peers, colleagues, and superiors at work—and of course with your family and friends. Do you really want success at work with shallow or broken relationships at home?
Core Concept: Leaders must be fully present with people despite the pressures. That’s the job.
- Listen Attentively
- Make eye contact.
- Give signals with body language that you are engaging: head nods, smiles, open posture, and more.
- Set Boundaries
- Let people know when and if you need uninterrupted planning or other time.
- Make sure you are open and available otherwise.
- Set boundaries with people (and meetings) and protect and manage your time: if you’re clear about your priorities, you’ll know what to say “no” to.
- Block Time for Interactions with People
- Need to spend more time with clients, staff, or partners? Block it on your daily, weekly, monthly calendars.
- Then, unless an emergency arises, stick to the schedule and be present with them.
- Never, Ever Multi-Task When You Are Talking with People.
- Multi-tasking is for computers, not for people.
Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations.