I bumped into Stan at the coffee shop. We shook hands, and I could tell by the half-smile greeting that he seemed preoccupied.
Knowing him well I asked, “what’s troubling you, Stan? I can see that you’re not yourself this morning.”
He said, “Oh, great, it shows. Well, I’m just sick and tired of our leadership team at my company.”
“Oh, Wow. Why is that?” I asked.
He continued, “I don’t understand why leaders continue to call themselves leaders when they just make mistakes and don’t communicate to the rest of us what’s going on. It creates turmoil and uncertainty for everyone.”
I replied, “Ah, unfortunately, I’ve heard this complaint numerous times. Do you mind if we sit and talk about it for a few minutes?
“Sure, why not. I’m open to anything that might help.” He responded.
I said, “That’s good to hear. Stan, you’re a Father of three boys, right?”
“Yep, that’s correct.” He replied proudly.
I proceeded, “Do you ever make mistakes as a parent?”
Almost spitting coffee on me, he blurted, “Absolutely, all of the time.”
“Okay, and do you always say the right thing and take the time to communicate everything that they should know?” I asked.
Scowling at me, he utters “Of course not.”
Leaning forward looking Stan directly in the eye, I asked, “Do you still earn the right to be called a Father?”
Shocked, he paused and said, “Okay, okay, I see where you are going with this, but that’s different. Give me a break.”
I said, “Not really, Stan. Hear me out. As a Father you are a leader and I bet you feel lousy when you make mistakes, right?”
He said, “You bet I do.”
I challenged him further, “So, when are you going to throw in the towel and stop calling yourself a Father? Sounds ridiculous, right? You don’t renounce your position as a Father, and I bet you learn from your mistakes and strive to do better next time. It’s the same with most leaders of companies. Again, I don’t know your leadership team, but I’m confident that by being a leader they relate more to you as a parent than you realize. Trust me; they don’t want to make mistakes and let you all down. Certainly, one of the biggest challenges most companies face today is employee engagement and how to communicate at all levels. Most likely, your leadership team has this topic on the corporate initiatives list this year. Let me ask you this, If the leadership team revealed openly when they made a mistake, took accountability, and explained how they were going to work together with you to resolve it, would that make a difference?”
Stan blurted, “Of course! That would be huge!”
I continued, “And if they communicated more but still made mistakes, would they still earn the right to call themselves leaders?”
Sitting sat back in his chair, Stan acknowledged, “Yes, I see your point now.”
Thoughtfully I said, “Well, it appears to me that the lack of communication and a lack of compassion are the two biggest issues here.”
Stan tilted his head and said, “You mean a lack of empathy on my end as well, don’t you?”
I said, “You bet I do. The expectation that leaders are infallible is just not realistic and it’s truly unfair. You’re not expected to be a perfect Father or employee, are you? Again, I don’t know your management team, and I’m not here to defend them or the situation. Like any company, I’m sure there are improvements to be made. Instead, I’m challenging you to open your mind to a different perspective and open your heart to adopt a different attitude.”
Stan shook his head up and down saying, “You have certainly made me think about what they must be going through during this difficult time, and even though I don’t like how they are handling it, my sarcasm and lack of support towards them is making matters worse. I can think of three things that I should be doing right now to help smooth things over between departments. Wow! I’m so glad we had this cup of coffee.” Stan and I shook hands again and went on about our day.
According to Gallup statistics, 33% of US employees actively engage at work. Corporate leadership and communications play an important role towards increasing that percentage. Service-driven leaders experience a higher growth in overall employee engagement and talent retention.
To learn more about how we equip service-driven leaders aligned with communications training that connects a high-performing, happy culture, please contact us at ServeLeadSucceed.com