Answering the Cry for HelpSep 26, 2023
Make no mistake, knowing what our team members are looking for from us is not terribly complicated! They will definitely make a point of telling us. That will generally (but not always) be direct and/or verbal early in our process of working to earn leadership with them, but it will get harder and harder to hear and see if we’re not responsive. And if we allow them to go unheard long enough, we may have the opportunity to learn firsthand just how much profitability is killed by being seen as a bad leader!
In any industry, one of the most important things we can do as leaders is to make sure we’re tuned into how we can best serve our teams. I’ve shared it before but I think it’s worth bringing up again now… I loved hearing Dave Ramsey explain the difference between servant leadership and subservient leadership during his talk at a Live2Lead event several years ago. He said that far too many supervisors and managers view servant leadership as doing things for their teams that they could and should be doing themselves, when that’s really subservient leadership. He went on to explain that the best way a leader can serve their people is by doing things for them that they cannot do for themselves, and that those things are often what allows the team members to be even more effective in their own roles!
Here’s where that ties directly back to knowing what they’re looking for… It’s critical that we learn as much about each of our team members as we can. In doing that, we can recognize their communication style, know what gives them fulfillment, and understand what they may struggle with. And when we have that kind of foundation, we can hear what they’re asking for whether it’s coming in the form of a direct question or they’re showing it through their behavior. In either case, it’s a leader’s responsibility to support their team. If those initial requests turn into cries for help, we’d better already have the process started.
Some of the things we’ll need to do to support our team members will vary person to person while some will likely serve the entire team. In either case, we’ll need to be just as intentional about making sure they see and understand that support as we are about just providing it. I’ve seen way too many scenarios where a leader thinks their team knows what they’re doing to help but the team was growing even more frustrated because they didn’t know what was going on. The disconnect in those cases was nearly always from limited communication!
As simple as it may seem, and I know it will require more of that time we don’t have enough of, we can earn more trust and influence by making sure our team members know we’ve heard their requests. While we’ll be able to address some right away and others over time, there will be some things that are out of our control as well. Even then though, we’d better make sure they know we’ve heard them or they may soon look for someone else who will!
Once we’ve developed a reputation for answering their cries for help, there are a few other simple steps that can tie it all together so that’s what we’ll look at next time…