Three Ways We Can Answer…Sep 27, 2023
I believe the most vivid memory I have of someone in a leadership role answering cries for help was that of President George W. Bush at Ground Zero just days after 9/11. As he was addressing the crowd, someone yelled that they couldn't hear him and he responded, “I can hear you. I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
I’m certainly not making a case for or against Bush being an effective leader, but that one instance exemplifies the connection we should be working to have with our teams. And while I’m also not suggesting that it’s our responsibility to make sure the entire world hears what our team members are asking for, or that we can always provide it when they do ask, making sure they know that they’re heard can’t be left to chance!
From that point, our part becomes fairly simple. But here’s one more reminder not to confuse simple with easy… We need to provide the help that we can, be clear about what we can’t provide, and help the team maintain the proper focus through it all.
Sometimes a team member will have an issue or a concern that they just don’t have the ways or means to work through on their own. When this is something we can help solve for them, it can be our opportunity to shine as a leader! Not in a selfish way though, but by demonstrating the kind of servant leadership that Dave Ramsey detailed… Whether it’s a simple fix or something that requires a significant amount of our time and effort, taking action right away and letting them know where we’re at in the process goes a long way toward making sure they know they’ve been heard.
But regardless of how hard we work to fill any void our team members have, we’re going to run into situations where their issues or concerns aren’t within our control either. In those cases, we still need to take any step we can to help but we’ll do well to be clear about our limitations with the team member who brings us the issue. Although they may not necessarily like the response, they will generally appreciate and respect the transparency - and the fact that we’ve let them know we’ve heard them…
In either case, when we can help and when we can’t, we still have one huge responsibility to fulfill as we lead our teams. We need to ensure they’re focused on what they can do. In all aspects of our lives - at work, at home, in volunteer organizations, and so on - we all run into frustrations; the things that just make us wanna throw in the towel. All too often, these things consume a ton of attention, usually impacting just a few individuals but gradually spilling over into the entire team. Without an effective leader in place to help the team stay focused (or get refocused) this is where everything can go off the rails, even if the issue was something relatively minor to begin with!
In all those years I worked in behavior-based safety, that may have been one of the top reasons the process in my home facility had the success it did. The group involved in that process, including me, was made up of hourly team members with one exception. Terry Ward, who I’ve mentioned quite a few times through this process, was the facility’s engineering manager and the behavior-based safety process “management sponsor”; the one dedicated member of the management team who had an active role in that largely peer-to-peer initiative. Terry did a number of things to help empower us as a group to achieve great results but likely the most important thing he did was in keeping us focused on controlling what we could control and not getting caught up in the things we couldn’t.
As leaders, it’s critical that we recognize what our team members are looking for so we can avoid being that bad leader that kills profitability, and we need to take action to answer the cries for help as quickly as we can. But even the best leaders can’t do it all on their own so we’ll close our look at this last profitability killer by addressing exactly that!