"Shooting the messenger" is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news. To blame or punish the person who tells you about something bad that has happened instead of the person who is responsible for it.
"Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That's how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities." — Peter Nulty
There is a common trap for leaders, especially very experienced ones, and that is the notion that talking with employees is the key to communications. The real key is listening and paying attention to them, sincerely and in a way that develops a true understanding of their views, concerns, and emotions.
"One learns people through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect." — Mark Twain For effective leaders, personal communications is the window to their hearts, minds, and souls. Discerning employees, and they are all discerning, will see their leaders for the true selves, which is offered through personal leader communications. It is much more than the details of the business and organization that are transmitted by the words of leaders. It is the essence of their personalities and characters, their hearts, hopes, fears, cares, convictions, principles, and desires. Employees see all of this, and more.
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” – John Le Caré
One of the things subordinates need most is leadership presence. Us--just ourselves--giving them the physical and face-to-face character and personality we owe them. Nothing can replace that presence. Employees need to hear from their leaders mouths, with their own expression, the words that define the organization and its employees' purpose, methods, intent, passions, desires, concerns, promises, and desires (to mention only a few).
"Much of leadership is about finding balance between two often-conflicting activities: asserting authority and responding to others' needs" — Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, Leadership Presence
It took me many years of practice as a leader to fully realize that leadership relationships with employees are very much like a marriage relationship. In marriage, it is often not enough to meet your spouse half way. There are some days when you have to meet her/him much more than half way. In fact, it may be all the way if your spouse is not able or willing to do all that their part demands for some reason, at that particular time.
"When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others." -The Dalai Lama Recognition may be the greatest motivator there is. The thankfulness of leaders is one of the most important things that is provided to those who do so much. It is, or should be, a deeply personal connection, done in a genuine way, that speaks to the heart of those we truly appreciate.
In O. Henry's classic Christmas story, "The Gift of the Magi" Mr. James Dillingham ('Young Jim') and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della's beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees, and Jim's shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather. On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser named Madame Sofronie, and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch fob chain for Jim's watch for $21. Satisfied with the perfect gift for Jim, Della runs home and begins to prepare pork chops for dinner.
With apologies to Charles Dickens and his Victorian novel in selecting the title of this blog, I'll share with you the things that employees expect of their leaders. Expectations for leaders begin in infancy and childhood and never seem to diminish-in spite of disappointments that we encounter and setbacks we endure as employees. If anything, these seem to amplify our beliefs that leaders can or should achieve something greater.