Spending Time on What Matters Most

“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).

And more importantly, leaders need to hear, in unvarnished terms the hopes, fears, insights, ideas, suggestions, and desires for the organization that subordinates share.  It tells subordinates, like nothing else can, that they are important, that their efforts and thoughts matter to leaders and ultimately the organization.  It also tells them, that leaders care about them, what they do, how they do it, what they need, how it can be done better, and how leaders can help them.

Isolation is deadly for leaders. It will eventually be fatal if allowed to endure long enough.  A string of recent organizational failures are vivid evidence of leaders who were isolated from their organizations and the realities of their employees.  Disasters like the wait time scandal at Veterans Affairs, the recent Secret Service debacles, General Motor’s systematic failures in dealing with defective ignition switches, Target’s and Home Depot’s inability to secure the personal data of millions of customers, and the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe are all examples of organizations where leaders lost touch with their people and by doing so lost their way.

By working to stay connected to subordinates, who are the engine of organizations, leaders can avoid tragedies like these.  By talking and listening to people leaders begin to understand the needs and expectations of customers, the current operational environment of employees, and are able to act on feedback from the employees in the trenches. Leaders can understand how the organization is “wired”, who works for whom, decision making, resource allocation, internal processes, problems and how to help their organizations.  It simply takes the time and focus of leadership on a daily basis.

Leaders have to be involved to truly lead. When leaders fail to spend time with their people, they lose touch with the issues of the day; they lose touch with reality and are unable to understand what’s on the hearts and minds of their employees.

Worst of all, subordinates will know that the leaders don’t really care about them.

Go see for yourself and ask how you can help.

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” — Henry David Thoreau

Many thanks, Keith Stalder, #18

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