It has always struck me as odd that for many the higher they go the less inclined they are to interact with those who are part of their team. I was sharing with a colleague the story of a an LNG plant in Louisiana where the the crew superintendents had offices literally next to the operations center. Yet in spite of this proximity I can say that in the several months that I was there of the three superintendents only one came to touch base with the operations crews and their leaders. Yet in spite of this concerns about lack of crew engagement and communication was placed squarely with the crew.
Can You Be An Absentee Leader?
This is not unique. I have seen this phenomena occur across industry sectors and in both the operations and corporate end of things. There is perhaps a strange myth circulating that you can lead without engaging with those you lead. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is no question that the further you move up the leadership ladder the more your work shifts to planning and strategy but this does not excuse us as leaders from the core responsibility we have which is to drive performance on a team of people. Everyone will have tasks and things to perform in order to move things forward but the central truth of the issue is that all of these things are accomplished by people and leadership is all about the people.
We have all read of the horror stories of absentee landlords and the abuses that occur in those settings. The same holds true of absentee leadership. If I were to ask you to compare the best leader you ever worked for and the worst I would bet the farm that the biggest distinction between the two is that the great leader was relational, knew you as a person and was invested in helping you not only succeed but advance your career. The relational leader also knows what it takes to create that environment; transparency, openness and trust.
Now before you accuse me of resorting to catch phrases let me explain. Transparency is the action of being genuine with your team. For those moving into leadership that means being real. You won't have all the answers and it is okay to admit that. It is okay to be frank about the issues facing the team and it is okay to be honest in speaking to your strengths and your weaknesses. You will note that all of these things are directed at leadership because if we want it from our team we lead that by modelling it ourselves. One more thing about transparency and that is the value of admitting and owning your mistakes. Too many team members and staff get thrown under the bus by leaders who won't own up to mistakes and pass the buck downward. But show me a team whose leadership own their mistakes and I will show you a team who will go the extra mile to make sure they have their leader's back.
Transparency leads to openness which is key to unlocking issues around process and performance. There are people on each team who have a pretty good idea about where the gaps in process and performance are but until they feel safe enough and appreciated enough to speak to those things they wont say a thing. It may sound shallow and trite but we are human after all. Openness clears away many of those kinds of obstacles. Probably one of the first things I learned as a leader is that many people won't perform because they want to but will perform because of the relationship they have with you. Openness is key to developing that relationship.
Lastly there is trust. Trust is really the outcome of transparency and openness. Trust is not a destination it is something that is dynamic and must be guarded very actively Time spent building relationship with your team can be lost in a moment. Working with a group of Oil and Gas crews it was easy to see which crews people wanted to be on; they were the ones with leaders who built relationship and advocated for their crew and had a high level of trust with them. They were also the ones who demanded more and the crews were only too happy to comply.
You want to be a performance leader? Build relationship with your team. Its that simple. Performance Leadership - Think About It!