On a recent assignment I had with a client, part of the role involved me interviewing the direct report of a particular leader. I spoke to 10 of her direct reports and I found there were a number of inconsistencies in the feedback from her direct reports. There were also some consistencies. Among the consistencies was this, the leader was seen as being moody. Her direct reports told me that they always picked the time and they adjusted the reporting based on how she turned up. I naturally asked ‘How do you make sense of that? How do you know?’ And they said, ‘Well you know, if it’s in the office we watch her facial expressions and her body language. Otherwise on the phone, we pick up the tonality of her voice and the pitch and we can pick that up very quickly.’ So that was interesting for me, the fact that she was seen as being moody.
The second thing was that the team was able to identify that there were in-groups and out-groups even among that leadership team. I often discuss in-groups and out-groups, which just as a quick reminder, is an aspect of bias. The in-groups are people who you have a sense of affinity with, they’re people you trust, they’re your go-to people. You share a far greater depth with them so therefore they are your inner circle compared to the others. So people felt, in this particular team, there were, in fact, in-groups and out-groups.
The third thing that came up in the feedback reports was that she didn’t actually share a lot of herself. In other words, she didn’t share a lot of her family stories or she didn’t share things about her kids. She was very much business-focused.
When I was talking to her about it, she was of course able to give me feedback on all three of the key things I raised. She understood the fact that she sometimes turned up moody and she said that was really very much based on what was happening for her within the business. She could see the in-groups and out-groups when I raised it with her. She wasn’t quite clear that it was so evident but she could see it. When we talked about the sharing, she said her perspective was she didn’t see a lot of value in having to do that. My question then to her was, ‘Well what’s the impact? What’s the impact on the team? What’s the impact when you are seen as being moody and people have to pick the right time to give you the message? What’s the impact, if there are in-groups and out-groups in your team and people feel that they’re on the out-group and therefore can’t quite contribute? What’s the impact when you don’t share stories about yourself?’
She paused, she thought about it and then she was able to articulate her feelings by saying, ‘I hadn’t actually thought very seriously about the impact.’ We then talked about some of the things she could do, to actually be a little bit more human and each of them were just little steps. What could she do to manage her moods and if she knew she was in a poor mood, what could she do to shift that? How could she be more aware of in-groups and out-groups and how to be more inclusive? And how could she actually make an effort to perhaps share a little bit more of herself?
Asking these questions and actioning them, would contribute to her showing up as a better global leader, which then would impact the results, the cohesiveness and the productivity of her team.
What can you be doing to show up as a better leader?