I’ve had leaders who were fairly involved with my work, others who were hard to find time and connect with, others who were completely content to let me do my own thing, and still others who were non-existent. But the best were available, responsive and helpful. These are critical elements of good leadership.
“The Orange Revolution“, a book about building breakthrough teams, says that effective leaders “understood their function as facilitators, helping to set the team’s vision, removing obstacles, securing resources and encouraging celebrations.” It’s hard to fit this description without being around.
Be Available- The higher up in an organization you go, the more you demands will be placed on your time. Like it or not, you will be less accessible. Often this is literal because in most companies you will be moved to an office, or a different floor altogether. You’ll have more meetings, more travel and more projects all demanding your time and attention. It will be easy to spend less time with your teams and the people on them. I wrote in another post about how a leader can lose credibility and a lack of availability can be an early sign of that process. Being inaccessible to your team diminishes your ability to guide best practices, cultural competencies, provide recognition and evaluate ongoing work effectively. It also limits your access to how those below you are experiencing their work and your leadership.
Be Responsive- With all the ways we can be contacted these days (e.g. email, IM, phone, cell phone, text) There is no reason to go dark on your team. More importantly, when you develop a habit of being non-responsive you risk your team not reaching out at all. Think about it, what is the reason someone on your team is reaching out? At a minimum it is to build rapport by sending a joke, an article or something to build the relationship. When it’s more serious though, they can be sending information to inform you on some area of the business that they think is important enough for you to know about. And finally, they could be asking for your help. They could be giving you an opportunity to add value, improve performance and build loyalty. When we’re not responsive to a team member it erodes the relationship and lead to frustration.
Be Helpful- It’s easy to add things to the to do’s of your people. It’s quite another to take things off of that list. Great leaders are attentive to the workload of their team and the capacity they have to complete required tasks. Of course people expect to have their leaders ask them to do things, but when a leader steps in and take things OFF of a team member’s to do list, then they have made a significant investment in the loyalty of that employee. This type of investment across a team leads to a culture of supporting others. It’s also builds credibility with your team as they see you execute on tasks they will likely have to accomplish in the future.
An article in the Wall Street Journal gives us a great example of how even the most senior leaders in the organization can be available, responsive and helpful. When Jeff Bezos received an email from a customer (not an employee, or someone filthy rich) regarding slow loading time of the Washington Post app, he lept into action. He emailed the Chief Information officer discussing how they could fix the problem. But his assistance doesn’t stop there. Even though Bezos is running one of the arguably, most successful companies in history, he takes time regularly to be available to his people through phone calls and in person, day long retreats.
When leaders are available to their teams, responsive to their requests and helpful with the workload, they make significant investment in the long term loyalty of employees, performance of their teams and overall success of the organization.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance.
Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.