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New Leader Tuesday at Management Excellence

The New Leader’s Series here at Management Excellence, is dedicated to the proposition that one of the most valuable things we can do is support the development of the next generation of leaders on our teams and in our organizations.

Note from Art: this post is excerpted from my book with Rich Petro, Practical Lessons in Leadership-A Guidebook for Aspiring and Experienced Leaders.

The “Too Busy” Manager

I once inherited a team previously managed by a person who reportedly filled her days with conference calls and meetings, but somehow never seemed to have time to meet with her team members to hear about their ideas and concerns or to discuss professional development opportunities.

A number of her former staffers indicated that it seemed like she was afraid of those types of discussions, and as such, she avoided them as much as possible.  Paying attention was not a part of this manager’s style.

As I assumed responsibility for this team, I sensed that many of the individuals were frustrated with not being listened to. There seemed to be an attention deficit that needed repairing, but I did not fully realize how bad the situation was until I began talking with and listening to everyone.

Immediately following my promotion, I set up team sessions to introduce myself and to get people talking about themselves and their projects.  I committed to a series of one-hour, one-on-one sessions over the next few weeks. I communicated the agenda in advance, outlining the questions that I would be asking and highlighting my need to hear the unadulterated version of what we needed to do to improve the team and hit our targets. I then proceeded to follow through on my commitment to meet with everyone, and the feedback staggered me!

The Need to Be Heard & Some Powerful Lessons Learned by Listening:

I’ve never experienced anything in my career quite like the reaction that I received during that initial round of discussions.  It was as if my gesture of investing time to personally meet with and listen to people was some rare gift that I was providing.  People actually cried, most sent me long thank you notes or e-mails and I was truly humbled to think that a bit of my time was worth so much to anyone, much less important enough to merit an outpouring of emotion.

I learned a great deal through this experience.  I learned that I had some remarkably talented people who had gone unchallenged and underdeveloped for several years.  I was reminded of the human need to be treated with respect, and that investing time and paying and attention were viewed as incredibly strong signs of respect.

Ultimately, we led a sweeping reorganization focused on a major new strategy initiative, and many of these individuals found themselves with fresh challenges and a new lease on their career. Together, we generated record results two years in a row under some remarkably challenging circumstances

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Many view their roles as leaders as opportunities to be heard. In reality, your job is more about listening and then acting.

Never discount the power of paying attention to those who work for you.  People see that you care…about their work and their challenges and this “caring” creates a sense of importance, urgency and pride.  You build credibility and loyalty by caring. You show respect to people as professionals and human beings, and respect is indeed a powerful motivator.

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For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check our Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Enebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.rgize Your Professional Development

Download a free excerpt of Leadership Caffeine (the book) at Art’s facebook page.

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An ideal book for anyone starting our in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

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