So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. – James 2:17
Just as our faith is best demonstrated by our actions, so too is our leadership. The more you just talk at your team, or promise that the fulfillment of their effort lies just beyond the next hurdle, the less faith they will have in your leadership. And once a leader loses his team’s faith, the entire team enters a downward spiral. Previously dedicated team members can become jaded, distrusting and ultimately, disloyal.
So how does a leader find himself in this position; appearing aloof or detached, no longer a leader in his team members’ eyes? It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are three common errors which, over time, demotivate the team and distance the leader:
Vague answers are just poor alternatives to saying “No”. Sadly, many leaders tend to mimic today’s politicians when responding to their team members’ concerns:
• “We’re reviewing all possible alternatives.”
• “We just have to get through this quarter and then we can revisit that request.”
• “We have to find ways to do more with less.”
You’re the leader; these are your team members; there is no benefit in avoiding the hard answers. If you can’t deliver on their concerns, then at least explain why.
Lack of follow-up on previously raised concerns demonstrates disinterest. Once you commit to consider an idea, your team members will be waiting for an answer. No matter how much time passes, they will not forget that you owe them that answer. I have seen too many leaders use this as a stall technique, without genuinely planning on providing any form of follow up. They simply trade morale for time.
Poor interpersonal skills will sink a leader in no time. If you come off as aloof or detached from your team on a personal level then you will lose the opportunity to connect with them. A leader’s connection with his team drives their level of commitment. If you prove incapable of understanding their situations and needs, then they will prove incapable of supporting your vision.
So make the effort to connect with your team today. Learn about their constraints and daily struggles. Be visible more than just once a month. Take time to understand, and action to support, their needs so that they can perform at the level you need them to. Your team members are, afterall, the most valuable resources you have, and very capable of becoming somebody else’s most valuable resources if they aren’t provided the leadership they deserve.