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Do those you lead have to scream, “Hey! Look at me!”? Do they have to vie for your attention?
Are you taking time to watch your staff? Your church’s volunteers? Are you visiting their spaces of influence to watch their work, teaching, and leadership?
For me, Summer time means trips to the neighborhood pool with my four kids. While I’m there, I hear this a lot: “Daddy! Watch me!” I could write about my failures as a parent and why my kids feel the need to shout my name for my attention, but in this particular blog I’m going to focus on team leadership and you.
If you’re doing the work required of a leader, you have a lot going on. You have your own work and are accountable to someone for that work. So how do you handle your own work and also create time to be around and watch the people you lead?
How can you intentionally create “Watch me!” moments for your team, without them having to shout at you?
If you want to be the kind of leader who gives attention to your staff without them having to scream and do cannon balls, consider these leadership truths:
Your team wants your attention.
You may feel like no one on your team cares if you show up and stand in the back of the room to watch them lead a meeting. Or you may feel like team members don’t care about whether or not you speak encouragement to them. But in most cases, that’s not true. In fact, you’re probably underselling what your presence and encouragement can do for them.
Spontaneity is your ally.
I’m not a spontaneous guy. I have to schedule space to be spontaneous. At times, without notice, I show up where my staff are leading, to watch them do their thing. When you do this, there’s a risk they may wonder if you’re there “checking something out”. But a follow-up email like, “It was fun to see you in action tonight. Well done.” will help them get over that.
If you’re naturally spontaneous, let that lead you to places you’ll see your team in action. But if you’re more like me, schedule your spontaneity.
One compliment doesn’t guarantee carte blanche (approval of all things).
I’ve often feared if I compliment an action or work team members have done, they may hear that as a compliment to all their work – and rarely is all of someone’s work “compliment worthy.” Do you struggle with this concept, too?
Despite feeling this tension, what I’ve learned from others leaders and books is to compliment anyway. If you’re concerned about your staff hearing more than you intend, be specific with your compliment. Instead of, “You’re an all-star!” try, “The hospitality team you led this week for VBS did a great job. Thanks for recruiting and training the greeters well.”
Specific compliments not only mitigate the possible tension you feel as a leader or supervisor, but may also be even better received than a general one. A specific encouragement tells them you’re paying attention and noticed the nuance of their work.
Eye contact, use of their name, and handwritten notes are critical.
After my daughter has accomplished the feat of holding her breath for three seconds under water, she raises her goggle-clad face out of the water to see if I’m watching. She wants eye contact. She wants me to look at her and say, “Blake, three seconds, that was awesome!”
Most everyone wants to be cared for – and use of eye contact and a person’s name are important ways to communicate you care. It’s hard to communicate care when your eyes are focused on a screen and you can’t remember their name.
Also – you likely write lots of emails in a given day. One or two of those may be encouragement emails to your team – but they’re typically only one of several emails your team might receive from you that day. However – if a handwritten note shows up on their desk, it feels different. Even if it says the same thing as an email, it communicates a different level of care.
Those you lead shouldn’t have to do cannon balls or hold their breath under water to get your attention. Great leaders seek out ways to be present, watchful, and encouraging to those they lead.
(Confession: As I write these truths from my own experience, I also realize how much work I have to do in these areas. I’m committed to becoming better. Will you join me?)