I’m a big fan of “So You Think You Can Dance” on FOX TV. It’s really inspiring to watch these youngsters prove themselves on stage week after week, in front of expert judges and a national television audience. They do amazing, lyrical, and athletic things with their bodies that I can only dream about.
The great thing for these dancers is that they are getting immediate feedback and validation of their abilities and prowess. In the business world however, it’s rare when a leader can get the same kind of direct information about how they are doing.
Annual, or even semi-annual, performance evaluations just don’t have the same impact, especially when it comes to the quality of the leadership itself.
So what to do?
Fortunately, there are six indirect tell-tale clues that you can pick up from your teammates and peers that can get you the feedback you need.
- Venting in private – If you are leading well, you are acting like a plumber, acting as a safety valve for your teammates to vent any frustrations. If that venting goes public, or worse, viral, you have some work to do.
- The back door information lock – In larger organizations there are occasions where other departments try to use the “back door” to get information, bypassing the leader and going right to the teammate. If you are leading well, those teammates will always let you know that those contacts were made, and the “asks” behind them, thus locking the back door and keeping you in the loop at all times.
- Snappy request response time – This is a classic leadership “tell”. Be aware of the time it takes for your teammates to respond to your inquiries via phone, e-mail or text. If those responses start stretching out, there’s usually trouble brewing. It could be lethargy, or it could be fear. Or something else. Think about this from your perspective, since we all have bosses – how do your feelings about that leader affect your response time?
- Rare Blackberry sightings – In our electronic, “always on, always multitasking” age, another easy way to see if you are making any headway is paying attention to your teammates handheld devices. Do they put them away at meetings? Or do they keep them on the table, letting you know that you are one boring sentence away from a total attention drift. For a good leader, the less you see and hear of them, the better.
- High smile to frown ratio – When you are leading by walking around, or traveling to remote offices, take the time and mentally note the “smile to frown ratio“. In my 28 years in the business world, I can tell you one thing that is absolutely true: Faces don’t lie. Humans typically do not do a very good job of hiding dissatisfaction in their facial expressions, notwithstanding whatever they may be saying to you.
- Good news AND bad news is flowing freely – If you are not getting the bad news from your teammates on a timely basis, then you are in big trouble. General Colin Powell summarizes this one all too well: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
While you’re thinking about leadership, don’t forget to download my FREE e-book, “Leadership From a Glass Half-Full – The 5 Lessons You Need To Learn Before You Jump Into The Pool”