“How am I doing?”
You don’t have to wait until your annual or 360 reviews to find out, or even pose the question to somebody- all you have to do is know how to see the clues that are out there in the workplace, every day.
I’ve found that there are 6 things that are reliable barometers of leadership effectiveness:
- Any “venting” happens 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 passageway is locked – 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.
- Request response time is quick – 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 handheld device 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 32 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.”
Look for these clues as you continue your leadership journey, and if they turn negative, take immediate action to correct the underlying issues – don’t wait until the actual feedback comes. By then, it may be too late to right the ship.