I always appreciate this time of year because a new year is approaching, which gives us a chance to reflect on our leadership over the past 360+ days, and make important resolutions for improvement in the future.
While many of these resolutions will focus on the words we need to use (both in speech and on paper) to be better leaders, I’d ask you to think today about the other, more subtle messages that we send every day through our actions (or inactions) in the workplace.
These messages can strongly reinforce our words, or render them ineffective or meaningless. Every great leader needs to develop a strong self-awareness of their non-verbal communication, and use it consistently, so they can “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk“.
So let’s make these 7 resolutions for the new year for great leadership, that don’t involve uttering (or writing) a single word:
- Make More Eye Contact – Nothing says “I’m paying attention to YOU” better than actually looking someone in the eye. Looking at the floor, the wall, or worse yet, at your iPhone, sends a message of disinterest, even if it’s totally unintentional.
- Keep An Open Door – Much has been said about the benefits of “an open-door policy“, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another thing to actually keep your door open. Better yet, why even have a door at all?
- Use Your Smile – You know the saying “a picture says a thousand words“? If a leader is trying to project positivity, humility, graciousness, optimism, openness, and a general good nature, smiling whenever possible is a great place to start.
- Be Aware of Your Posture – Body language can speak volumes. Slumped shoulders and rounded backs are never good ways to project authority and control (hint: practice this in front of a mirror and you’ll see what I mean).
- Go “Old School” With Handshakes & Back Pats – These “old style” gestures, when done with proper consideration of the particular sensitivities of the persons involved, can make a real difference. For example. I’ll always remember the bosses that would enter a room for a team meeting and shake every hand in the room before they started, or the ones who would give their encouragement or praise with a hand on my shoulder.
- Be On Time, Always – Consistent punctuality sends a strong structural message to the rest of the team – it’s a critical part of “leading by example“, especially when it comes to keeping all the trains running on time, and meeting deadlines.
- Become a Wanderer (Simple Presence) – Doing things like walking the halls, getting your own coffee, making your own copies now and then, stopping by all the office birthday celebrations, or sitting in on a team meeting you were not required to attend are all ways to simply be “there“. Frequently getting out of the office and into the field is another excellent habit, even if it’s a series of quick “drop bys”. Teammates will notice you made the effort.
Be conscious of these 7 resolutions over the next year as you lead, and watch how your team responds.
Then I bet, in 12 month’s time, you’ll be reflecting on your best leadership year ever.
Lead well, and Happy New Year!