In a fast-paced and ultra-competitive business world, it’s rare when a leader can get immediate feedback about how they are doing.
Annual, semi-annual, and even monthly performance evaluations and “360 Degree” feedback from your bosses, peers and teammates 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 on a daily basis to give you the feedback you need to be an effective leader:
- The venting stays 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 for information 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.
- The response times are snappy – 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?
- The handheld sightings are rare– 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.
- There’s a 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 35 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.
- The 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.”