Reality Check: Great Leaders Are Great Learners

What’s a key lesson I’ve learned during our cultural transformation? I’m glad you asked – it’s HUMILITY.

We have a significant role to play, and to grow and evolve as leaders, we must pause, reflect, and keep it real with ourselves.

With uncertainty thrust upon our workplaces once again, I have to check myself so I don’t fall into being a culture culprit rather than a culture champion. No doubt it’s trying, as the days are longer, the burnout is real, and let’s not start with the mounting personal demands of life.

As I try to build an organizational culture that employees feel good about and enjoy being part of, I believe we must tap into the minds and hearts of our employees in rawly organic ways so that despite debilitating and draining distancing, a great and memorable work experience is had. And this same inward introspection applies to us as leaders.

Leaders, I know, must set an example (“leaders lead”). Our remote status is here for the near future, so we need to listen loudly to our teams, act in alignment with our vision, and support swiftly to drive change – then repeat often. But we don’t have to be perfect, and we don’t always have to have the answers. If this year has taught us anything, it better have been that we need to be clear in our vision, support our people, and keep learning how to do it better.

I’ve had a few fumbles lately, so I’m trying to pick myself up and do better. I’m sharing what I’m doing to continue building a culture remotely in hopes that we as leaders together can:

Get out of the way. Once employees find their niche, empower and support them, then move out of the way. Our team recently volunteered for a back-to-school event, and an employee took charge after I said, “Let’s do it.” I didn’t have to follow up or keep checking in – this was her thing. She did an outstanding job, and I chuckled as she eagerly lined us up for our next event with the community organizers while we were still at the current event. I thought I needed to be hands-on. I didn’t know this was her passion and that all I needed to do was support her and then step aside.

Meet employees where they are. Well, maybe not literally, but close to it. Find out what your employees want in these remote times. Some crave in-person interaction, and others prefer remote. I suggested to one team member that we meet outside the office (or we could find a halfway point). She immediately embraced the idea to connect over food. Think “Strawberries & Strategy” – I like the ring of that.

Shorten the meetings. If you must have a meeting, and an email, Teams chat, or Slack exchange won’t do, examine the time truly needed. Many of us are working longer hours, so what better gift than extra time? Can you have a 20- or 40-minute meeting? Of course you can. Let’s get more efficient. I had a 15-minute meeting, sent the prework, outlined the decision needed, and BAM – done in record time, and the team was pumped. It’s definitely time to repeat that.

Give grace. I believe remote environments are here to stay, though I see too many people apologizing in virtual land for dogs barking, at-home contractors drilling, or not looking or feeling their best so the video is off. We’re not going to be at 100 percent every day. It’s okay; let’s give each other some grace. Doing an emotional or mental wellness check with our teams is important so we can figure out how to provide support.

Ask for help. Who couldn’t use a helping hand? And most people enjoy being sought out for their knowledge and expertise. Let’s take off the I-got-it-all-together mask – sometimes I don’t. Reaching out to get input or ideas outside of your group, function, company, or industry is like a B12 shot. And employees want to feel part of something bigger, want to know they helped make a process simpler or a decision better, so leaders, let’s ask for help. You could end up with an E3 outcome – enhanced, enlightened (you), and engaged (them) – because you did.

This list could go on and on, and probably will, as I continue helping our culture transform. Change is not easy, though it is a constant and certainly is necessary to being nimble and relevant. I’ll keep pushing forward, learning as I lead, and I hope you do too.

Do you have any teachable tips to share? Please do.