Your Team Doesn’t Need A Parent

The new workplace is more fluid and job titles are becoming less important. Many of today’s employees seek interesting projects with meaningful problems to solve. They want meaningful work and not just titles.

One major change in organizations is that in these new types of project-oriented spaces, teams do more and more without first seeking approval from those who are above them. People in non-management positions are acting and thinking more like traditional leaders.
And in many organizations, this is exactly the kind of team member that is wanted. Those who are problem solvers that can work with varied peer groups, keep themselves organized and on task and move forward on their own with confidence. Essentially being their own boss.

So, if organizations are looking for this kind of team member and the traditional “nanny” type manager is no longer needed, what is the role of the leader in this new world?
Simply put, you should be there to share your experience. You are the extra cog, the extra ball bearing. A floater. Someone with confidence and experience who can transition from one part of a project to another to help where help is needed. Leaders are now the support staff—not to say you should be making copies and bringing some one coffee (though maybe sometimes that is the most useful thing you could be doing for your team), but you are there as the multi-tool.

Imagine being this kind of leader who trusts his team members to do their jobs and doesn’t “helicopter-parent” yet drops in on a parachute with a light touch and a wisdom based suggestion just when the team needs it.

Leaders and Trust

When it comes to leadership, it is hard to think of something more important than trust. One could be talented, with an impressive CV. One could say the quote unquote “right things” but if one doesn’t have his colleagues trust, they have nothing.

Trust is difficult because it isn’t something one can do. It isn’t a bullet point on a resume. It’s pathos—an emotional connection with your peers. And it has two roots. It requires a strong belief on the part of you peers that you have their best interests in mind. Second, it requires a strong belief that you have the ability and knowledge to act on that vested interest.

So how does one plant the seed that will grow roots and flower with trust? Asking people for their advice and listening to them. People need to be heard. One needs to take an interest in what is important to their peers. This makes people feel they have validation. One must always be genuine. There is no middle ground when it comes to “playing politics.” One either has agendas or they don’t.

This influence is key for any leader, but it can also help anyone who would like to exert positive influence over the peers even if they are not a leader.

Use Body Language to Signal Confidence

Appearing confident (even if one isn’t) is very much about body language and to exude confidence we must present a “total package.”

First, steady eye contact is a must. Looking around, looking to a digital device, to the side or to the ground is a no-no. Eye contact makes people feel important and engaged.

There are a lot of opinions about handshakes and while a lot of people dislike “firm” handshakes, that is because many people over do it. Don’t crush someone’s hand but do be firm. Also, don’t play the game of trying to be the last to let go, this is more likely to lead to awkwardness than make one look confident.

Another way to create a persona of confidence is to engage someone by very lightly touching their shoulder. President Obama is famous for doing this. It can signal leadership, confidence and put the other person at ease.

When speaking to a group keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Shifting your weight or crossing and uncrossing your legs makes you look nervous and fidgety. Take up space with your hands. Don’t be afraid to fill the empty space physical with your presence. Gesturing while speaking and filling the space with your presence with controlled and calculated movements will make you seem more confident, however be careful not to do it too much or too quickly, this can look chaotic.

Tips For Working From Home

Even though the pandemic feels as if it is waning, many people still chose to or find themselves working from home. Here are some tips to get more done at home.

First, wake up early. There will be far fewer distractions. Laura Vanderkam cited a study that found that 90% of executives get up before 6am on weekdays. Jumping right into your to-do list is also recommended, once this is habit you brain get used to being up early and will know that its time to get things done.

Second, jump right into actual tasks. Use here energy and clarity for the real nitty gritty tasks that require the most effort. You can work on planning and communication in the afternoon.

Third, if you are not a morning person don’t fight your inner clock. Work when you are most productive if possible. Save the tasks that take the most effort for when you’ve got the moxy to make the most of it.

Forth, schedule out your tasks the day before. Once you get into the habit this will reduce your stress levels because you won’t be scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Fifth, establish a routine similar to the one you had before you started to work from home. Otherwise things will often break down into chaos and you’ll be far less productive. On the other hand, perhaps a different kind of routine would work best for some. Point being, some kind of routine is required.

Sixth, make sure your workspace and relaxing space are two different places. Again, this will help you brain know what to do based on where you are located.

Seventh, concern yourself with noise vs focus. There may be new noises at home that you aren’t used to. White noise machines, apps like Rainy Mood, or for some quiet music or even noise canceling headphones may help with distractions you didn’t anticipate.

Eighth, don’t forget to socialize. Whether its with colleagues from work or other friends schedule breaks to jump on a video chat, make a phone call or send a few texts during the day.

Unusual Leadership Qualities

These may not be the usual type of qualities you see on leadership trait lists. But they are all as important as traits we commonly hear about.

Calmness when making hard decisions. He says it may be easy to make a decision but not always easy to make a good decision. If a decision is tough and emotion-filled, try to wait a while or sleep on it.

Grace under pressure. This is related to the first quality. Try not to get agitated too quickly or unnecessarily. Handle stress effectively.

Consistency. Here Victor talks about being consistent in your behavior. Employees want leadership they can count on and trust.

Persistence. Not everything is accomplished easily on the first try. Perseverance after disappointment may be hard to come by but will help.

Judgment. Other synonyms for this may be experience, seasoning, or business savvy. He says they all add up to judgment. This is used by leaders to make decisions to yield positive outcomes.

Shaping Your Organization’s Personality Via Example

Guiding the “vibe” or “personality” of your organizations culture is an important part of being a leader. And often it is what happens between the meetings and the group work sessions that shapes your organization’s culture as much or more than what happens at meetings and other group activities.

For example, the jokes you choose to laugh at will shape what is considered appropriate in your organization’s workplace. How much you choose to initiate “joking around” will also shape the personality of what kinds of interpersonal relationships people build. This goes for casual conversation as well—what will you engage in and how often?

The topics of casual conversations and how you respond to them will set a tone. Will you choose to engage in a casual conversation about politics or religion? How much or often will you engage in conversation about your personal life and family? How much is too much to know about someone’s personal life?

But it isn’t just you, observe your team members. Their reactions will tell you when they think something is too much. It may also fall to you to speak to a team member if they’ve taken things too far in a conversation or broached a taboo topic.

Some may believe that the garage of a mechanic shop and a boardroom or two different places that require different etiquette. However, in a successful business it is always important to strike the balance between goal-driven professionalism and a friendly work environment where smiles and laughs are welcome.

While having written guidelines in place is important, team members do not interact with guidelines every day. They do, however, interact with you and their peers each day. As a leader you should be a daily example of whatever guidelines have been set to print. What is accepted as usual from day to day will shape the personality of your organization more than its written counterpart.