This quote is one I saved many moons ago, which I think should be attributed to Danny Silk, but I’ve been unable to verify that.
It talks about how leaders create the culture in their team, and how that culture needs to encourage a safe space for two way communication. Seldom do we pay attention to the need to create a decent culture, or effective communication for that matter, because these things take time and effort to establish. And more time and more effort to feed and grow. Are they REALLY that necessary? Aren’t our default communication and culture okay?
I was reminded this week just how much time we spend as pilots training for everything OTHER than straight and level flight. Flying A to B, when all is calm and serene is the easy bit. It’s how we hope each flight will go. But we don’t spend our time training for that. We train for what happens when it’s bumpy, when things don’t go according to plan and you have to recalibrate, and for when the proverbial hits the fan and things get spicy! We train hard for that – aaaalllll the time. We do so to make sure the right responses are foremost in our brains and we can operate under pressure effectively.
When the going gets tough and the stress levels increase, as humans, we default to our original settings. And if your original settings as a leader are to do things yourself and your own way…then your team is going to feel that at precisely the moment they need you to lead. That being the same moment you need a team! THAT’s when your culture and communication matters.
When things get tough – whether that’s dealing with a difficult client on an otherwise peaceful day, or the economic uncertainty that Zimbabwe’s currently facing that could mean people’s businesses go under – we search for what is real and true to ground ourselves. We look to our leaders to set the tone and to lead by example. Trust and transparency within our teams strengthen us and allow us to operate from a place of security and certainty even when the situation we’re facing has none of those same hallmarks.
People naturally want to plan and protect themselves, so the more proactive you can be as a leader with sharing appropriate thoughts and information, the more you will gain the trust of your team. Being transparent is a powerful thing – if you can trust yourself and be trusted by others.
Often, leaders feel that to be transparent (especially in uncertain times when things keep changing) is to appear less authoritative, and to keep adjusting and discussing is to lose your power and leverage. The reality is that people want to relate to their leaders, to know their leaders are experiencing the same problems they are and to know how they’ve overcome personal hardships.
So don’t stop communicating. Establish your communication and culture while the air is smooth. Feed it with transparency and truth. And when the going gets tough, draw on it as it is forged in the fire of what you walk through as a team.
If you’re not there yet, take advantage of the fire. Be cognisant that your team are looking to you and set the example you want to continue with. Encourage team connection and conversation. Remind them that you’re all in it together. Ask them how they’re doing and how things are affecting them. And figure it out together. Ultimately, you’re fostering a powerhouse team who will have your back when things get spicy, because they know that having each other’s backs is reciprocal.
Problems will get solved faster. Teams will build quicker. Relationships will grown authentically. And higher levels of performance will emerge.
If you’d like to explore the subject further, I wrote a previous article entitled “The Vulnerability of Strong Leadership” which you can read here…
A reminder also, whilst much of our focus is required by keeping our businesses afloat, that most of us have teams at home too who require the same leadership, communication, transparency and trust to maintain their stability. For many of us, this is the team we, as leaders, draw our own stability from, so make sure you train together.
by Christen Killick
October 15th, 2018