Gandhi summed it up well when he said “Actions express priorities”. There is no more simple way to communicate what you do is more important than what you say. Yet, how often do leaders get too busy to conduct regular check-ins, follow up on concerns from their team or otherwise reflect a prioritization on the needs of their team? We say, “people are our most important asset”. We reflect, “people are less important than everything I have going on.” In order to best serve their team, leaders must express their prioritization of the people. As John Maxwell put it, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
I’m not perfect at this either. In fact, this has been a growing concern of mine: do my actions reflect priorities other than putting the team first? As a result, I developed a short list of actions to help reinforce the alignment of my actions with priorities:
1. Schedule Check-Ins: Schedule recurring meetings to check-in with your team. Then, do not move them unless absolutely necessary. Too often, these are the first meetings to be moved – again reflecting a lower priority on the people. Never completely cancel these meetings. Ask the team what frequency they prefer.
2. Schedule Work Time: Schedule time to actually get your own work done. While not directly tied to your people, failure to book time to accomplish tasks will minimize your ability to meet, listen to and support your team.
3. Ad-Hoc Communication: Don’t constrict your interaction with the team only to formal meeting times. Take time to stop by their office, give them a call or, at least a chat message. If you’re like me, finding time to do this is difficult, at best. Once again, scheduling time to actually take that stroll down the hallway and see what the team’s up to can help reinforce this objective.
4. Ask for Directions: Yes, I know us men have issues with this. But seriously, ask the team what more you can do and how you can help them. I try my best to end each check-in conversation with this question. The inquiry prompts each person to consider what you can help them with. I’ve gotten some great, sometimes even surprising, requests out of this question.
5. Listen: Do not listen only to formal communications, but to the chatter. I do not mean the gossip. However, casual conversations often include side comments or remarks that are flags of larger and/or growing issues. Don’t brush those comments aside – pursue them. A great leader always has her ears on.
I will continue to work on applying these actions myself. My hope is that you will too, or find other ways in which to ensure your actions match your priorities – especially when it comes to the people.
Question: How do you ensure your actions match priorities, especially when it comes to people?