I listened to this year’s Leadership Residency CEO Panel with an ear to messages of belonging. Some of their best pieces of advice fit perfectly with this theme.
“The hardest thing I ever did was the best thing I ever did.” One CEO told a story about how a difficult situation made them a stronger leader from the experience. How are you coaching employees who are going through a challenging situation? Can you facilitate “perspective taking?” Be that person who can help people see things from a different angle. Don’t make light of their struggle, but do help them make meaning out of it. Share your stories of dark moments before the dawn.
“Be quick, be smart, and be gone.” This one made us laugh at first. But when it comes down to it, sometimes as a leader you foster more belonging – and self-efficacy – by getting out of the way. You can risk others’ development of accomplishment when you try to do for them what they can and need to do for themselves. Be present, be a good resource, then let people wrestle through the experiences that will help them grow.
Seek feedback and listen to it. Ask your employees, “What would you like me to start, continue, or stop doing to support your sense of belonging here?” Listen carefully to what is said and what is not said. When you show over time that you are listening, people begin to trust you and that trust makes room for a lot of grace when you miss the mark.
Be YOU. When we show up authentically, it invites others to do so as well. Think of the people you can be yourself with and what a relief that is! We don’t have to “act” to fit in. Sometimes people will push back on this, saying, “So, anything goes then??” No. Being authentic does not mean throwing expectations and standards aside. I may cuss up a storm at home, but that doesn’t mean I can cuss at work and say, “Hey, just keeping it real.” Unless swearing is the only thing that makes me “me” (let’s hope not), I have something to contribute. I show my true self when I ask for help when I need it, admit a mistake and try to make it right, help someone who is struggling, laugh at myself and help you do so as well, let you know if I don’t know the answer to something, state my preference when you ask me for it, etc. Where do you show the real you? My own personal favorite definition of leadership is Ken Cushman’s, “Authentic self-expression that adds value.” My cussing doesn’t add value (usually), but those other behaviors do.
Seek out mentors. These are significant relationships in our lives – those who lend a hand, lift us up, and help point the way. They may not fall into your life; look around and ask. Your request can foster belonging because knowing that we are needed is one way to feel like we are supposed to be here. Who might you ask to mentor you?
Be intentional. Think about what drives your decisions. What do you truly want for yourself? For your team? Decide to create a sense of belonging among your team and act in ways that show what you intend. Don’t just hope that people will pick up on what your intentions are. State them, and then make sure that your actions match.
Develop situational awareness and become willing and able to flex. You have your plans and agendas ready to go, but it’s important to learn to read the audience. Find opportunities to practice checking in with people before jumping in to the work. Invite questions. Ask for a rating scale of their day or their comfort level with going forward with a project. Leading a team is a balance of maintaining focus and meeting the team’s needs. Be willing to back up and attend to belonging. You’ll go farther faster if people feel connected and your flexibility can impact that.
Get out of your office. Presence builds connection. Whether it’s face-to-face or screen, leaders go first to put yourself out there. This will be a little more tiring for some of you than others, but it is a job requirement if you want to increase the likelihood of keeping your employees.
Get coaching for yourself. Everyone has something to learn and if we are not growing, we’re becoming obsolete. We’d love to be part of your leadership journey. Contact me to connect with our team of leadership coaches!
Thank you to 2023’s CEO panel: Kelly Macken-Marble, Osceola Medical Center; Julie Bieber, Bellin - Oconto; Shawn Lerch, Sauk Prairie Healthcare; Derek Daly, Tomah Health; Chris Brabant, HSHS Oconto Falls
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
|In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
Lead the Way in Five Minutes A Day: Sparking High Performance in Yourself and Your Team, by Jo Anne Preston is currently available for purchase.