Bosses have the same impact on you as your dating relationships – you remember them all your life. Maybe if managers realized how important their interactions were, they would pull out their best behavior to make a positive impression on their team members. Managers are the first level of leadership, and who they are directly sets the culture of the team. As I said I my earlier blog, leadership is who you are when no one is watching, so besides the sensitizations, coaching and offsites, simply being a good human being will do.
I’ve taken lessons from everyone I reported to. In one of my first roles in internal communications, my boss used to make a big deal out of ‘presenting’ the employee magazine to the CEO. He would call me into the CEO’s office, talk about it, introduce me as the editor and make me hand it over. As a fresher into corporate life, I mentally rolled my eyes. But later in my career, I have used his lessons in positioning a channel for success well. Investing CEOs and Business Heads in a channel will co-opt them into the process; a word from them to their team members to “see that this story is featured” brings strong leads to a communications team, with credible information and team cooperation in building the story. They also read the story after its published, and share it with their peers, making the channel even more sought after.
Another boss I learned from introduced me to casual or scheduled ‘chats’ with other leaders, experts and those connected with the culture of an organisation. While I always believed in efficiency and would plan out my day based on tasks, she would make me take time out of the day and walk with her to meet people. Some of these were random walks were we would stop and chat, meeting project leads, employee volunteers, or experts in a technology or program. Some of them were scheduled, where we would meet with business heads, with no agenda! That scared me, to not have an agenda, but she would skillfully navigate a conversation, from loosening up with personal chatter or topical trends, then move with a relevant segway to get them talking about the business, industry, progress and performance, client feedback and more. These chats are a lesson I took with me that informed my communications approach to ensure it was close to business strategy, to have a steady stream of story ideas and to stay on top of the winds of change in any organisation.
The last example I want to share is particularly relevant to today’s technology-led world, and was pivotal in my career for the mindset change it afforded me. Early in my working years as a writer, I was part of a marketing shared services team. In the first week of my joining, besides the confusion on how to manage conference bridges, I remember my first client call, where I was introduced as a writer. When the call concluded, I was distraught, and went over to my manager, telling him that I hadn’t understood a single word, despite the conversation being in English!! There was a lot of internal jargon specific to the company, and technology terms I had never heard before. He was very kind, and reassured me that it was normal. His advice to listen and not be afraid to ask anything I didn’t understand held me in good stead for the rest of my career. I went on to work in technology oriented domains and manufacturing. Till today, I’m proud of the fact that I understand what a substation is and the types of substations there are, when I worked with a power major!
When managers bring their teams into habits and behaviors that work for them, normalise challenging situations or simply act empathetically, this is much more enriching than any training, and leaves reportees with invaluable life lessons.
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