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  • by Art Dykstra

From My Pad to Yours

For Better or for Worse

Leaders are dependent upon the relationships that they have with their followers in advancing and achieving organizational goals. They give special attention to the way the question “How are we going to be together?” is answered.       

As a result, they are mindful of all of the interactions that they have with their subordinates. Leaders realize that trust comes from doing what they say they are going to do, generally, during the time that they said they were going to do it. If we insist that the person who answers the phone relay all messages quickly and politely, are we also timely and polite in our replies? Do we practice a “Do as I do” way of leading?

Leaders understand the fact that organizations cannot become anything that they as persons are not willing to become themselves. These thoughts lead me back to the advice I received from a colleague early in my career. His suggestion was to be aware of the desire to create management relationships for which the goal was to become better after every transaction, better being defined in terms of knowledge, skills or encouragement.

Trust is an essential component of these interactions. In talks with our congressmen on issues directly affecting the services our organizations provide, we may be constantly evaluating whether or not what they say and what they really mean are the same thing. Our employees, on the other hand, should not have to perform such mental gymnastics just to tap into the support we are to provide.

Every phone call, e-mail, financial statement or board meeting should leave employees with a better understanding of the common goals. Even if a project comes up a weed rather than a rose, by facing the situation together, both leaders and their employees can work better. An additional advantage to giving conscientious feedback is that employees who are the recipients of it are more likely to give it to others. With every contact, a leader can either choose to dull the senses of their subordinates or to sharpen them. A subordinate who was told tactfully that certain methods were counterproductive has a sharper ear for hearing new solutions. An employee who remembers when his proposal was read thoughtfully will develop sharper eyes to see the ideas of others.

Leaders committed to developing their followers realize that “better” involves telling the truth, sometimes giving painful feedback, and sometimes, giving the employee a good listening to. If their interactions foster learning, everyone keeps teaching.