One of my favorite job perks of working as an executive recruiter with Y Scouts is mining leadership brains for philosophical gold every day. Of course my primary purpose in having these exploratory conversations with potential candidates is to see if they are values-aligned with who our clients are looking for, but speaking with leaders every day also brings me a sense of “smart by association.” I soak up whatever I can about the frameworks leaders use to drive results, learn relentlessly, and develop others.
In recent conversations, I’ve picked up a lot about how conscious leaders lead. I say “conscious” because often there’s a point in someone’s career when they realize what it really means to be a leader; when they start seeing themselves as a “leader of people” for the first time. This leadership awakening can happen years after someone first received the promotion that denoted leadership status on paper.
I’m not sure who originated the following quote, but I found this elongated version on the Trillium Family Services Facebook page through a Google search,
“Change moves at the speed of trust, and trust moves at the speed of relationships.”
The New Year often means change. As a conscious leader, make sure you’re doing the change pre-work by building relationships with the members of your team.
- Start with “Hello”
This sounds self-evident, but I’ve worked for CEOs at companies with less than 25 staff members, who walked around the open office and only said hello to members of the leadership team or didn’t say anything at all.
If a leader views speaking to individual contributors as something that they should earn, they are wasting a valuable opportunity to build trust and activate net promoters within the company. Net promoters drive results and build great internal culture.
2. Get to know staff on a deeper level
Conversations with the team shouldn’t start and end with “how was your weekend?” After starting with hello, begin investing time and curiosity to develop real connections.
At Y Scouts, we utilize Chad Littlefield’s We! Connect Cards to expand our understanding of our teammates. The 60 cards have three degrees of levity:
- “fun and light” — What was happening the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
- “a bit deeper” — What is one crucial ingredient for true happiness?
- “self-reflection” — What is something you would like to do more of?
3. Be serious about feedback
Repeatedly hear crickets when asking the team for feedback on an idea or product? There’s a good chance the team doesn’t think leadership actually wants to hear anything honest. Break through the silence by turning feedback into a game and building a “Red Team.”
While attending GreenBiz 17, a sustainability conference that convenes annually in Phoenix, I participated in a workshop on “generating and acting on breakthrough ideas” led by Jonah Sachs of Free Range Studio, a purpose-driven innovation and storytelling consultancy.
The Red Team: Give a group permission to speak frankly and tear ideas apart by forbidding them from saying anything nice. Instead, people on this ‘red team’ must voice their gut reactions to ideas. This can help save time by eliminating barriers to honest feedback. — Free Range
Jonah introduced the concept of the “Red Team” to the group. Red Teams are used frequently in the military and intelligence communities to challenge ideas in order to make them stronger. Set clear permission and intention around utilizing the Red Team as a critical asset to make the organization better by identifying issues.
This New Year, take your team to the next level through giving more “hellos,” asking deeper questions, and being intentional about feedback. These trust builders will translate into more engaged teams who drive greater impact.
Katelyn Harris Lange is a current leadership search specialist (executive recruiter) with Y Scouts working to reorient hiring around values and fulfillment, with a focus on the human being behind the resume. She is a philanthropist involved in the African-American Women’s Giving and Empowerment Circle and the current Diversity and Inclusion Director with Net Impact Phoenix Professionals.
Originally published at yscouts.com on January 9, 2019.