Do You Create Engagement or Disengagement?

production of television setsWe humans have a tendency to believe that what we do and how we do it is “all good.” We rarely pay attention to the signs around us that we may not be seen as positively as we’d like.

No matter your role in your family or work team, you have a responsibility to understand how others perceive you.

To learn those perceptions, you must observe other’s reactions to you closely and invite feedback on any of your behaviors that erode trust and respect.

Let me offer an example of a leader who wasn’t aware of the negative perceptions of him.

Years ago I was working with a manufacturing client. I was teaching a two-day leadership course for plant leaders. Getting to and from the training room from the facility lobby required venturing through the production lines (hard hats, eyewear, and earplugs were mandatory).

Safe walking lanes were well-marked, and one had to stay within those boundaries.

The cafeteria was located further along the manufacturing floor, demanding the same safety procedures.

One day after lunch, the client took me up on the catwalk for a unique perspective on the production lines. Forty feet above the floor, he described the work flow. We happened to have stopped above a work unit who’s leader was in my class.

I had been told that this particular leader was “old school,” and wasn’t going to embrace the relationship-based influencing tools and techniques I’d be teaching. His behavior in class reinforced his lack of confidence that our leadership model would work for him.

We glanced down on the work unit and noticed this leader walk in. He walked briskly towards his desk to drop off paperwork before heading back to my class.

What happened next was amazing to observe. Without a word, his team members moved quickly out of their boss’ view. They ducked behind machinery. They moved behind tool bins.

They didn’t want to be seen by or engage with the boss, so they hid, quickly and efficiently.

When the boss left their unit a few minutes later, team members moved back to their work stations.

These team members believed it was better to simply not engage with their boss if at all possible. They acted to ensure they weren’t seen by him!

If this leader had cared about how he was perceived, he could have paid closer attention. Work was being done during this time frame; team members were in the unit. Why wouldn’t he ask himself, “Where is everybody?”

This “oblivion” happens to team members as well as team leaders. All of us need to conduct regular “reality checks” to gauge how our plans, decisions, and actions are perceived.

Once you learn how you are perceived, you can work to behave in ways that boosts your positive impact and beneficial perception.

You can refine your plans, decisions, and actions to engage people you work with, not create disengagement.

What do you think? Do team members in your organization “hide” from their boss at times? In what ways do you invite feedback to learn your impact – and refine your behavior to engage? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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  • Mark Deterding

    Great article Chris! I think you have hit upon the main barrier from leaders moving totally over to a platform of servant leadership. It is not always a comfortable spot for leaders to put themselves into….asking for feedback on their performance. However doing so can provide excellent insights into areas of improvement that are necessary, and also provide a great model for the rest of the organization on personal development. Plus as Colleen Barrett so clearly says, “People will respect you for what you know, but they will love you for your vulnerabilities”. Thanks for all you do in advancing our ability to be a “Great Boss”!

    • Thanks for your insights, Mark!

      You’re right on – servant leaders know that they can’t please everybody but they can’t SERVE unless they understand how they’re perceived daily.

      The great ones invite that feedback often, embrace it intentionally, and refine so they can serve better.

      Cheers!

      C.

      S. Chris Edmonds  MacBook Air & iMac
      DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com

  • Great story Chris. The problem you described was caused by his boss, by his boss not knowing what was going on and taking action to correct it. We all need a boss that knows how to manage/lead people and will help us to become a Superstar manager. The script is very simple to learn and execute and is quite the opposite of the direct and control model.

    • Thanks for your insights, Ben. You’re absolutely right – a savvy boss could have spotted this behavior!

      And, in my experience, savvy, great bosses are all too rare. The stuff that really matters – treating others with trust and respect – just doesn’t get the emphasis it deserves. Hopefully some of these discussions will help prompt bosses to be “great-er”!

      Cheers!

      C.

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