Tag Archives: Leadership Impressions

Your 2015 Leadership Wake-Up Call

As we think about how we make authentic leadership impressions  with each other, and the teams we lead, many people I talk to have used the same tools throughout their successful career.  Recently, I was talking to a great leader, my friend John (it’s actually his real name) and was asking him questions about how he goes about connecting with his broader team as President of his company.  John very quickly pointed to some good, solid tools out of his leadership tool belt:

  • Manage by walking around. John makes it a point to know each person’s name, and enjoys the personal connection realized by physically walking the floor
  • Open door policy. He makes it a point of setting aside certain hours where employees can come into his physical office and talk 1:1

As John’s workforce makeup changes from the Baby Boomer now to the Millennial of tomorrow, will those legacy tools be enough?  Will the new workforce be able to relate to John?  In short, can John stay relevant as a leader if he doesn’t modernize his tool kit?

In my role as a reverse mentor, I’ve helped executives like John realized that the tools of yesterday, while valuable, might not scale and be relevant to the workforce of the future.  By now you should have a solid understanding that the workforce of tomorrow has different needs from leadership than the workforce of yesterday.  As a result, leaders must evolve their tools to stay relevant.  That’s the wake-up call.

How to “wake-up” in 2015:

  • Keep what works, with a twist. Ask your team while walking around or during your open door 1:1 meetings about this and what they would suggest you try.
  • Commit to one new and different way to work. Talk about what you are going to try and do differently, and ask for feedback.  For example, “I’m going to start a monthly blog to share with the team.  Let me know what you think and what others are saying about it.”
  • Ask for feedback via a communications survey and personally read all of the responses. This will get you tuned into whether or not your workforce needs are changing in respect to leadership connections.

Recently, I read a blog authored by an executive I have worked with in the past.  He had even tweeted the link to it!  A couple years ago, blogging and tweeting were nowhere in this leader’s vocabulary.  Seeing that leaders are capable of evolving how they engage and inspire their teams was very humbling to me.

He “gets it”.  Do you?

Leadership Impressions–Why Stop Short?

A year ago, I was sitting in a meeting and the speaker was telling a story. She did a great job of capturing the attention of the audience, including me. The story was about her son and his baseball team. I won’t go into the details, but at the core, she was story telling about how proud she was of her son. She showed vulnerability, and to be honest with you, she connected with me.

I don’t work with this person on a day-to-day basis; I just was lucky enough to be sitting in that room, on that day, listening to that story.

She created a Leadership Impression on me.

But what if I physically had not been there? Well, there would not have been a Leadership Impression made. I envisioned applying for a job in the future where she was the hiring manager. In one story, I recalled word by word her story, immediately reciting it back to her, impressing her with my memory skills, and getting the job because of this connection. In another version–the one where I had not attended the meeting–we went through a mundane interview process and I didn’t get the job. No connection.

I bet she’s done a great job of creating Leadership Impressions this way throughout her career. These ways have been effective at establishing authentic connections with people. She’s been successful.

I demonstrated the courage to plant the seed that if she were to just write down stories like this, she could exponentially increase the number of Leadership Impressions she was creating, with a broader base of followers than she had today. While she liked the idea, she’s written nothing in about a year. The baseball story was the only one I’ve been able to hear her tell. I’m sure she’s told more stories, but only the few who were present were able to get the value.

At some point in the future, however, her ways might not scale. Her teams might not always “be in the room” to receive her messages. She’ll have team in multiple buildings–heck, countries–just waiting to follow her. But if she does not start to change the way in which she works, that is, start to lead in a scalable way through the use of enterprise collaboration tools, soon her followers won’t hear these stories, or her voice. People might start to wonder why her team is not connected to her. In short, she might not be seen as a relevant leader in the future. All because she stopped short of creating the most number of Leadership Impressions possible by not only telling her story, but writing it down as well.

Using Collaboration Tools to Create More Leadership Impressions

Marketing uses the concept of media impressions as a way for us to understand how far a particular ad campaign or message has reached its intended audience.

It dawned on me at my Company’s Spring National Meeting:  Media impressions are to Marketing what Leadership impressions are to connecting with my team.
How far have my own campaigns or messages (i.e., my Leadership impressions) reached my intended audience, and am I using all of the potential tools available to me to be effective?
I know for sure that earlier in my career, my Leadership impressions were not as far reaching as they needed to be.  I used strategies like 1:1 status meetings and spoke to groups of employees once in a while, but things needed to change as my teams got bigger and my job got more complicated.  But, as was pointed out in the Spring meeting, I needed to have “an unwavering commitment to learn new ways to lead and work.”  So basically day 1 in a new job, I just tried some new things—like blogging.  Please understand I had never blogged before—ever.  But people had always told me that I had a “different voice” when I write than what can come across in a first impression in person.  I took that as code for perhaps in person I could be a little too intense for some people in person, but when I wrote people could really get an understanding of who I really was, allowing me to establish a connection with them—a Leadership impression with my real voice that they would not have experienced otherwise.
Finally, I got it.  For me, blogging allowed me to generate more Leadership impressions with a broader group than I was reaching previously.  Now I see that as part of my role as a leader, where I am supposed to share my thoughts and opinions on things to establish authentic connections with my broader team and not be as anonymous.  Blogging now had value–value though creating more Leadership impressions.  Needing new ways to lead and work, blogging became another vehicle for me. 
Are you up for the challenge?