By Michael Holland     

15-year-old girls have perfected the art of dual communication.  They nod appropriately to their parents as key parental instructions are put forth.  Then in a moment the 15-year-old girl turns toward her friends and dramatically performs the full eye roll communicating her true feelings and commitment to her parents.

Managers working to align their team around endeavors too often are oblivious to the lack of commitment within their team.  Like the parents of the 15-year-old, they speak, see the head nod and walk away confident in their leadership impact only to be disappointed later with low productivity or less than optimal effectiveness or down right rebellion in getting work completed.

Aligning resources is a difficult set of behaviors because we too often think the head nod of our team means they are fully committed to our vision and path forward.  Here are three ways in which leaders fail to align their employees.

  1. Lack of Clarity in Where We Are Heading – Leaders tend to be too frugal in their explanations for where the team is heading.  They don’t provide the rationale nor the structured communication and messaging to gain the full buy-in of their team.  That one team meeting and single email follow-up aren’t enough.  Communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate some more.
  2. Limiting Open Dialogue – Leaders “present” information closing the doors to any chance of effective dialogue and exchange of perspectives.   They choose to challenge rather than being receptive to the thoughts, opinions, ideas of their team.  You don’t have to accept all the ideas but you do need to be open to engaging in dialogue and hearing the ideas so that you can draw your employees towards being committed and truly on-board.
  3. Being Uninspiring – Employees want and need to see passion, true passion.  Many leaders may lack the natural inclination to being inspiring but this doesn’t change the needs of your employees.  Being reserved and matter-of-fact can be comforting and safe and low risk.  But you need to encourage and incite your team to see the future state of obtainability, whether that’s getting the current work completed by Friday or transforming the organization for the next season.

You make the big bucks because you are responsible for influencing a dynamic group of humans.  If you’re lucky, the team you lead has matured past the age of 15.  Maybe a key question, is what age have you matured to as a leader.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Think about the most inspiring leader you’ve had the privilege of working for.  What behaviors did that leader exhibit?
  • Pick one of your current projects or initiatives and review how you’ve structured the communication of the project/initiative to gain full buy-in by your employees.  What could you have done differently?  What can you do now?
  • Of the 3 failure areas listed, which one bothers you the most?  Write down or share your thoughts as to why.