As leaders we need to understand the impact that we have and also the responsibility that comes with that.
Leaders are always leaders, during every encounter, every meeting, every presentation, every casual conversation over a coffee, or even on an off chance meeting in the canteen.
We may not always feel like leaders but that is how we are seen by our people.
During every encounter to them we are leaders and people are looking at us to see whether we are consistent with our message, our character or our personality that we portray. They are looking to see if they can learn something, to discern whether rumours are true, whether we believe in the direction we are setting. They are looking to see whether we are authentic or not.
During each of these encounters we have an impact on our people, and how they feel when they leave. Our interaction can leave them energised or depleted, motivated or de-motivated, engaged or wanting to quit, encouraged or discouraged.
We need to be conscious of the messages and signals that we send out, and not just the verbal signals.
I remember one encounter with a team of mine which really brought this home to me.
I was walking towards them down the corridor with a spring in my step, a smile on my face, not a care in the world. They stopped me and said that we had an issue that had just cropped up, which could be a major issue for us if not resolved quickly, I thanked them, told them I would look into it and continued on my way.
One of the team met with me later and said that she thought that our meeting was funny today. It started with me walking towards them smiling not a care in the world, and ended with me walking away as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.
To me, I had not said or done anything other than thanking them for letting me know, and walking on.
But to them, they could see by my demeanour, my non verbal cues, even the way I walked that I wasn’t happy or comfortable with the situation.
This wan’t them message I wanted to convey, or even thought that I had conveyed.
Our goal should be to always leave people energised, motivated, engaged or encouraged, even during the most casual of meetings.
This is not easy, we are human, and are subject to our emotions and moods, which might not be aligned with the message we want to give. Especially during unplanned encounters.
This is something which I struggle with, as I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, however I am also fortunate that being approachable, people often ask me if they see me looking off my game. But if people do not feel comfortable approaching me, then they can misread things and come to wrong conclusions.
The bigger problem here is that this is not just limited to the impact of one encounter, within all organisations there are always rumour mills and these encounters can pretty quickly become known throughout the entire organisation, and then these wrong conclusions are shared widely and quickly.
This is one of the hardest parts of being a leader, there is no training courses for it, its something that we need to be aware of and try and deal with.
For regular planned meetings, we can prepare ourselves and look to ensure that people leave us engaged, motivated and energised.
It is these unplanned meetings, where are tend to be more natural that are more difficult. In these meetings if we can achieve the same results as the planned meetings then this can have a huge positive impact.
Remember as leaders, we are always leaders, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, during every planned and unplanned encounter, and during each encounter we have an impact.
Lets look to try and make each of them positive.