Leadership advice

How can I show I’m a manager who ‘gets it’?

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Why is it that the same message, sent by two different leaders, can be received in different ways — one has impact, the other seems like platitudes? 

My grandmother knew. Granny always told us, “Consider the source.” 
Those three words tell an important story of credibility and trust. Those qualities are critical when leaders are trying to offer encouragement, mitigate fear, build collaboration, or accelerate needed change.

People have to believe that their leaders “get it.” How do you show that?

  • General statements aren’t enough. Be as specific as possible. Provide examples. If you’re saying, “Please know how much we value your sacrifices,” describe what that pain looks like in real world terms.
  • Go beyond the obvious. Share information that shows how closely you are paying attention. Many employees feel their bosses have little understanding of what it really takes to do their jobs on a good day, much less under duress. 
  • Ask for info. To give examples and to go beyond the obvious, you need good information. Be proactive; look, listen and ask. But also encourage your team members to keep you informed. Many people hesitate to tell their bosses about success stories because they don’t want to look like suckups, or to share serious problems because they don’t want to be seen as whiners. Make it safe for people to speak their truth to your power. Invite it. Insist on it.
  • Be visible. You’re busy, I know. But use every human means of communication (that is medically safe) to stay in touch. Let people see your face and hear your voice. 
  • It’s about THEM — unless it’s something meaningful about you. Your team needs to know they truly are your priority. Focus on their work and their lives in the vast majority of your communication. But when something in your life connects to their hopes, fears or challenges, consider sharing it. Are you working from home while a toddler is spilling cereal on your laptop? Is your granny in assisted living and you’re worried about her safety? It matters. When you are known for putting others first and then open a window into your humanity, you build credibility.

And when people are considering the source, you are the manager who “gets it.”

Have questions? Ask away.


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