Do You Lead on the Fly?

Do You Lead on the Fly?

As a member of the women’s leadership organization, Executive Women International, I was privileged recently to tour behind the scenes at one of the major hospitals in my area. I arrived early and decided to meander around the lobby. I soon encountered what seemed to be “science fair” boards on display.

In actuality, it was table after table of poster board illustrations drawn by members of the various hospital departments demonstrating the priorities of each unit. While each board had a different emphasis, one thing was clear throughout. This hospital put an emphasis on treating the person rather than merely treating the illness.

In particular, one comment jumped off the boards.

“Patient perception of how much a staff member cared about them as well as how long they spent with them increased dramatically when the interaction took place with the caregiver seated rather than standing.”

The sentence struck me immediately because it reminded me of a conversation I once had with an executive that I coached regarding his deteriorating relationship with his boss.

The two had always had a cordial relationship but never could produce great work together because they always seemed to be a bit out of sync. There was nothing obviously missing “on paper” between the two so it wasn’t obvious as to why the relationship just wasn’t productive.

You could go down the checklist of behaviors that leaders are supposed to do to engage and motivate employees and they all seemed to be there.

-Challenging work

-Variety of assignments

-Included in decisions


The list goes on and on. Each person could list instances of having done “all the right things.”Why then was this relationship quickly moving from cordial to dysfunctional?

In one simple sentence, the executive revealed the real source of the issue.

“I never go all the way into her office to have a conversation. I just stand at the door and we have a quick conversation of the facts.”

Continuing, he said,

“She never looks me straight in the eye, I always feel that she just wants me out of there. In fact, on more than one occasion, as I walked into her office and asked if we could talk, she would get up mid sentence and head out the door to get a coffee. I would follow her talking but it was pretty obvious she had better things to do.”

All of the so called “right” things that the boss tried to do to engage this employee were flushed down the drain by her failure to connect with him on a daily basis.

Her subtle actions on a day to day basis said to him “you don’t care about me or my opinions and no matter how much floor time you give me in a meeting, I will not believe you care about my input.”

Strong leadership can not be done on the fly.

You have to listen.

You have to care about people as much as you care about the work.

You have to intentionally give people the perception that you care about their well-being and you want to spend time with them.

You have to demonstrate that you value them in the small interactions even more so than in the grand gestures.

You have to make the connection.

You have to sit down.

Sandi Coryell is a Leadership and Success Keynote Speaker, Strategist and Consultant. You can follow Sandi on Twitter @SandiCoryell.


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