In my opinion, the most important factor in successful organizations is effective leadership that helps people thrive and grow. I have observed and thought about this a lot over the years and have found something very interesting at play when this is being done well.
It’s what I call “tiny moments of leadership”—those occasions when top leaders spend truly quality time, even when rather brief, as they perhaps can be, to connect with team members in a personal and meaningful way.
The Power of Taking the Time to Connect
The topic of conversation during these “tiny moment” experiences can be anything, and frankly, it’s not the most essential part. There are other dynamics at play that can be as important as the actual words spoken. The fact that you are taking time to connect with your team in a genuine and focused way can be the biggest takeaway of all. Then there’s the friendly tone in your voice, which perhaps they have never heard before, much less felt in such a personal way. And your genuine interest in hearing what they have to say and the way you truly listen, ask questions and respond to what is being said. By doing this, you’ve already made a big impact regardless of the subject matter.
This is not to suggest that what you have to say is inconsequential. Quite the opposite. In addition to all the positives mentioned above, these encounters provide the opportunity to share thoughts, observations, suggestions and advice, all based on a shared vision for the individual and the organization. And equally important, it offers the opportunity to ask questions, assess where the individual is in their thinking and professional maturity, observe how they communicate and hear thoughts, opinions, ideas and aspirations directly from the source.
It is in these tiny moments that leadership truly takes hold and connects you to people in a profound way. They make you real and genuine and make your leadership transformational. People cherish time with those leaders they admire most. And these close encounter engagements separate the truly great leaders from the others.
Wow. If all this is within the reach of simple conversations, wouldn’t you want to make a point of having more of them?
What Are Tiny Moments of Leadership?
So what do I mean by “tiny moments of leadership”? Well, think back to a great leader in your life and take note of the most vivid memories you have about them. Most likely, these are the times you shared rather personally with them. Sure, there were other scenarios when they displayed their leadership to a larger group of people in broad, influential ways. But when you really think about it, it is the accumulation of smaller, more personal moments that really had the most impact.
So how do we as leaders create these tiny moments of leadership?
By being abundant. Join in brainstorms. Connect with people. Participate. Get up and walk around and have conversations. Imagine that.
When you are an abundant personality, you meet the unspoken needs of your people. You are more likely to recognize when someone is struggling with a task, an emotion or any other challenge and reach out to them with a word of encouragement and an offer to help. It’s these moments they will remember the most.
Imagine the opportunities for growth you would discover by having a firsthand vision into your organization like this. There’s gold waiting for you there. New ideas and creative inspiration. Opportunities disguised as problems. Transformation inspired by simple conversations.
Now there is a catch to all of this…you have to listen. Listen for input. Listen for perspective. Listen for understanding. Then ask questions for clarification and more detail about what you’re hearing. Not to put on a show, create a false sense of involvement or pander for buy in, but because you truly believe that the active participation of many creates a better solution for all. There are no shortcuts. You have to put in the time. Being “abundant” takes time and commitment. But it pays you back in spades.
Keep these guidelines in mind in your efforts to be an abundant leader and create your tiny moments of leadership:
1. Give Others Credit
Abundant leaders don’t need credit for good things that happen. They know that great ideas come from anyone and everyone. They know that celebrating the contributions of all is the greatest source of inspiration. The more praise people get, the better it feels and the more motivated they are to get more.
It takes discipline to pass credit on to others. But that’s what great leaders do. The great conductor (and leader) Benjamin Zander said, “The conductor of the orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends on his power to make other people powerful. If their eyes are shining, then you know you’re doing it.” When you make eyes shine, the whole room is bright. And there is a whole lot of success—and credit—to go around for all.
2. Build Mutual Trust
Abundant leaders strive to trust others. They know that to achieve the best results, they must create a culture where trust is important and valued by all. And they know that this culture of trust starts with them.
But they don’t bestow their trust in others blindly. I use the words “strive to trust others” because trust is earned and not everyone gets there. “Trust yet verify” is a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union toward the end of the Cold War. Like Reagan, abundant leaders give everyone the opportunity to earn trust by giving out enough rope for them to be great and then spending the time and attention to verify the results. The trust that is earned is based on behavior, performance and results. Saying what you will do and doing what you say. Once the verification is consistently favorable, then the rope can be extended, trust grows and more independence is granted.
Trust is, of course, a two-way street, and to be great, leaders must earn trust from those around them as well. What goes into this could fill a book, but the foundation and currency of trust is transparency. This means acting with honesty, openness, integrity and authenticity. It means doing things in the open where all can see. Team members who feel knowledgeable and truly involved in the business will enthusiastically contribute more genuine effort, input and time. But if big decisions (that greatly impact them) appear to exclude their input, they will feel uninformed, may feel undervalued and will draw away.
Scarce leaders don’t take the time to help others. Abundant leaders not only take the time, but consider coaching both a responsibility and a privilege. They have the “heart of a servant,” knowing they can leverage their knowledge and skillsets exponentially by helping others be great. The ultimate reward is a rising tide that raises all boats and makes the organization infinitely better and ultimately, more profitable.
The abundant leader invests time and money in developing his people, engaging them in a way that empowers them in their work and rewards them for their successes. Growing people and the relationships between them is paramount. This takes attention, time and effort, but in the long run, the entire team is contributing to this culture of abundance, creating an environment that is vibrant, collaborative and motivating.
I’m baffled by leaders who don’t invest lavishly in their people and make it the number one priority of their work. The very definition of the word leader speaks to someone who shares power, inspires others to leadership, encourages participation, honors purpose and empowers others. This simply can’t be done without a faithful dedication to coaching others to greatness.
4. Connect People
Abundant leaders make it a priority to promote connections among team members. Their disposition to share and their dedication to employee networking leads to rich relationships within the organization. The result is an environment in which team members trust and understand their peers, acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses and share knowledge. Consider the harmonizing power of such a team.
Strong connector leaders ensure their teams are working toward common goals by using motivators to fuel the team dynamic. They embrace individual differences and encourage all to share their distinct opinions, backgrounds and experiences. They make peer skill-sharing a part of their culture, facilitating and celebrating the sharing of information, strengths and needs across the team.
Proactive one-on-one meetings with employees help them extract the most value from their connections and reflect on lessons learned after the fact.
5. Share Ideas
Teams that openly share ideas and experiences create a learning cycle that feeds on itself and builds a better future for everyone. This culture of sharing is fostered by the leader. Unenlightened leaders act as if there is a finite amount of success, reward and opportunity to go around. Abundant leaders take the opposite view that success can be shared, and the growth of a team is good news for everyone. They know the more we give away, the more we have. You’ll know you have a healthy environment when oftentimes you can’t quite remember who came up with a particular idea, but that it just seemed to grow organically out of the positive group dynamic.
Listening is a part of sharing. When you provide your undivided attention, not only are you sharing your time, but also the thoughts and ideas that follow. To add real value, you must have a full understanding of what those around you are saying. It is only then that you can embrace, enable and enhance the collective power of your team.
6. Manage things. Lead people.
Management promotes stability, maintains systems, pursues goals and adheres to policies and plans. It is about getting an established job done in the most efficient way possible. It is left-brain. Managers supervise a known process they have been trained to do and seen before. Burger King franchises hire managers.
Leadership is about creating change that transforms. It expands and develops, initiates change to respond better, pursues mission and aspires to vision and values. Leadership is a left- and right-brain balance.
In the words of Seth Godin, “Managers have employees. Leaders have followers. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.”
The old saying “Big things come in small packages” could not be truer than with the tiny moments of leadership you share with your team. These small encounters have the potential to shape their minds and, in the end, take up the most room in their hearts.
How many tiny moments of leadership have you shared today?