This is a season for celebration. The work dos and team Christmas parties all at an end. The time with family and loved ones is now taking over. The opportunity for a well-earned rest has arrived. Reflection time is also setting in for some and others for whom 2016 will witness a significant change in status whatever that status may be.
One of my many reflective moments was born out of a bonding lunch with my Stepson. It was an opportunity to strengthen our relationship. I was interested in his reflections of his experiences of his first term at his new school. It was quite some revelation as I listened carefully, to learn about the various rituals and rules of engagement required to become a certified member of the “cool” club.
But then it dawned on me that school is not the only place where the fast learning of the rules and rituals required to get into the cool “club” of accepted ones actually mattered. The same applied to the adult world of work in the corporate world. Many a time, a leader may voice his or her values of diversity and inclusion. They may have an open arm welcome of team members into their midst regardless of that team member’s stance, beliefs, endorsement or not, of their exciting (in their own minds) plans for the future. This is however often betrayed by the most subtle of tones, behaviours and gestures signalling to those people aching to be themselves and voicing their own opinion whilst being unquestionably loyal to the company and indeed to you the leader. The signal being that unless they understand and play the game by the rules, your rules, they are not at all welcome in the leaders’ club.
So dear leader, here is a reflection for you. Your intention may be positive, pure and indeed honourable. However, the very nature of your role and status, means that your every gesture, tone and behaviour will send messages deeply penetrating into your organisation. Each recipient of that message knowing that their response would determine the extent to which they inch closer to being admitted into your club or not. The gestures may be as simple as having a meeting with a valued colleague where they had asked for 1 hour reduced to 30 minutes and only to have your executive assistant pop in 15 minutes into the meeting to signal that your next appointment has arrived. In your eyes you’ve made time out of an extremely busy day for a valued colleague. In his or her eyes, you may have said you do not care – your worth to the company and to me is only 15 minutes.
It is only human to like and favour those whose outlook in life, their values, their opinions are similar to ours. It is also only human to embrace warmly into our clubs, those whose responses to us and our well thought through ideas and decisions are often “yes” and “amen”.
As a leader it is important to be kind to oneself in acknowledging that you are indeed also only human. In that acknowledgement, however, take a conscious stance to review the membership requirements of your club, the coded and uncoded signals of your gestures, tone and behaviour so that your every action is aligned to your values and your stated intentions. There is no time like now to do this in the expectation that 2016 can only be an improvement on 2015.