A Leader is a Great Teammate
It’s interesting because leaders live in two worlds. They live in the executive world. Where they are making big decisions, they are charting the courses of business, they are leading teams, etc. but they also have to be part teammate. Teammates love following leaders, they don’t really love to follow rules but they do love to follow a leader.
Without a doubt, the number one thing a leader can do to show him as a teammate is proximity. Just being available. Being available has some very unique characteristics and qualifications to it. You can’t actually be a teammate being in proximity of everyone 100% of the time. But you do have to be there enough so that people know you are listening. Not figuratively listening. Are you there? Do you see what’s going on? Do you understand what they are going through day in and day out? Do you as a leader understand what we have to do to execute those things that are being tossed down to us from the executive branch? When people feel that, the teammates are willing to step in and do 100% plus for the leader. Because they feel the leader is doing as much for them as they perceive they are doing for the leader, team, goal, and so on.
There are some very essential parts to this that need to be considered because when we are engaging with the team as a teammate to create that proximity’ it certainly cannot be too often. Because then we are more teammate and expose ourselves to too many ‘teammate conversations’. Which diminishes a little bit of our authority and leadership. Meaning credibility which leads to a lesser willingness to follow from the teammates. It is also important not to be too familiar either in the way the communication happens or in the topic themselves.
I believe that email is a great way to do it. Though texting seems to be the preferred way of communication. But texting may lead to a little to familiar form of communication because we don’t want them to believe “okay, we are best friends.” It really takes us up against a line that I believe we need to try to avoid. Calls can help and are appropriate under given circumstances, but I don’t really feel that’s a first option. Calls can be awkward. Teammates sometimes tighten up a little bit and be a little bit “too” perfect. It’s not always natural. I really feel email is the best way to get the truest form of communication.
The subject matter in the emails still matter, though. It shouldn’t be too deep and too hairy. If that’s the case just set up an appointment to sit down and chat. It should be light, but still has substance. Substance relevant to them as an individual, in terms of their real time now and how that relates to them as a teammate. It should be personal enough where it doesn’t sound like a memo that’s been sent out to everybody. It is something personal and unique to them. For example, if someone does something that is noteworthy, that deserves recognition, then that would be a way to do it, “Hey! Nice job on this… it was notable” and go on to tell them about the significance it had. Another example of being in proximity. It asking can I be supportive in anyway, what can I do to make things easier for them. If there is please let me know. In statements like those, you are offering something. It is a touch point of significance. It’s not promising anything other than being available for support. It has the right reach and is appropriately familiar. Another standard one would be “have a nice weekend.” That can be any weekend. Even that is something you do not want to say to many times. It takes away a personal feel, the more you use it and it becomes predictable. Which you want to stay away from. Because then people get into this metronome and they feel like if something isn’t delivered at this certain time then something is wrong. Or we have drifted away from being a teammate and now have gotten back to being a leader in an ivy tower.
Certainly, there are times where you should and could be personal to the person. Such as a birthday, graduation, or even a vacation. In those situations, a text is a great form of communication. The whole idea of this is when we are a leader that has certain demands of people to perform a certain way and there is some sort of standard. They’ll give as much of them to us as they feel we are giving to them as a leader. And one of the best ways to do that is to show them proximity, “yes, we are listening”, “yes, we are here”, “yes, we are human”. We are showing we certainly are appreciative of the work they are doing and you are grateful to have them as teammates.