The Beacon of Your Business.
I once coached a manager who thought she was invisible.
She believed that her actions had little impact, that her colleagues didn’t notice her various moods and that when she retreated to the office she was somehow protected from the rest of the team. Natalie* was sent to me for coaching because her bosses wanted her to work on her management & leadership presence. Their impression was that she actually made a very big statement while at work. Turns out, she was very visible indeed.
Natalie was sensitive and emotional and when she would retreat to the office without speaking to anyone her mood would dominate the office. People walked on eggshells in her presence. Because she was so unwilling to connect with others – and be invisible – those around her felt confused. Natalie’s colleagues liked her and felt compassion for her - they could feel her discomfort and sense her anxiety - but could never penetrate her closed exterior.
When we met and spoke about this she smiled. She was hoping that her attempts at invisibility had been successful but was not at all surprised to discover that they were not. But what to do? She was very sensitive and wanted to shield herself from possible interaction but also realized that her role was to make herself available to the others on the team. She was aware that she needed to make a change, and we spoke about one very simple concept: leadership is in public. And because it is in public you must always remember that your actions are constantly communicating your state with those around you.
When you’re a manager, owner or entrepreneur you are the beacon of your business. In this role you are perpetually shining your light on everyone you come in contact with, near and far. And when you aren’t even aware of it, people are watching and responding to you. Because leadership is in public, managers and entrepreneurs must always remember that they are always being observed: by their colleagues, bosses, teams and customers. This is a hard concept to swallow.
We think of leadership as happening at certain moments: when solving problems, during meetings, when training and mentoring employees, when reporting to the boss. But in fact, leadership is a constant: when you are in charge your work is in public and when you’re at work you are always “on.”
In public (aka: at work) we observe people in various parts of their day and each person and their presentation elicits a reaction: of interest or disinterest, of curiosity or suspicion, of respect or contempt, of enthusiasm or indifference. As employees and customers we notice when the person in charge is frustrated, annoyed, or insecure and we also notice when that same person is engaged, enthusiastic or poised. One of my mentors once said “leadership is a performance art” and that is abundantly true. Sometimes you gotta fake it 'til you make it.
Being mindful that your actions and words are defining the impression that you make on others invariably makes a big difference in how you are perceived at work. Little changes (greeting everyone when you arrive, standing tall, being attentive to your grooming and uniform, minding your words and mentally preparing for the day) make a big impression on those around you. And they impact you as well. This positive prep puts you in the best mindset to do your job well and with confidence.
When Natalie started prepping herself for her workday and took time to say hi to her colleagues she started to see a difference. First, in herself. She felt more confident and connected with her team. And her colleagues and reports loosened up in her presence.
Small adjustments on your own behalf go a long way in telling the story about you in your management role. A little change is still a change. And every positive effort that you make internally will shine externally as well. In the most beautiful and powerful way.
*The manager's name has been changed to respect her privacy.