In a recent executive round table for women in energy, we discussed being scary leaders. See below.
Most participants concurred, that while driving change is a function of most executives today, not managing the fear among those around you can actually increase their fear. Ultimately, this is counterproductive.
Upon reflecting on this discussion, one of the executives who runs a Tier 1 automotive business unit, took this conversation to heart and put some new strategies into practice to be “less scary”. Here are some of her learnings in her own words from the past month.
“I have focused on being more friendly and open with my peers. Practically, this has meant sharing more business information proactively. In the past, if they didn’t need to know or if they were not individuals that I respected or trusted then I didn’t share information. I have let go of that and taken the approach that information is an enabler that supports everyone contributing fully to the organization’s goals.
Another practical change was to eliminate sequential meetings. For example, I would meet with my team and work through data and decision criteria for quarterly financial reserves and then we would meet with the CFOs team and communicate what we were doing. I would communicate why if asked but didn’t share much proactively. Now I have eliminated the pre-meeting and we will have one working meeting with my team and the CFOs team sharing the data, decision criteria and making the reserve decisions in the room.
From the boss perspective, I have added to my objective list ensuring he is successful. In action, this means high volume of communication from me to him, supporting (gently directing) his building good rapport with my customers, and changing my mindset and reaction when he digs into issues and engages associates in my organization. I used to think, “why is he in this detail, he should be expecting me to manage this”. Now, I see it as part of his integration into the organization and an opportunity to strengthen our rapport.
In taking this new approach I also recognize that I had let myself build up walls based on our past failures ( that I attributed to my peers) and they were not helping my organization or the company. To be less scary I think you have to let your guard down and let other people in. This is part of effective management which all good leaders do with their team but also applies to peers and bosses. I wasn’t attending to these.
One side effect that I didn’t anticipate was that my boss and another colleague have commented to me that I seem more relaxed and I’m smiling more. We are also making money, the industry is recovering well so its hard to say what the real root cause of relaxed and smiling is…”
We deeply appreciate this executive’s contribution, and due to her honest, courageous self appraisal will remain anonymous.
This is an inspiring reminder of how beneficial it can be to get out of our offices, and into some thought-provoking conversations with colleagues and coaches.