Well my friends, I’ve had my “Seinfeld moment”: Jerry Seinfeld made the decision to end his show after nine seasons. He could have made more episodes and millions more dollars. Yet, something internally told him it was time. I am in that same place, but with a few less million dollars. Today is the last column I will write for the Corner of Innovation of Opportunity.
As such, I figured I would end with a few morsels of what leadership means to me:
When taking on the role of “manager,” a very distinct paradigm shift in expectations must occur. Until now you’ve been the worker bee. Your time has been spent doing “the things”; investing in the production. When you (or we) are given the responsibility of managing people, the investments shifts from production to people. The last thing we should expect when given a new title is automatic respect. Respect is earned. Leadership takes time.
When asked what is most important to them at work, studies show “time with the boss” was number one to employees. This comes in over pay, time off, or other incentives. When you begin developing your leadership style, always bear this gem of information in mind. This is a benefit that does not directly cost the organization money and it does nothing but advance open communication, trust, and productivity.
Leadership is change. We lead each employee in a different way. We lead an employee differently today than we did yesterday. We lead in our current roles differently than our previous positions. We lead a newly forming team differently than the team who’s been doing it for years. This sounds exhausting, but it’s really a beautiful thing. It means we keep learning, keep observing and keep trying.
Maybe this has also been my greatest weakness, but I would say one of the things that has helped me succeed as a leader is not ever considering myself “the boss.” I don’t like being called the boss and I am very careful to not use the term when referring to my superiors. I consider myself ultimately responsible for everything within my purview of management. I consider myself accountable in both directions of the chain of command. But the boss? No. I’ve always been a person who works shoulder to shoulder with my team. I hope I’ve been a person who knows how to do the work of the front line team member, and who also sometimes does the work. Being a boss and being a leader are not the same.
Surprise and delight them: the team, the customers, the world. I stole this concept from a diaper company who asked themselves, “Why do diapers have to be boring?” They don’t. Insert tiny moments of joy for people within your staff and customer base. This last December I received a personally addressed and hand written Christmas card from the owner of one of my favorite local shops. Simple. Effective.
Humanize yourself. When we look in the mirror, we often still see the eyes of the little girl/boy who was a loner on the playground. We see the remnants of the fight we had with our spouse. We know our struggles and shortcomings intimately. When your staff look at you, they do not see any of that. Especially if you’re the “head cheese”, people who work under you will have trouble relating. They think you have it all together all the time.
I’ve found that if I can share a tiny morsel of my personal life or a struggle I’m currently in or have gone through in the past, it makes people feel more comfortable to be their authentic selves. I want an employee to be able to bring their whole self to the workplace. This doesn’t mean we want people coming in and giving every tiny detail of their personal lives and being so consumed by them that they cannot get work done. No not at all; for if a person is bringing their whole self to work, then their work self is part of that whole person. Let’s be leaders who understand when someone might have to lean into their family a little more or focus on their health a little more. These same employees will lean into work a little more when it counts.
If even one thing within the last 100-plus columns has changed your life for the better, then this endeavor has been a success. It’s been a wonderful two years. Thank you for reading.
Chelsea Rosty is director of business innovation for the City of Montrose. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.