Clear As Mud? Help Employees Define Leadership Behaviour

 In how to, leadership, Uncategorized

Imagine coming home with a report card at the end of every day with a checklist of possible behaviours that you either demonstrated or didn’t. And then a paragraph at the end which describes who you spent most of your time with and how you got along. Would this make you feel nervous, relieved that someone noticed your effort, or thankful that you finally have some examples of what demonstrating leadership behaviour means in your company?

Let’s look at how this works in the animal kingdom. On Mondays I send our Havanese Chewie to doggie daycare. I get a report card every time he goes. There are categories with about 8 specific descriptor words in each section. For example, under Behaviour there are words like Friendly, Nervous, and Talkative. I can get a quick snapshot on how Chewie behaved that day. Not only that, they include a sentence at the end to let me know who Chewie played with and how they got along. Here’s a quote from one report card:

“The littles had a great morning welcoming their new friend Piper! Piper is a tiny cotton de tulear puppy and Chewie helped her relax, figure this daycare thing out and learn to play! Thanks Chewie!”

Well, way to go, Chewie. Seriously – how much more clear could the owners of this daycare be on their expectations for leadership behaviours? Be nice to each other, welcome others and you’ll get rewarded – and oh yeah, you get to come back because you behaved.

When we’re having performance discussions we need to work a little harder to be specific on what we mean by improving or stepping up our behaviours. Most of us have been going along, getting praised and doing more of what gets us praised. But if issues arise and we are directed to shift our behavior – even if it’s just a tweak – we need help understanding what exactly that looks and feels like. My experience is that it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the common issues are often similar: taking ownership and following through, being accountable, listening so others feel heard, communicating so others understand, being respectful of others and increasing your understanding of technical areas so you can add more value.

My piano teacher used to explain something and then say, ‘clear as mud?’ And I would nod my head in agreement. Because yeah, it was. But I wasn’t that passionate about playing piano so I usually just tried to figure out what she meant on my own later instead of sticking around to ask questions. If someone is nodding, it doesn’t mean they truly get it.

If you are giving performance feedback, make sure your employee understands specific examples of what you need to see in the coming months that would demonstrate performing at a higher level. Create categories and add specific descriptors and actions. Then create a space for progress made so you can track examples and reinforce the behaviour.  Meet, clarify, adjust, reward, repeat.

It’s fun when we learn to get along and just focus on the goals. In Chewie’s case, his goal is socializing with his buddies. He didn’t start off getting along with all the dogs. He initially had a bit of an attitude problem. Apparently it’s considered rude in the animal world when you just look another animal in the face and bark at them without trying to get to know them first. So he learned the protocols. Now he gets high praise.

There are protocols for succeeding in the corporate world too. Sometimes it takes asking a few more questions so that you know how to interpret what that means for you and your role.

Still in doubt? You might have to take the initiative to create your own version of a report card.  Even just a one page with categories of competencies, descriptor words and actions that relate to your particular role. Then give yourself a gold star. Because pausing to try and figure out how to be better in this fast paced world not only takes effort, but a lot of courage when you have to share your report card results with others.

Wishing you every success,

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Karen Kelloway receiving 2019 Nova Writes Joyce Barkhouse Award