Years ago, I had a boss who I always felt had a unique perspective about managing and leading - he did not follow the playbook I had become accustomed to seeing in leaders. You know the one - the playbook that said that title determined power and that where you were in the hierarchy determined what influence, if any, you had. Yet, he was leading a team to act differently, to listen more, to challenge norms and to be willing to try something and fail, because there was always the chance that you would succeed.
We were on the road for a sales presentation and at dinner, I remember asking him what the secret was to his leadership success. I wanted to know how he was building teams that were creating better results than his peers, had higher retention and stronger engagement.
Build a diverse team: The smartest person in the room is the one who surrounds themselves with people that have unique and different experiences - skills that are different from their own. Creating spaces where people are willing to share and challenge ideas.
Listen: Listen first and speak last to avoid biasing the conversation. And while listening seek to understand others perspectives and consider their position.
Be open to emotions and have empathy: The typical playbook tells us to take the emotion out of corporate, however, when doing this we take the human out of corporate which doesn’t serve our teams. Get comfortable with emotions and build relationships with those you work with.
Ultimately he gave me the ingredients to build a team and create a culture of trust. Managing through influence requires you to build trust, to listen when hard truths are being shared, and to cultivate relationships.
Nearly twenty years later, I still remember that night and I remember his advice, which has helped me to develop my own ability to manage through influence and build a network of relationships that have allowed me to grow as a leader.
So simple and yet so impactful especially when practiced year over year. Building culture and creating an environment of trust is a long game but it starts today.