I was once reminded that people watch leaders. After one of those month-long stretches of dealing with several difficult situations in a row I met one of our team members in a hall and greeted him with a smile and a “Hello Charlie”. He provided a similar reply, and then added “it is good to see you smile. I have not seen that from you in 3-4 weeks.” It had been a tough month for me, and he had noticed.
Remember that 90+% of communication is nonverbal. Leaders that are in a hurry provide information to the people around them in sound bits and actions. It is also natural to gather information and fill in the blanks. I think back to a game played with children where we make a circle and start by wispering a message in the ear of the person next to us. The message returning is always different. Our actions and non verbal cues are like little whispers to our teams.
Here are three purposeful ways to deal with boss watching:
- Onboard well: Tell new people up front what your nonverbals are around busy/buried with work, and when it is okay to interrupt. If people know your habits and you know theirs it will be easier to understand/interpret messages.
- Meeting Habit: Weekly updates with your team should include a quick around the room What is on my plate this week? to address what stressors everyone is dealing with.
- Make it clear – ASK! If you hear a rumor that could have been generated from boss watching, address it openly. Your script should sound like this: “I have heard . . . . . . . . and know that I have been acting like . . . . . this week, so I can see how my actions could feed that. Here is what is happening . . . . . . If you ever wonder about such things please ask.”
What story are your actions telling?
Here is a way to have some fun with this. At your next team meeting ask three questions: How do you know when I am having a good day? How do you know I am having a bad day? What are my habits at work? Just blame it on a leadership blog that talked about boss watching. 🙂