3 Things Leaders Should Ask For More Of In 2012

I love the holidays because of the conversations that I have been a part of and the themes that come out as people reflect on the year.  Based on some of the things I am hearing, here are a few themes that have stood out for me as people I met reflected on work/life.  These are ideas for leaders to help make the lives of their people/teams better in 2012.

1. More Networking: I had 3 conversations with leaders/followers in very different employment situations, and yet they had one thing in common.  None of them did any purposeful networking.  When I mentioned LinkedIn to them, they all gave various answers of I am not looking for a job or I am happy where I am.  Let me yell two things from the rooftop right now:

  • Networking is not about finding a job – it is about getting smarter and helping others get smarter.
  • If you are not networking outside of your zip code regularly you are on the road to be marginalized (or you are already there).

What this might look like for a leader:

  • Encourage everyone on your team to develop a LinkedIn profile and join two professional groups.
  • Add a question to the beginning of every big decision that is What does your network say?. Whether it is buying software, looking for a great business book to read, or just finding a 10 minute energizer for your next sales meeting – mine for different ideas or different approaches.

2.  More of doing something besides your job: Efficiency for organizations has become a way of life, and it is time to recognize formally that everyone needs some of what I call Google-Time.  It is a reference to Google’s famous practice of spending a certain amount of time working on new ideas that have nothing to do with your job.  The message we send when we give people space is that “I care about you.”  I define Google-Time as work that re-energizes your body, your work, and our organization.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your one on ones, tell everyone on your team that you want to give them 8 hours a month to do whatever they want, and there are only 2 guidelines:
    • 4 hours must be spent working with someone on business renewal  – fixing something, reinventing something, rethinking/changing something.
    • 4 hours must be spent on personal renewal, maybe something you stopped doing because of work –   time with family, lunch with friends, exercise, sleep.
  • Ask for an update every month on where there Google-time was spent and what difference it made for them?
  • Don’t critique, just encourage.

3.  More feedback on how I am doing: I do lots of team development, and the topic of trust is always a big one.  One measure I give to leaders is How often do people disagree with your ideas? and How often do they change your mind?. I added the second question because I personally became tired of hearing the answer “Everyone argues with me” from leaders that I knew were feared.  The second question created discomfort for them, and led to richer conversations.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your monthly one on ones, add a 2 minute section around What are you hearing that I should know? or Of all the decisions we are facing (or I have made) – which one do you disagree with or have strong feelings about?
  • Listen (or be patient when this flops in Month 1 and 2, some people might be reluctant to share)
  • Make sure you emphasize with them that, as a leader, you often find things moving so fast and decisions being made quickly, so you appreciate it when people slow you down to re-think things every now and then.
  • Thank people for ideas / input – then do something with it.

Final direction – just pick one of these ideas to do. Remember most of your team is already trying to eat less, excercise more, pay off their credit cards, or just trying to deal with the general winter lack of sunlight.  Done for 3-6 months any one of these will make a difference.