I was timing at a swim meet this past weekend for kids between 8 and 13. What do you think my primary role was? Timing? Actually – no. My primary role was encouragement and support. Making sure they were in the right order for the next race and telling them what they did well during that race. It was easy, because my natural voice is to encourage. I have known that for a while, and in order to be more effective at using that voice I have had to work on knowing when that voice is NOT the one that is needed at that moment.
Do you know your natural voice when faced with someone that is depending on you for some level of support so they can do their best? This is one very important piece of leadership.
One important message I share in any leadership training I do is that part of the leadership job description is NOT mind reader. There are several ways to help leaders get more skilled at this, but the easiest is to ask questions and listen well.
We can make our jobs as leaders easier in the One on One by doing two things:
- Asking some scripted questions so we can gauge how the other person is feeling.
- Use the question How can I support you? coupled with multiple choice answers of Coach me / Direct me / Not sure.
I continue to publish templates for people to use in establishing healthy and productive conversations with their people that result in thoughtful actions and lead to higher performance. Here is the page of templates, and here is the newest version of the one on one form that incorporates the two tips I shared above.
By the end of my swim meet I had recorded times for every child who swam in my lane, experienced lots of smiles, and everyone started and finished the race they were supposed to be in. My natural voice came in handy, but so did my directive voice (go!).
As a leader, learn your voice and help your people tell you when it needs to change.