Every one of us has a soundtrack playing inside our head. It is a recording of the things that people have said to us over the years. For many of us, we remember what was said to us and just how it made us feel at the time. We remember it like it was yesterday. We seem to remember those events even though we long to forget them.
Many things that were said to us make us sad. Some of them make us mad. Many of them were hurtful at the time.
What does this have to do with leadership?
As a leader, it is important to remember the role that we play in our follower’s lives. In many teams or project situations, we find that we spend much more time with our workmates than we do with our families.
Projects have deadlines and deadlines cause stress. How we perform, how we communicate, and how we respond to those around us has a lot to do with what those relationships will become over time.
What does our team hear from us when the stress level is high? Is it a diatribe? Is it the same soundtrack that they always hear from us? If it is, then we need to know that it sticks in their heads just like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “Hot Dog, Hot Dog, Hot Diggety Dog” song when we hear it on the TV. (OK, maybe it is just me because I have 3 grandkids.) Oh, and how about “Let It Go!” from Frozen? Once you hear that during the day, you just can’t get it out of your head, can you?
What does our team hear from us when things are going well? What do they hear from us when things are going not so well? How do we deliver a message under each of those circumstances?
How do we deliver praise? How do we deliver criticism? We all know the basic leadership principle that says that you are to praise publicly and correct privately. Let your words that are said in public be affirming words that build your team up. Don’t seek to criticize in public. There are a time and place for that. And we need to be sure that our expectations for their performance are indeed appropriate to their skill level and realistically achievable.
There is a great quote that has been attributed to Dr. James Dobson about this topic as it relates to raising children. He is quoted as saying, “Catch your children doing something right, and praise them for it”. I think there is an easy and obvious corollary that we can make when it comes to how we relate to our team or our followers.
The Leadership Lesson
In case you are missing the corollary, it is this. Remember, those words of praise will be indelibly recorded on the soundtrack in their minds. Unfortunately, so will the things we say that wreck our followers confidence and self-esteem. Let’s be the kind of leader that our team wants to follow, not the kind of leader that yells orders for them to follow and then is negative about the way in which they follow. Because when you do that, you are creating a soundtrack in their minds that is hard to erase and re-record.