Danza-tastic! 6 Saucy Ideas for Leaders to Consider (Or Not. It’s your life.)

So you’re in charge…or so you’ve been told. Whether you consider yourself a “leader” or not, there are a few characteristics I’ve found to be true of exceptional women and men of influence – compiled here in saucy, bite-sized pieces for your consumption:

  1. My eyes are up here.

We know you’re busy running the universe, but when you meet with people face to face – it’s helpful to do just that; look at their face. Be fully with them.  Fight the urge to gaze out the window, look at your watch, check every notification, or nod at every person who walks into the room. You don’t need to be weird about it – but you will be amazed at how genuine eye contact can maximize even a short one-on-one with interaction. Try it. Just don’t stare, weirdo.

  1. You’re not E.T.

And despite what may be popular belief, none of your friends, family, or co-workers are either. What I mean is (and this may be a stretch), but you do not need to endlessly obsess over “phoning home”, as it were.

If you don’t have a loved one going into labor with triplets or a friend who is about to live-tweet his crocodile wrestling match and you’re meeting with a real human in real space and time, it’s okay to keep your phone in your pocket or purse. Heck – it’s even okay to have it on silent.  While the throngs trying to reach you may be agitated by a delayed response from you – others will appreciate that you are unreachable at times because they’ll know that you’ll be willing and capable to focus on them the time comes to meet.

We impress no one by constantly checking our phones or placing them on the desk so that everyone knows just how many messages we’re getting. Let’s take baby-steps toward investing fully in the time and context that we find ourselves – even if that means simply sitting still and being present with the people we’re with.

  1. Thanks a watt!

There are few things that will “light up” a team (see what I did there?) like a little gratitude. At Poplar Creek – not one of our leadership teams dive into an agenda without first hand-writing thank-you cards. We go around the room and highlight a few people we’ve seen go above and beyond in some way, and then we write them a thank-you card. Some of us may not even know who the person is, but we write it – and we mean it. A few of us even draw pictures (true story).

After four years of doing this, I can tell you countless stories of teary-eyed volunteers and team-members who have run up to me simply to share how much a card written by our leadership meant to them. For those of you who think in terms of ROI and bottom lines – it is absolutely worth the three minutes of your time. Carve it out. Make it happen.

  1. Riddle me this…

I’ve found that a lot of leaders are well-equipped to problem solve, cast vision, and course correct – but few know how to ask really good questions. Socrates understood this pretty well, but for some reason a lot of us don’t see the value.

The key to good questions is this – you need to actually care about the response. There are few things more frustrating than patronizing, obligatory attempts at Socration leadership. Don’t simply ask question so that your team “gets it” a little better – be open to learning something yourself. Be open to the reality that you may not be the smartest or most creative person in the room at all times. That’s a good thing. And even when you are – asking good questions will help your entire team move from simply answering the “what” to wrestling with the “why” – and that is where things get exciting.

  1. Boast don’t roast

The old axiom, “praise in public, criticize in private” is more critical today than ever before. In an age of Facebook-fights, Twitter-tussles, bloggy-beatdowns, leaders need to be pacesetters. There is most certainly a time and a place for social-commentary and wise discernment – but if we’re not careful our media rhythms can look a lot like a string of complaints – often about our own organizations, teams, or contemporaries.

Why not instead take that energy and funnel it into public praise of the people on your team? Your social platforms are prime real-estate for strategically placed shots of encouragement to those you work with. Watch how far an encouraging quote, sound-bite, or image of a team member doing something well will go to build the overall morale and buy-in of your colleagues. It will also build excitement to those “on the outside” who have a vested interest in your organization’s success.

  1. Guard your day off

We have a saying around the office that goes something like this,

“We don’t stop because the work is done – we stop because it is time to stop.”

This one may be the hardest on the list for us to accomplish, or at least sustain, but here’s what I know for sure: leadership is stewardship—the cultivation of the resources entrusted to us. Intentional and regular respite gives us practical help in managing one of our primary resources —our time.

As C. H. Spurgeon once said:

“The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”

In musical notation – a crucial component of any composition is the absence of sound known, ironically, as a rest. In both music and life – “rest” determines the difference between music and mere noise.

Guarding a day off each week where we stop checking emails and making phone calls reminds us that we’re not the center of the universe, that we are not machines made solely for the production of a product, and that there are good and beautiful things all around us for us to enjoy.

Obviously this list isn’t even close to exhaustive, but I’d love to know your thoughts! What things would you add to this list? What ideas raised your blood pressure a little? Where have you seen these modeled well or terribly?

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