Key executives and business owners get consumed by thoughts of big picture responsibility. Thinking big is a valued trait, right? Sure, we expect our leaders to provide us vision. You have to be able to see the big picture to become a successful executive.
However, there is one big catch to this blue sky thinking. Sometimes you get so heavenly minded you are no earthly good.
While good leadership helps build and communicate the vision, great leadership does something really small too. The best leaders know how to lead in the moment; right here, right now. They don’t wait for the stage at the shareholders meeting. They use the easy moments to demonstrate their ability to lead. They seize each and every moment with their team to assert their leadership influence.
Living in the moment is a concept we know too well in sports. The quarterback who leads his team to a come-from-behind score as time runs out (think Brady, Manning, Brees, and Favre). The golfer who sinks a 20 foot put to win on the 18th hole of the final round of a 54 hole tournament. The hitter who swings for the fences and hammers a home run with the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning.
All of these are memorable moments that make sports history but wouldn’t have happened unless the athlete had trained for that moment. Leaders can do that too. By preparing for and making ready for each little moment, the small things can make a leadership career famous.
What are some examples?
Before the Meeting – The senior exec who has called a meeting of his team can exhibit some amazing leadership skills in the small moment right outside the conference room. Walking up, he or she sees the attendees waiting. Making small talk can become a make or break situation. Rather than hurriedly rushing into the room without eye contact or a warm comment, use the moment to acknowledge those present. Say something to express a connection. Crack a simple joke or tell a short story about how proud you might be of this “amazing team”.
When I’m in this mode, I’ve sometimes said something like “I hope this is going to be good.” The joke, of course, is on me because I called the darn meeting. I can control how good it may be.
You have to be genuine and sincere or don’t try it at all. But those leaders who can pull this off create huge volumes of goodwill with their staff.
One on One – For many executives this is actually the toughest thing they do; holding one-on-one meetings. Don’t let the intensity of the moment consume you. This is a great moment to shine. Break the ice. Help the other person feel at ease. Welcome them into the discussion. Be clear and specific about what you’d like to talk about, but make the moment feel real.
Avoid the pompous air. This moment might be happening in those stuffed chairs in your private office, but help the other person feel at home.
Once, I worked for an executive who led a group of over 400 employees. She had developed the uncanny ability to recall everyone’s name. Passing them in hallways or seeing them in meetings, she spoke to them by name. Her stock value as the department head was greater than any other manager at her level. I wish I could say I too had developed that skill. Not so. Yet I have made it a practice to be open and available, even vulnerable when I engage employees and team members wherever we may be.
In Small Groups – Great leaders really shine in small groups. Those with the best reputation often know how to tell a story to set the tone, ease the tension, or make clear, decisive points. Then the meat of the discussion can open up. Again, warm and genuine wins the day.
With Their Peers – The best leaders can work the moment with their peers. Some of the same traits that work for the moments mentioned above work here too. Being able to connect with your peers despite the known edge of competition that might exist, is a delicate balancing act that only the best leaders figure out how to perfect. However, it still comes down to living in the moment.
What can YOU do?
Think about the next time you’re going into one of these situations. Try a new approach. See what comes of it. Building your leadership muscle takes practice. Build a repertoire of warm, genuine comments and questions to ask those around you. Engage them whenever possible. I guarantee you’ll see a rise in the relationships and a new respect for what you are trying to do.
[reminder]What do you do to lead in the moment?[/reminder]