How to Harness People Power As a Leader
Your organization is made up of many parts, but the common thread is its people. When you harness the energy, talent, and skills of a group, amazing things can unfold.
Being an example sets the tone for the team — give them reason to trust you, and they will follow. You will be challenged or questioned at times. Just remember, a leader who gives trust receives trust. Allow your example to trickle down through the organization.
Follow 5 engaging principles for the team
Building on your example, add the following simple ways of acting as a healthy team to the checklist, bearing in mind that trust still needs to be nurtured within all layers and levels of the organization:
- Be honest but not mean. Be honest with your engagements. Always tell the truth — even little white lies can cause damage. Share and provide all relevant information, even if it puts you at a disadvantage.
- Dispense good judgment. Use your best judgment when sharing information with others, but first ask yourself some questions: Is this necessary? Will it compromise someone else? And is it kind or judgmental? Treat others as you want to be treated and treat confidential information with confidence — not because it’s compliant, but because it’s the right thing to do.
- Be reliable and dependable. People refer business to, share information with, and want to collaborate with those they know to be reliable and dependable. No one ever says, “I want to work with Joe because he’s a lazy dude who never shows up on time.” That’s never going to happen. Show up for your team, on time, every time.
- Look one another in the eye. When someone looks you in the eye, it’s a sign of honesty and sincerity. It’s a small, simple act of body language, a cue others pick up on immediately. When you feel as if someone is untrustworthy, often it’s because they don’t look you in the eye. Additionally, studies have shown that eye contact of 30 percent or more of the time increases retention of the information shared — that’s not even 20 seconds out of a minute.
- Embody the “fireman carry” attitude. The seated fireman carry is a symbol of four hands interlocking. In 1964, a more stylized version of this image became the logo of financial giant Oppenheimer Funds to symbolize “Greater strength and support than any one individual can provide alone.” This is the essence of the fireman carry attitude.
Unify behind a common belief
Human beings enjoy being bonded together by a common goal or mission. Major religious organizations are founded based on belief systems. Civil servants such as firefighters, police, and military are also united by common missions. Companies have long done the same. Belonging is a big part of the human need. Being bound by goals, beliefs, or a common mission helps create a desire to achieve/win together.
Advertisers have long used slogans and catchphrases to create memorable brands, share key benefits, differentiate products from one another, and impart a positive feeling toward brands. Here are a few examples:
- Think Differently: Apple
- Got Milk? California Milk Processors Board
- Imagination at Work: General Electric
- Every Little Helps: Tesco
- There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard: MasterCard
As you’ve read this list, you may have smiled as you thought about your favorite catchphrase or slogan. Everyone has them. They create unity and a way of experiencing a brand, which also makes it feel like an exclusive experience. Either you’re part of something, a club, group, brand, and so on — or you’re not. So, why wouldn’t you want to engender this same uniting, positive feeling under your brand of leadership? Does that sound complicated? Yes, it does. It sounds like it could be perceived as a massive marketing endeavor. But it really doesn’t need to be complicated.
Here’s the one uniting phrase used over again with great success: We are all in this together! You can’t all be in it together unless you trust one another. This is a simple, useful slogan to rally people around you. It’s all-encompassing. Dispense daily, when the team is up or when it’s down. Share it at annual meetings, cross-divisional meetings, and everywhere the employees gather to gain focus. It’s a reminder to them that they are to rely and can rely on each other. Set the expectation that they meet or even exceed your expectations.
How to circumvent passive-aggressive personalities
One passive-aggressive apple can spoil the entire team.
Among the narcissistic personality types, the most common may be the passive-aggressive. You know the type: It’s all about them. Passive-aggressive behaviors are not only maddening, but they’re also subversive in nature. Consider the process of avoiding a confrontation (passive) but using behind your back conversations with others to tear down another person (aggressive).
It’s imperative that passive-aggressive behaviors be addressed. They can easily derail your efforts to establish trust and cast doubt and shame throughout.
Bypassing a passive-aggressive personality takes enormous patience and is an exercise in “compassion management.” Individuals exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior usually do so because they have at some point in their lives experienced harsh criticism or they may feel their voices haven’t been heard. There’s no need to find the specific root of their behavior — just be aware enough to realize that the behavior stems from such influences in their lives. This awareness provides a glimpse into who they are and will lead you to approach the situation with compassion, circumventing a potentially explosive confrontation.
Passive-aggressive behavior creates an environment where people don’t feel safe. For example, someone isn’t sure if what someone else is saying to them is the truth or if the truth is only being told to others. Other examples would be the dreaded “cold look-through stare” in the hallway, or having a hello ignored, or a teammate agreeing to take on a task and then not doing it — even though everything else has been completed. It can be signaled by patronizing statements such as “Bless your heart.” Backhanded compliments and a deep desire to be right are also part of this narcissistic profile.
As a leader, it’s not always your place to address these situations. Although it could happen on a leadership level, depending on the ratio of staff to leadership, many issues will remain at the staff level. If you do need to address it, here are some tools to help you and your ground-level leaders and managers defuse these individuals:
- Keep your cool. Avoid overreacting or permitting an attack on a personal level. Don’t take the bait.
- Keep it at a distance. You can’t win nor please them, nor should you think you can. Simply agree to disagree but convey that the work still needs to get done — on time.
- Reflect. You can’t change them or their behavior. This is an opportunity to self-reflect: “Do I do this too?” or “Why am I trying so hard to make them happy or comfortable?”
- Adopt Mother Superior positioning. Exemplify your best composure, sitting high and quietly without arguing. Think of that famous nun in a black habit, sitting, listening, and nodding. Behind that habit was a calm, cool, collected, and powerful presence who hardly had to say a word. It’s very effective positioning.
- Utilize humor. Laughter releases tension and forces people to breathe, which helps defuse anger naturally.
- Mind your language to prevent victim mode. When in direct conversation, avoid using words like you or your directed at the individual. Rather, replace them with I, we, and our. Doing this can circumvent their perception that they’re being attacked.
- Defuse resistance. Offering a form of consequence for their lack of cooperation will often break down resistance to taking on or completing actions: “When this isn’t done, the result is that there may be negative fallout around your capabilities.” Or: “When this situation isn’t resolved, the unfortunate fallout is that you may not be considered a team player, which will only have negative long-term career repercussions.” The consequence doesn’t need to be punitive, but the potential chain of events should be illuminated.