Get off your high horse, leader, and talk to the people.
A friend of mine who has now passed away was a leader in business. He was a great man and lived a full and experienced life. He taught me to "get off your high horse and talk to the people." My friend would tell me how he would block his calendar and get out on the floor and talk to people. He would walk around and ask them about their role or what task they were doing. He asked them what ideas they had to make the process or the company better. He would work hard to learn their names and about their families.
As a leader in today’s world full of Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls, remote management, global employees, and many other excuses, it takes real work, including an enormous amount of time and energy, to get off your high horse and talk to people. In my roles over the years, I took this advice to heart.
Hopefully, my legacy as a leader will be remembered as someone that cared. That all my friends that worked for and with me felt a connection deeper than transactional. I want people to feel they aren’t just a headcount on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
I know I wasn’t perfect, and I know I didn’t say all the right things consistently, but I grew as a leader because I took my friend’s advice to heart. Over time, I felt strongly about my work friends. As I coach current and future leaders, they often hear me ask about their people. Tell me about your team. Tell me about their struggles in this life. If you don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives, you will always be in the dark as to why they are performing well or not well. I have seen it firsthand that life has a direct correlation to the productivity of an individual and their team.
People want to connect. They want to feel part of a team. Leaders who really do connect tend to get more from their teams. Their teams want to work hard because they feel they are part of something greater than pushing paper.
If you’re a leader, I don’t care if it’s 2 or 3 people or if you have thousands, take it from me and my friend’s legacy, "Get off your high horse and talk to the people!"