Open Your Eyes

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Open your eyes. For the past couple months, I’ve had that sentence — or should I say “command” — enter my thoughts. Open your eyes! For some reason, I’m being asked to turn my attention to the more basic components of life. Not my cell phone or the internet and its wonders. My thoughts are reminding me of the blue of the sky, the contrast of the green hills that make up the skyline where I walk my dogs or the funny looks babies can manufacture with their little faces.

By now you’re asking, what on earth does this have to do with leadership? That command — open your eyes — is probably even more relevant when we talk about leadership. At SLI, we teach about leadership based on service. We have curriculum, books, webinars and podcasts all meant to feed you — to inspire you to build a workplace where people thrive, where they’re happy to come through the door each day. You know what? It doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t open your eyes.

Open your eyes and see:

What’s the dynamic in your office today? Who is exerting the power? Are the interchanges among employees healthy? If you find people aren’t treating each other well, it’s time to set up some ground rules — a technique where the team sets up the rules by which they will operate. When they’re violated, someone can easily call “ground rules” and the behavior should be corrected. If it’s ignored, you have a whole different problem and it may be time for HR.

Is there someone who’s hurting today? We are taught to never show weakness or vulnerability in our jobs. “Keep a stiff upper lip” was the way my mother grew up in business. My generation said, “Never let’m see ya sweat.” Please really look at the faces of your team and read their body language. Get to know them and show interest in their families. We believe family comes first; does your company? Keep in mind you’re not a psychologist, but you can care as a leader and allow people some flexibility when they’re dealing with problems. 

Do people have a clear understanding of your mission and purpose? When I began to learn about servant leadership, one of the first “aha” moments I had was that everyone wants to feel their work has meaning and purpose. It’s your job as a leader to communicate to employees the meaning and purpose behind their work. How do you explain meaning and purpose to a team that does very repetitive work? You think bigger picture.  If the team is building something, point out where that product is going and how it’s going to add value to people’s lives. Share with them that people are involved in each step of the product’s life and those people are affected by what the team has built. Open your eyes and watch how people are reacting.  They’ll believe because you believe. 

Forget your tools and processes for a bit and really look around.  You’re responsible for the work lives of living, breathing people.  Even the ones you don’t care for need your leadership — especially those who don’t believe they need anything from you.

This summer, open your eyes, and make some changes that will make your employees proud you’re their servant leader.