A marketing team worked for three weeks preparing a one-year strategic plan for the chief marketing officer. For unknown reasons, the CMO cancels the meeting just hours before it is set to start. The meeting was rescheduled, but with the cancellation and all their work wasted, the team felt devalued and unseen. It also signaled ambivalence. If the meeting was necessary, it should have happened. What is worse than having the meeting cancelled was that the cancellation was done without an explanation.
Things like these happen all the time. You may have to cancel some meetings, but the CMO should have sent a direct note saying, “I am sorry” and explaining why the meeting has to be rescheduled or cancelled. Unfortunately, in many cases, this does not happen. While the leader may have been hard-pressed with urgent matters, and in his estimation of cost and benefits, decided that something else is more important than the scheduled meeting, this was not the team’s perception.
The team sees the three weeks of deliberations and preparation of the study, which the leader instructed, just easily dismissed without explanation. Though they will never articulate it, the team will feel that they have been disrespected.
There are so many easy and accessible platforms that we all can use to communicate with our people. Teams form their own Viber groups, and I am in many of them. This old tool is called SMS, and many messaging apps provide accessible communication and collaboration platforms. It would have been so easy to drop a line or send an apology and request for a change in the meeting schedule, but as usual, all these tools for “productivity” are not the problem. The person using them is.
Clueless as ever or perhaps uncaring, some bosses demotivate people. They consciously or unconsciously take on an air of self-importance, thinking that such an attitude will make people admire them more. Perhaps they have watched too many “The Devil Wears Prada”-type movies or so.
Then the world locked down and people started working from home. For the first time in humanity’s experience, personal and professional life, dining, shopping, parenting, and entertainment all converged in one place and at the same time. All competing for the same internet bandwidth. Can you imagine how stressful this is?
The pressure for leaders to shift to this new work norm, run the business, and meet targets can be overwhelming. Perhaps in their frustration, they begin their virtual meetings with their people with opening lines like, “Where are the deliverables? What’s wrong with your performance? Don’t you understand we are in a crisis and we all need to work harder and keep the company afloat?”
Though their people will never articulate it, they feel that they are unheeded and unappreciated.
A wise leader will start their meetings with lines like: “How are you guys coping? These are challenging times, and I know you may also find the setup chaotic, but let me know how I can help and I will try my best to provide you with the support you need.”
Crises bring out the best in leaders; crises also reveal their shortcomings. Crisis reveals the character of the person. The current situation has unveiled leaders who are uncaring, and leaders who have notched up points gaining the respect and admiration of their people.
I am not aware of any available tool of measurement. Still, I do have a sneaky feeling that this crisis has built loyalty among many, and has made many determined to look for other places of employment because of their perception that they are not respected and are not appreciated.
When sensitive issues like these are discussed as case studies in our leadership training, you will be surprised that a good number of leaders never intended to behave uncaringly; they were merely unaware of their actions and the effect on their people.
I am sure that many leaders are sensitive and caring deep inside, but they have to be reminded that their actions and words can send different perceptions, and to their people, their perceptions are their realities.
Simon Sinek says: “Leadership is not about being in charge, and leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”
The legendary Zig Ziglar says: “One of the ways we communicate that we can be trusted is in the way we care for other people.” Kindness, respect, and care. These are basic things that people look for, and these are important things that leaders can certainly provide.
(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class Online will have its final run for the year from Nov. 17 to 19. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)
Originally Posted on Philstart Global