...If you rely on doing it from your office or from behind your screen.

Granted, social media is powerful, where email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc can have a huge impact. But how are you using these means as an excuse to avoid personal contact and interaction? Let’s be honest, personal interaction takes repeated time and effort and emotion. It can be long hard work, even for the most extroverted of us. On the other hand, social and digital communications have given us some opportunities to cut those corners of the challenging work of personal interaction.

But leadership still all comes down to personal interactions with people. Who is really going to read your tweet, your Facebook post, or that long email or even your text and actually understand (and be understood) and do what it says? Leadership is in the relationship business. That is a two way street with give and take and requires at least a telephone conversation and even better, a face to face dialogue. Furthermore it is not a one time thing but something to be repeated as standard behavior for leaders. At best social media and digital contacts is supplemental to these real life interactions.

Top five leadership thinker and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith has said, “Leadership is a Contact Sport.” No, he is not talking about body contact as in blocking and tackling on the football field. He is talking about the interactions we have with people. The key is frequent, consistent or even periodic follow up. When that happens, the preferred changes increase. In his study on this subject he confirmed the Hawthorne studies, done many decades previously, which looked at factories in suburban Chicago. In those earlier studies it was shown that productivity tended to increase when workers perceived the leadership had interest and involvement in what the workers where doing. This follow up and interest is the “contact” that he is talking about. Goldsmith concludes, “for most leaders, the great challenge is not understanding the practice of leadership: It is practicing their understanding of leadership.”

This means that our standard practice is to keep in touch with people. Show interest. Ask how they are doing and listen. Support them and encourage them. Issues will arise and then we can be there for them. Yet often fear being labeled a micro manager and so we make our mistake on the other side by being too distant. Not to mention that this behavior sometimes justifies our hiding in our offices and behind our screens instead of meeting personally with people. The truth is that people crave interest and support from their supervisors, leaders or partners.

As Whoopie Goldberg said in Sister Act, "She wants us to go out and meet the people!" Exactly.

So what will you do differently this week?

Leadership “Contact” coaching questions:

  1. Who do you need to make a “contact” with this week?
  2. What challenging conversation have you been putting off? Get it on your calendar. The other person is probably looking to get past it as well.
  3. Who needs your support and some “contact” from you as the leader?

Then, for each contact:

  1. What questions will you ask them? Be curious. Be interested. Look for what you can learn.
  2. What will you express that is important to the organization’s mission and vision?
  3. How can you encourage them, support them and affirm them?

Perhaps the regular “contact” with a leadership coach can help. Let me know, I am happy to be there for you.

Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com

"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"

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  • May 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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    Great reminder! I like the quote you pulled from Marshall Goldsmith: “for most leaders, the great challenge is not understanding the practice of leadership: It is practicing their understanding of leadership.” Thanks.

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