It was the peak of my career and life. I was the Chief of Operation for a national government agency, an elected official, a wife, a mother, a dedicated friend, family and community member, a supportive colleague and mentor to many. I gave and gave and kept giving. Everyone recognized me as a leader and expected me to be a leader. I stepped up to the plate to bat, and each time everyone could count on me to make contact with the ball. I was clueless and quite frankly dead to the fact that I and most importantly my leadership of others was on life support. I knew all about strategic planning, pausing to assess where my organization and others were at and forgot to do the same for myself. To check-in to see how I was doing. To pause, retreat and make an honest assessment on whether I was still connecting and modeling what I expected of myself and others. Connecting with authenticity and leading and motivating from the heart.
As I reflect on this experience, I realize that operating on auto pilot led me to the emergency room and for a lack of better description, a place of being on life support unbeknownst to me. Yes, this was a very sad day when I awoke to this reality. That it wasn’t just me being on life support, my leadership also placed my family and the organizations I lead on life support. Continuous engagement and assessment was the missing link.
Are you currently leading an organization? Can you honestly tell if you and/or your organization are on “life support?” (meaning working on fumes, demoralized team members and operating from old beliefs or antiquated plans? Are you leading your tribe to a ditch without exit or to the wrong destination? You may have experienced taking a road trip and encountering a sign that clearly states detour ahead and through the detour signs you are guided back to the main road. As a leader, do you pay attention to the detour signs or do you ignore? Are you creating a culture of continuous engagement with your tribe to minimize the number of detours you take?
Here are four simple suggestions and lessons learned that can help you identify and avoid an event, organization or culture that will require life support:
- Create opportunities for reflective and open conversations often
Be intentional about creating opportunities for reflective and open conversations on where you are as an organization. This should be constructive, judgment-free, authentic and transparent conversations. A few suggested opportunities are: organizing retreats, creating brief huddle meeting for cross organization communication, schedule all hands meetings at a minimum twice yearly, checking in with team leads and team members periodically so they see and connect with you. Take seriously following up and implementing the feedback. Two- way communication is critical.
- Create Authentic Connections
There is no need to pretend to be someone else or where a mask because you are the leader of the organization. The more transparent you are, the more your team may approach you. Emotions matter to people. Showing that you legitimately care if your team has a family, to share and celebrate not just work events but personal achievements builds a culture that embraces growth and builds a culture that breathes authenticity. It all begins with the seed that the leader plants.
- Establish and Maintain Trust
Trust takes time to build and a second to disappear. Trust is something you earn and it is important as leaders to do your part to earn and keep the trust of your team. Trust and respect go hand-in-hand and are critical to sustaining an engaged culture and growing a healthy organization. Part of creating your legacy is to nurture, coach. and mentor individuals in your organizations to one day carry the torch. As the quote at the beginning of this message states: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, hey want to contribute.” Be honest with yourself are you creating a culture that expects a return or one that proactively contributes to the growth of the organization?
- Take Care of You
You may have heard the phrase “put the mask on yourself first.” If you do not maintain a healthy heart, mind and soul it won’t be long till it begins to reflect on your organization. Exercise and support your team in making time to exercise. Take your vacation when they are planned. As leaders, something comes up and you may feel that you must cancel your schedule leave to attend to work. This serves no one well as you are cheating yourself of that time to recharge, rejuvenate and to exhale. Additionally, you send an unhealthy message to your team that they may be expected to do the same. In my experience these are initial signs of an organization that could become one on life support unbeknownst to all on the team. I cannot stress the importance of pausing and taking care of you.
Leaders failing to embrace these simple and powerful practices could lead their companies and businesses to a place where resuscitation may be tired.
Ilka is the Owner and President of Corporate GOLD a Global Organizational Leadership Development Consultant Company that partners with executives to support their continuous development, assist with the success of future leaders, strategy development and execution, diversity and organizational culture transformation and team optimization. She is a leadership consultant, certified emotional mastery coach, and an inspirational speaker. Ilka is a #1 international best seller author and a fervent leader with an extensive track record for helping leaders, communities and organizations reach their highest potential. She has spoken on many stages nationally, internationally and many speak of Ilka’ stage engagement and motivational speaking as captivating and inspiring. The company’s’ slogan is “Learn It. Live It. Lead it.”