“There’s no crying in baseball!”
It’s the iconic line in A League of Their Own when Coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) shouts in exasperation as one of his players bursts into tears. Although he had just yelled horribly derogatory judgments at her, he can’t believe that such an outward display of emotion is showing up in the game of baseball. Because, as he states so simply: There’s no crying in baseball.
That’s what I learned about business, too. As I worked through my career, I learned things like:
- “Check your emotions at the door.”
- “Keep your personal problems at home.”
- “It’s not personal. It’s business.”
The reality, though, is this: Business is personal. Humanness is at the core of business. And leadership is a relationship.
How do we address the personal, human side of business and leadership with our inherent management expectations of delivering results?
As managers and leaders, our jobs are multi-faceted. We play different functions in our interactions with team members. These functions exist on a continuum, ranging from Directing to Connecting. We direct our teams – providing feedback, vision, and clear priorities. We share our perspective, our experiences, and our reasonings. We teach new skills and new ways of thinking. We coach team members as they practice new skills so they can move from basic to expert. We connect with our team members, generating trust and commitment.
Traditionally, our application of these functions has been lopsided, with most of our interactions on the Directing side of the continuum.
I get it. This was me. I am a recovering Command-and-Control Manager. I wasn’t a bad person. I just didn’t know any better. I was emulating what I had learned from managers that went before me. But I was also stuck – stuck managing to compliance. Constantly following up. Dragging people along with me. Muscling through implementations. And of course, when I turned my attention elsewhere, compliance dropped.
While command and control management can deliver results in the short-term, it doesn’t last. It results in managing to compliance – day after day. To transition from managing compliance to inspiring engaged commitment:
- Choose a Different Balance
- Improve Effectiveness in Each Function
- Set Intention
Inspiring Commitment: Choose a Different Balance
There was a time when this lopsided command and control management was the norm. While it probably wasn’t liked too much, it was at least expected. But times change. Millennials joined your team and are in search of greater purpose. Previous generations reach certain milestones and start to care less about climbing the ladder and more about leaving a legacy. Lopsided, direction-heavy management doesn’t work well with these changing generational patterns and expectations.
As you reduce the amount of directing and sharing, you increase the amount of connecting and coaching. The key to choosing a different balance is simple: Tell Less.
Directing and sharing are both one-way functions. You’re setting the priorities and goals, telling the team what you want done next, mapping out the game plan of how the team will hit goals, sharing what you’ve done in the past to be successful, and sharing why you think certain priorities matter most. See the pattern? It’s you telling them. It’s your perspective as the priority.
Choosing a different balance means – from wherever you’re starting from:
Listen the Most.
Inspiring Commitment: Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness in Each Function
Bringing greater connection doesn’t end with balancing out your interactions. To gain more commitment, maximize each of these five leadership functions by bringing greater connection-generating behaviors into all of them.
Here are ways you can improve your effectiveness in each function:
Connecting: The best way to connect with team members is to truly and effectively listen. Start by assessing your readiness. If you’re not in a position to give your full attention, it might not be the time to engage. When you do, be present. And turning your cell phone upside down on the desk doesn’t count. Put your phone in a drawer. Step out from behind your computer. Show the team member you’re present through eye contact and body language. Clear your mind. When the team member is speaking, focus on him or her as you push distractions out of your head. Use derivative responses, reflecting back what you heard to check for understanding. And employ silence. Too often when the team member stops talking, leaders jump right in. Stop yourself and allow silence to create an avenue for the team member to continue sharing. When you use Impact Listening to connect with team members, you’re approaching the conversation from a point of empathy.
Coaching: The purpose of coaching is not to give answers or solve problems. That’s right. Stop giving the answers and then calling it coaching. When you give answers, you’re not coaching. You’re directing. The purpose of coaching is to help develop team members’ capabilities by giving them an avenue to learn through practice. Keep in mind that practice includes failure. So be sure to celebrate the courage they demonstrate in trying a new task and the resilience they show when they get back up and try again after failing. Ask good coaching questions to help team members work through situations. Good coaching questions are Open-Ended, Non-Leading, and Non-Judgmental. By asking good coaching questions, you create a safe space for team members to practice and develop expertise, while generating greater levels of connection, trust, and commitment.
Teaching: When teaching team members new ways of thinking or working, be sure to use all three languages: auditory, visual, and tactile. Auditory is you speaking verbally so they hear (“Let me tell you”). Visual includes pictures, videos, and demonstrations so they see (“Let me show you”). Tactile includes simulations and hands-on activities (“Here, you try”). Using all three languages in teaching helps you connect with more team members, as people learn in different ways. Be sure to ask questions and create open opportunities to listen as you teach.
Sharing: So often, sharing stays in a cerebral place. Leaders share their thoughts, what they’ve done in their pasts, and what they’ve seen other teams do. To build greater connection when sharing, be vulnerable. Share your feelings, failures, lessons learned, and fears. Share your humanness. Team members are expected to be vulnerable in front of you as they learn new skills, receive corrective feedback, and try to improve their performance. Make this easier and create greater levels of transparency and trust by being vulnerable with the team.
Directing: The purpose of feedback is to impact future behavior, and it is a core component of directing. Increase the amount of reinforcing feedback and recognition that you give to encourage team members to repeat positive behaviors. Give recognition freely, and be specific about the values and behaviors that you’re recognizing. Team members will feel acknowledged and seen. They’ll do more of the recognized behaviors. And as an added bonus, if you give more reinforcing feedback, then team members will be more open to corrective feedback when it’s needed.
Inspiring Commitment: Set Your Leadership Intention
Deliberate action is key. As you approach an interaction with a team member, set your intention for the purpose of the interaction. Which of the five functions is best-suited for the situation? What do you hope to achieve? How do you need to show up for this individual in this moment?
As a leader, you’re busy. And often that translates to haphazard interactions with your team – interactions that leave you disappointed with the outcome and that leave team members confused about “which version of you” they’re going to get on any given day.
Pausing to set your intention creates purpose that inherently improves the value and outcome of your interaction. You can maximize this even further by asking for permission for that intention.
Do you need to give someone performance feedback (directing)? Ask “can I give you some feedback?” or “can I share an observation with you?”.
Is your intention to coach in this interaction? Ask “can I ask you some questions in a coaching role?”.
Are you having a teaching moment? Ask “can I show you a technique to do this work?” or “can I ask you some questions to serve as a teaching opportunity?”.
If the team member says no, then don’t proceed in that moment. Just come back to it later.
Asking for permission this way ensures the team member is in a position to hear you. It also creates more clarity for the team member on what to expect from you in that moment.
It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of managing to compliance – of checking and following-up and monitoring team member work. But this trap puts a self-imposed constraint on the amount of engagement and commitment you receive from the team.
To move from managing compliance to inspiring commitment, take action to:
- Choose a Different Balance
- Improve Effectiveness in Each Function
- Set Intention
In the “There’s no crying in baseball” scene in A League of Their Own, the umpire approaches Coach Dugan and offers some advice.
The umpire tells Dugan, “Good rule of thumb: treat each of these girls as you would treat your mother.”
Gender theme of the movie and scene aside, the advice holds true in business, too. Business is personal. Leadership is a relationship. To move from managing compliance to inspiring commitment, we must treat our team members like people. People that have inherent gifts. People that matter. People that we genuinely care about.
P.S. – Want to dig deeper into these 5 Leadership hats how to build more connection by developing your leadership behaviors when wearing each hat? Register for this Free 30-Minute On-Demand Webinar Training Here.