In January, the Vestalia Hospitality team got together with the leadership teams at each restaurant to brainstorm goals for the future and to talk about our shared purpose and values. We also got to understanding about the relationship between Vestalia and the restaurants including what our roles are, how we can utilize and support one another, and if “what we do up at the Vestalia office” sets up any expectations for the restaurant teams. As it turns out, there are some out there regarding leadership.
Vestalia operates with a specific model of shared, facilitative leadership; it focuses on commitment, empowerment, and well-being as forces that drive high levels of performance. There’s a lot going on in there, and knowing what we aim to accomplish and how to show up successfully as a leader within our model can be confusing. We currently offer resources to help leaders make sense of it all (e.g., monthly coaching, Wednesday articles, and First Fridays), and are developing new ways for people to engage, learn, and grow their abilities and confidence as leaders. In the meantime, we’ve distilled a lot of information into five things you can start doing, today, to give you firm and sure footing on the path of leadership in our organization. Here they are:
VESTALIA LEADERSHIP ESSENTIALS: THE FIRST FIVE
The road to great leadership is a long one, it takes exposure to all types of people and situations, countless trials and errors, and intense focus on the development of self-awareness. The challenge increases in a culture like ours that goes against the grain of traditional, top-down leadership. Does that mean you can’t be a great leader today? Hell no! Success as a leader in our organization hinges on a few basic principles:
- creating a safe environment for everyone
- fostering team member development and engagement
- sustaining high performance teams
- collaborating as a way to innovate
- empowering teams and individuals.
The following are five things to start (or continue) doing right now that will help you achieve what we need our leaders to achieve in an effective and satisfying way:
CONNECT WITH PEOPLE FREQUENTLY
Leaders take the first step to create and cultivate relationships. Getting to know your team members as individuals, knowing and responding to what they need, and continuously showing that you care about who they are is the easiest way to foster trust and safety (the building blocks of high-performance teams) between you. Everyone wants you to know something about them; find out what that is and dig deeper to discover your common bond. Let them know you, too. If you’re nervous about boundaries, ask for feedback and find a partner to help you develop them. Otherwise, be yourself and keep it real. After all, we’re people before we’re co-workers.
GET ON THE SAME PAGE
This is rule #1 for effective communication. Did you all walk away from that meeting understanding the same expectation or next steps or due date? Did they hear it the way you intended it to sound (and vice versa?). Are you acting with the whole picture, or just your piece from your point of view? You’ll only know if you ask. Make sure you’re getting into the specifics (think “by this Friday” v. “ASAP”), and confirm how tone and intent are being perceived between you (“it feels like you’re frustrated, and it sounds like you want this to move quickly. Is that right? How is this all landing on you?”). Being on the same page doesn’t always mean you agree, it means you’re all operating from the same and most comprehensive set of information. On it = common ground and creativity. Off it = conflict and confusion.
GO OUT AND GET FEEDBACK
As a leader, having feedback from your team (about projects, decisions, how you’re showing up) is essential to finding out if you’re on the right track and if you have their commitment and support. If you’re not and you don’t, you’ll need to talk about that gap and brainstorm possibilities so you can make the right adjustments and move forward together. The thing is, your teams are wired to expect feedback from you, but never to offer it back. Very few will walk through your open door to share their opinions and ideas unless you reach out and pull them in, over and over, and prove that it’s safe to do so. How do you do that? Forget the ego and assume you don’t have all of the answers. Be open to what they have to say. Ask questions before making statements, listen for understanding, try to talk a little less than they do, and clarify information or intent when appropriate. Keep them in the loop about how their feedback was considered and be transparent about how it made or did not make a difference. Show your team that their voice has value and watch them thrive.
SAY THE THING THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID
Maybe someone’s not meeting a standard, or their behavior is getting in the way of their own or the team’s well-being. Maybe you’ve got an out-of-the-box idea for the project or you feel the group is going in the wrong direction on a decision. You’ve got choices here: you can talk about it with everyone but that person or group. You can stay silent out of fear or ease. With those routes, you’ll either start managing your own behavior around the problem/person, or you’ll find yourself going along with plans that will always feel hollow to you. Meanwhile, nothing changes and your resentment (or disengagement) grows. Here’s another choice – share how you feel with that person from a place of caring. Be direct, kind, and offer support. They need you to hold up the mirror to help them see what they can’t see for themselves in order to learn and grow, and you need to say it to move toward a better place with them. Bring up that possibility or share that caveat with the group – adding your insight strengthens the creativity of the team and your commitment to the task at hand (and really, what’s the worst that could happen?). Embrace the discomfort of sharing your feelings with the people that need to hear them. Don’t comment on the game safely from the sidelines. Get in there and make some plays.
DON’T TOLERATE CONFLICT
Conflict happens when you perceive that your needs aren’t being met or when reality doesn’t match up to what you were expecting it to be. When you name it and provide space for communication and understanding, conflict can lead to creative solutions, strong bridge-building, and productivity-inducing flow. When conflict is left alone to fester and grow within a person or between parties, the result is always bad feelings, alienation, reduced productivity and dead-end divides. Conflict cannot be avoided, it’s a natural byproduct of people interacting in the world. So, recognizing and resolving it is an essential skill to have. What’s your first step toward that as a leader? If you sense it exists or if someone reports it to you, act. Don’t allow it to fester and grow, it’s easier to work through when it’s smaller. If you ignore it or wait for it to work itself out (which it rarely does without intervention), you’re sending a message that well-being for the team is unimportant. When you acknowledge it and set an expectation for resolution, you’re showing the whole team that their well-being matters. How you shine a light on conflict and go about moving the meter from “us vs. them” to shared harmony or common ground will depend on the situation and the people involved. You’re doing a great job of it at Vestalia if the following is achieved: 1. A plan is in place for resolution within 24 hours of discovering the conflict. 2. All parties in the conflict have some responsibility in the resolution (they contribute and don’t expect the leader to “just fix it”). 3. The resolution leaves all parties involved feeling understood and as whole as possible. 4. The people in conflict move forward together with a new understanding of how to be in the relationship in a satisfying and effective way. Do you have tried and true methods for making this happen? Great. Do you need some ideas or support in this arena? Vestalia can hook you up with both. Find something that works for you. Take on conflict with intention before it takes on a life of its own.
That’s it! Practice these five essentials every day and help your fellow leaders practice them, too. Find your true groove with them, let them become part of your DNA, and you won’t be on the road to being a great leader, you’ll simply be one.
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