“As a leader, you're probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you're not around.” ~Patrick Lencioni
"Leadership is not just what happens when you're there, it's what happens when you're not there." ~Ken Blanchard
Managing and leading people is what you are called to do in leadership. One of the most difficult aspects of that is managing the natural human tendencies of your team members. They might tend to focus on the negative, they might see things only from their perspective, or any number of other tendencies that people have (including leaders). But there isn’t any reason you can’t leverage some of these things to make your life easier. One of the best ways to do that is to leverage the grapevine in your workplace.
The grapevine will exist in pretty much any environment with three or more people. People talk, whether it is around the water cooler, in the parking lot after their shift, or texting each other from home, but that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. If you use it well, it can actually be a big help to you both in workload and message.
As a leader you are constantly in the spotlight and are constantly under very high expectations from your staff (at least they should have high expectations of you). One of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is to build trust and understanding amongst your team members, and people don’t always rely on their own feelings about you, they will also consult their fellow team members. Some thoughts on this:
· Find the influential employees – When looking to use the grapevine, it is obviously best to utilize the “social butterflies” in your group. When reinforcing messages, when explaining the “why” behind your decisions and when talking about the future it is great to ensure you do this with those who you know will spread the message.
· Make a connection – It is when things are most stressful that people will look to you and judge, positively or negatively. The employee has a last minute vacation request, has a death in the family, is having a real problem with the new material, has an irate customer they need help with, etc. It is during these times where they will truly appreciate any extra effort you put forth ... and that little extra is what is noteworthy enough to spread.
· Don’t use it as a shortcut – Using the grapevine should never take the place of a good communication plan, it simply accents it. Important information that everyone needs to know must be disseminated to everyone, it should never be left to others who may or may not do so.
· Don’t let it affect your decisions – Leveraging positive experiences, decisions, behaviors, and results is good leadership. Making decisions to leave a positive impression is often poor management. Don’t curry favor, but don’t be afraid to make the most of the positive things occurring in the organization.
The grapevine in most organizations is full of rumors and negativity. It’s an unfortunate part of human nature. If you are able to inject some positivity into the grapevine simply by being aware of it and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, you may find that the trust and understanding of your team improves as news of good deeds and decisions spread.
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