Spoiler Alert!There is a free download link for a leader development tool at the end of this post!
I had a chance last week to sit down with a young leader and process with him about why the vision he has for his organization is not being implemented. As we sat together he told his story to me in quite graphic detail. Let me spare you all the gory detail and give you the highlights:
- He is a passionate leader who is an excellent communicator.
- The energy he exudes for the mission of the organization is extraordinary.
- His level of intellect and knowledge of his core business is solid.
- He is morally solid.
- He cares deeply for what his organization is trying to accomplish, and he cares deeply for the people in the organization and those they are trying to serve.
- In the Emotional Intelligence assessment work we did together, he was above average and in most competencies.
So what is the problem? Why is this guy working with an executive coach? (Not that you have to have a problem to have a coach!)
To be honest, that is what I thought when our conversation first started. Then we started to dig into the data…
The organization he has been a part of for a number of years was stuck. They just couldn’t grow the business past a certain metric that is common to measure in their industry.
The stagnation issue became evident as we looked over some feedback provided by his peers. One of the interview questions I ask the peers of my clients as a routine part of my data gathering is "What is the vision this leader has for the organization?"
Person after person I interviewed on behalf of this leader gave basically the same feedback in response to the above question regarding vision: “The vision is very clear and we have no idea what steps we need to take to get started. It is like he has been dreaming of this his entire life and we are catching it for the first time."
I found this feedback around vision fascinating. When he and I debriefed this feedback, guess what…
IT WAS TRUE!
Since his college days, he had dreamed of working with an established organization and taking it to another level in growth. He not only had the vision, but he had the entire plan worked out in his head, even down to the last detail of how this vision was to become a reality.
I actually find this quite often when I work with experts. They have worked the vision in such detail, but others have not even opened their eyes to the possibility yet.
The issue was not that a vision was not being communicated, it was that people in the organization had not been given the time to absorb, process, and own the vision themselves.
As this young leader and I processed this data together, his knee-jerk reaction was “We don’t have time to wait for them to process this. The time is now! They need to get on board or get out of the way. We are going to miss our opportunity. The timing is just right!"
“Well now," I said to myself, “that doesn’t sound like the person I started this leader development process with." So I said to him, “That response seems out of character for you, would you like to expand on what you mean?"
He sat in silence. I think he had stunned himself with his own articulation. The seconds literally turned into minutes. We both just sat there, separated by this canyon of silence. I wanted to say something to break the tension, but all the training I have had said just wait, the ball is in his court. He owns the silence and the next move.
“People could be sick or dying, and we have no sense of urgency. I don’t get it," is what he spewed out to break the silence.
So I asked,“Is it their lack of urgency, or could it be something else?”
Let me take you to the end of this experience with this leader. Turns out, there was not a lack of urgency on the part of the organization, there was a lack of emotional connection between the leader and his followers.
"But wait a minute," you might be saying to yourself, “it sounded like this guy had it all together in the beginning.” It did to me, too! At least on the surface. However, there was a struggle to implement a vision that was difficult to figure out. He didn't have poor interpersonal skills or struggle with communication. The emotional connection issue was in response to this one thing: his vision.
The urgency that the leader was feeling for vision implementation and change was not being offset by his emotional connection competency of patience.
Patience is devoting the appropriate time and attention to others in ways that enhance meaningful interaction. Patience is suspending your personal need for satisfaction and action. Patience seeks to slow down those fast-paced exchanges with others in order to facilitate better decision-making. Patience is not racing ahead in one’s thought processes while missing the nuanced information that others are endeavoring to share. Patience is not missing the opportunities to encourage, inspire, and motivate others.
In leader development, it is always important to keep perspective on a leader who is not connecting emotionally with followers. Without this emotional connection, it is virtually impossible to have the social intelligence needed to achieve organizational effectiveness.
There are a number of reasons a follower may choose to align with a leader. Freely choosing to commit fully to the vision of the leader is a quintessential desire that followers have. What the follower receives in return for committing to the vision of the leader is an emotional connection with that leader.
In our case study above, if the leader doesn’t balance his sense of urgency for his vision with being patient and taking the time to encourage, inspire, and motivate, the entire vision will be lost. Not because it wasn’t a good, valuable, or noble vision, but lost because the leader didn’t take the time for all the followers to truly connect emotionally and buy into where the vision was taking them.
To assist leaders in developing emotional intelligence and emotional connection with individuals in their organizations, we have identified eight emotional connection skills that have the potential to enhance the engagement of followers. These emotional connection competencies include presence, trust, calm, patience, speaking truth, valuing others, empathy, and openness.
If you are interested in a free pdf of this tool, you may download it by clicking here.
Download the free emotional connection tool from the above link. Think of something that is not going well in your leadership life with a follower or followers. Identify which of these 8 competencies are at risk. Remember that this is for you to say what you need to work on, not what others need to do. I would love to hear back from you if you recognize any growth in yourself as a result of this tool.