I am a big fan of Jacinda Arden, it’s no secret among my colleagues and friends. In fact, I don’t know many who aren’t constantly impressed by her leadership skills. Which are heavily rooted in her common decency and empathy for fellow humans. Pretty basic “skills” for a good leader.
Recently Jacinda made a grand gesture, however. A gesture that had me––and most of the western world––floored. When offered a standard three percent pay rise of NZ$14,000, Ms Arden refused. Not only that but she engaged in a hasty campaign with colleagues to put a temporary blockage on further pay rises for New Zealand pollys.
Three percent isn’t a huge deal to turn down in the grand scale of things. But had she taken the pay rise, in a time where the country’s teachers and nurses are in mass strike over pay, it could have been an even bigger deal. Accepting it may have seen a lot of her people turn against her. Some may see this as only a small gesture by Arden considering the actually paycheck she takes home. But the outcomes of this “small gesture” were, globally, grand.
In my eyes, the gesture was a leadership move in the highest degree. Classy, and effective.
And it got me thinking about these types of “small” gestures from leaders, and how powerful they are.
The thing about good leadership, is you must never forget you’re a part of a team. The minute you do, you’ve lost the purpose of your position and you can expect the people under you to lose trust, and respect in you. And…without trust and respect, following your lead is going to be a hard pill to swallow.
I thought about what other small gestures made by a leader might have as powerful outcomes. And even some of the fairly simple, but effective gestures you can make to inspire your team toward solidarity––essentially fuelling a great culture and strong, productive team.
Here are a few that come to mind…
Open yourself to feedback.
Here I go again on the feedback train! In all seriousness, it’s a great way to gain respect from your team. Showing vulnerability, openness and diplomacy in decision making is one of the fastest ways to get people on board. Google’s Vice President of Search Products, Marissa Mayer has a great way of soliciting a healthy feedback culture. Mayer has a board outside her office, on which she encourages her staff to schedule 15-minute daily appointments with her. She opens herself up for feedback sessions between 4-6pm daily. Employees can use this precious one-on-one time with her to voice opinions on current projects or pitch ideas, or just chat. Two hours per day is really a small price to pay for a great, united team culture.
Got perks? Share them.
Is there a company box at the MCG? Perhaps a top client with a restaurant who offers complimentary meals. Or is there a car service that only you know about? Sure, these sorts of perks aren’t always floating around. Not every company has an expense account or cool, generous clients. But the point is, if there are perks of the job it’s important that a leader share these around. It shows generosity and can be a great way to acknowledge good work. But it’s more than that. As a gesture from a leader, it says, “We’re all in this together, we will all reap the rewards.” Simple, but effective.
Don’t take the piss.
As a leader, do you believe you have the right for long lunch breaks and early outs? Are you often late or working from home, but expect your team to be in the office at 8am sharp?
If you’re guilty of pulling rank with these ‘leadership entitlements’ then sorry, but you’re not leader material. Sure, there might be times when you might have to duck out of the office early or linger longer on a client lunch. This is acceptable. Occasionally. But if you think these “perks” are part and parcel of a leadership role. Wrong. If your team feel you’re taking advantage of your position you’re likely to stir up a lot more than a martini on your next long lunch. You could see a subtle revolt.
These are only a few that come to mind, but daily there are ways you can level-up with your team. When you are conscious of it, you will find plenty of opportunity to make small (or grand gestures that will go a long way. Remember, when you’re in a leadership role to remember you have a purpose greater than your own––and that is to build and nurture your team. We are only as good as our people, so bring out the best in them.
Image via theguardian.com