In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell asks, "How can a leader walk right by a group of people they work with and not even say hello to them?"
When I initially read this passage, I didn't feel like this issue pertained to me. I take pride in creating an atmosphere where employees feels respected and give a friendly "hello" to everyone I see.
However, as I read further I realized there may be more self-truth to this statement than I first believed. The section continues: "Don't say 'I've got a lot of work to do today and I really want to get started.' You just walked past your work. Never forget that leadership is about people."
Being too busy to connect with others is one of my biggest weaknesses. Whether it be in the office, at home with my wife, or with family members, I often prioritize work over engaging in conversation.
I work with seven other employees in our district office. When I first started my job, I was intentional about checking in and spending time with all of my co-workers. I wanted to build relationships with each employee, so I worked hard to get to know each individual.
Admittedly, over time I have become lazy. I have developed a bad habit of prioritizing personal work over relationships with co-workers. Instead of allocating time to strengthen connections, I have been quick to retreat to my office to complete "urgent" work.
Those who know me well may think this narrative is a bit over-dramatic. Perhaps this decline in interaction is minimal or not even noticed. Regardless of what others think, I realize I am not meeting my high expectations when it comes to relationship-building.
School leaders are given many responsibilities. Their “to-do” lists are never-ending. With so many things going on, working in isolation can feel more important than seeing how an employee’s family is doing or asking co-workers about their weekend.
In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros asks, “Do you see personal moments with staff as investments or expenditures? Ten minutes spent listening to someone will do wonders to instill loyalty in that person, as well as a willingness to go above and beyond what is expected.”
Sometimes giving up 10 minutes to chit chat with a secretary can seem like an eternity. My challenge to you (and me!) is to remember that leadership is about people.
The next time you make a mad dash to your office to return that phone call or answer that email without acknowledging staff remember this:
You just walked past your work.
Looking for a great book about building relationships? Check out How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes.