It’s all about “You”

In my work coaching senior leaders, I spend a fair bit of time reading literature on leadership or having conversations with other experts in the field, combining these resources with my own experience and viewpoints so that I can best help my clients continue to develop or better address challenges facing leaders today. But while I appreciate all of the perspectives, the topics are often too intellectual or just too squishy to be put to immediate, practical use. That said, every now and again, you come across a leadership tool that is so simple, anyone could do it in their next meeting and so powerful that everyone should. And, like many of the best practical leadership lessons, this one comes from a leader doing something that comes so naturally, I wonder if even he understands how different and impactful it is.

If you are in the business of leadership, chances are you have spent a fair bit of time thinking about enrollment. It’s the first cousin to influence and lives across the street from “bringing people on a journey” and any number of other “don’t just tell people what to do” leadership styles. And while I certainly understand there are times when leaders have to be directive, I dig all of these concepts and have seen over and over again the power of enrolling people to deliver an outcome versus telling them to do it. I often say it is the irony of senior leadership, the more positional power you have, the less you should use it. But despite the importance of the concept, the tools applied here are typically underwhelming.  They work but they don’t blow your socks off.

One obvious part of enrollment is the language leaders use when talking about work or milestones or celebrating accomplishments. They look at their teams or preferably their own leaders and talk about what “we are doing together” or what “we are accomplishing” or what “we did.” Its inclusive and necessary and valuable for enrolling and motivating teams (because senior leaders never say I, right?) It’s obviously the correct thing to do…until you stand it next to what the leader I describe above does. And then it seems totally ineffective.

What is so different about this leader? Not much. He just uses “you” where other leaders use “we.” He talks to his team in both forums large and small and always says “look what you are doing together, look what you are accomplishing, look what you did for this Company.” He does it with his peers too. He does not insert himself into anything. With that one word change he is the best I have ever seen at genuinely giving credit. And what is the result? His unit tripled the aspirational growth goal the Company set at the beginning of last year. Oh, and if you are worried that his lack of self-promotion is impacting his stock as leader? Ha! Despite never talking about himself he is solidly on the radar in a good way.

The next time you are trying to inspire you team and enroll them to help the Company win…remember, it’s all about “you.”