Working on a garbage truck in Pittsburgh one summer helped me more fully appreciate the human dignity that’s inherent in all people, but it took years for me to learn ways to express that respect in my leadership. In fact, I’m still learning. And I’m always looking for new and different ways to not only lead with a heart for others but to allow others to see my heart as a leader.
So in my LinkedIn Live interview with management consultant and author Brad Deutser, I really resonated with his belief that the greatest organizations have leaders “who go out of their way to genuinely connect, to really be vulnerable, to be human.”
This is a big part of my approach to transfluent leadership. When we respect people for who they are, not just what they do, we naturally treat them with kindness, compassion, and empathy. And when we lead with heart, we open a window into our souls and allow others to see us as we truly are.
Deutser gave three examples of ways to put this into practice on a regular basis.
One, write a memo to your mom.
Many leaders write several drafts before sending out a final written message. The more vital the message, the more time they spend on the different iterations. But they often spend way more time nitpicking the details of the content than the tone.
Deutser suggests addressing the first draft to your mother and then replacing her name with the names of the real recipients once you are ready to send it. Thinking of your mother as the audience will likely cause you to write with more patience, respect, vulnerability, kindness, and care. There’s also a better chance that your message will be simple and clear without being condescending.
This doesn’t just apply to memos, of course. It can be emails, texts, presentations, speeches, or whatever. And the draft doesn’t have to be to your mother. It can be anyone who inspires you to communicate with heart.
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Two, add 15 seconds to every conversation.
Leaders in our speed-driven world can feel a pull to rush from one task to another, and conversations often are dumped into the “task” category. To avoid a time-consuming conversation, they might default to email or text. And when they do speak with someone face-to-face, there’s a temptation to rush through it en route to the next stop.
The 15-second rule isn’t about putting a stopwatch on conversations but about going into them with a willingness to listen a little longer than might seem absolutely necessary. This is how a one-word response like “fine” turns into 30 to 50 words that actually tell you something about the other person’s life. It’s in those 15 seconds that you will see each other’s heart and those hearts will connect.
Three, ask why without using the word why.
Simon Sinek famously advises leaders to “start with the why,” and that’s great for gaining clarity about your organization’s purpose and strategy. It’s also common to use the “five why’s” approach when getting to the root of a problem – each why peels back another layer that eventually gets you to the most relevant part of your discussion.
The word why, however, often invites defensiveness or even conflict. Why was that order late? … Why did the client drop us? … Why didn’t you make your numbers last month?
Asking such questions without using the word why invites a more collaborative, respectful conversation. I’d love your input on the delayed order. … Can you help me understand what happened with our client? … Let’s talk about your sales numbers for last month. Regardless of how you phrase the questions or open the conversation, however, it’s the tone of respect that’s key.
There are many other ways to have a transformative influence on others by leading with heart. I’d love to hear some examples of what works for you.