I’ve learned a lot in a short time about being a leader. The list of positives and successes far outweigh the challenges and failures, yet much like everything in life there are ebbs and flows, good times and bad, peaks and valleys. Being a leader offers up rewarding experiences like:
- Watching the people in your sphere grow
- Getting to reward those people for their growth
- Having a hand in the development and guidance of a shift
- Building relationships based upon respect and comradery
The problem is, no matter how much we want it to be, a leadership position is not always sunshine and rainbows. For every rewarding situation you’re likely to face trials and set backs.
Everything on the above list is awful. None of those things are enjoyable, none of those things are rewarding, and none of those things are even remotely fun. You can try to spin them all you want but no one working for you is buying the “we can come back stronger from this” line while you’re writing them up, or taking away a percentage of their livelihood… and if you’re working full-time, it’s very likely that you spend more time with your coworkers than you do with family and friends, which means you get to be around them while they are processing all the ramifications of whatever negative is at hand.
However, how you handle the days and weeks after one of the aforementioned negatives is crucial to earning respect and growing the team around you. Chances are that if you’re in a leadership role, it is not the type of role that gets to make the Big Decisions, and you should always have that in the forefront of your mind as you approach your interactions in times of discomfort.
Listen, listen, and listen some more. Some people really just need to vent. This is a 100% natural response. Let them get all their thoughts and feelings out. Don’t interrupt, don’t argue, and for the love of all that is good, don’t promise something you’re unable to deliver. The majority of leadership roles have someone above them that they need to report to as well. Someone who makes those Big Decisions, and has the authority to promise things and give deadlines and rescind punishment if need be. You are probably not that person.
Follow through on what you can do. If the person has more questions, concerns, ideas, or counterpoints, it is in your best interests as a leader to present them as soon as possible. “I can’t promise that this will come about, but I will get with upper management tomorrow and see what they think,” goes a lot further than “Nothing is going to change, don’t waste your breath.” It has been my experience that nothing loses the respect of your coworkers more than a dismissive tone or hollow lip service.
In those times when you’re suffering right along side them, watching layoffs take place or trying to wrap your brain around how you’re going to make ends meet when you suddenly have less pay or hours? Should you have to go through those extreme times with your team, I’ll leave you with the one thing that has helped me survive some of the negative times so I could continue to enjoy the positives…
…buy some pizza. Have your entire team stop what they are doing, sit down, break bread, and let the group therapy work itself out. In the end, the only thing worse than going through a thoroughly trying period at your job, is going through it with a bunch of hungry, angry, let down people who feel like their voice doesn’t matter. Eat some pizza and listen. Be respectful. Don’t try to fix things. Just eat and listen.
You’ll be amazed at what you might learn or hadn’t considered.
Travis Miller is the 2nd Shift Contract Machine Team Lead at Bardons and Oliver. When he’s not eating too much pizza he’s lamenting his old bones and creaky knees. He has recently rediscovered his passionate love affair with naps.