Openness encourages employee engagement and that is fundamental to business success. If you are going to become a boss who is open to your associates, you have to have a plan and the discipline to stick with it.
Your plan for giving the gift of openness comprises these 3 simple rules:
- Give first: Don't wait for your employees to seek you out. Choose to be assertive and go to them first. Do this consistently over a long period of time.
- Give freely: When you are open only when you need something, you will be caught! At a minimum, you have to be willing to create openness with every member of your team, not just your favorites. (For more on playing favorites, see an earlier post on the topic here.)
- Give frequently: The people you lead are the most expensive asset your company has. Being open with them and gaining their trust is as important as any spreadsheet on your desk. Get out of your office and spend time with others on a regular and frequent basis.
With my own employees, I developed a more pointed approach to creating openness. I developed 21 questions, loosely based on Harvey Mackay's Dig Your Well Before You Get Thirsty. The "implication" of each answer collectively provided the specific things that would help me lead in a way that worked for my team and me.
Here is a sample from my list and how I used the answers to become a better leader.
- Question: Where did you grow up? Implication: Their cultural perspective.
- Question: What were you like as a kid? Implication: Their early interests and habits.
- Question: What did you do in high school? Implication: Their natural inclinations.
- Question: What were your early jobs? Implication: Their first work environment.
- Question: What happened after high school? Implication: Their education or job pursuits.
See Chapter 3 in A Leader's Gift for the rest of the list and more information on creating openness with your associates to become a lasting leader.