Great Leadership Means Observing and Using Information

My last piece suggested a tenet of effective leadership that few embrace: approaching management more like sales. After all, you’re constantly getting your employees to buy into something -- confidence in you and the company, satisfaction with their jobs, or commitment to clients. You ‘sell’ them on the direction of the firm, on appropriate salary/benefits, and even on the attitude they bring to the office.


Getting your team on board with your leadership takes a number of steps and strategies. The last piece covered four ways to help improve employee buy-in:


  • Remember that you’re not selling to them, you’re getting them to buy.

  • The process begins with your belief in yourself.

  • Plan and prep for your employees with the same vigor as you do for clients.

  • Engage them actively; effective communication and leadership is a two-way flow.

… and that’s just the beginning. Applying the principles of sales to management is an everyday process full of opportunities to connect with your team, but two core habits play off of one another to make great leadership personal.


Observe, Observe, Observe


Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross pushed the now-famous phrase “ABC: Always Be Closing.” The reality is that great salespeople and great leaders are always observing.


Just as listening allows you to gather information instead of continuing to spout your own, observing your team -- their individual habits and interests, their workplace dynamic, their approaches to everything from mundane tasks to what they talk about during lunch -- will help you connect. The more you know, the easier it is.


Anyone who’s ever sold anything finds a way to connect. Maybe it’s a bit of small talk that can turn into a real conversation; maybe it’s something that indicates an interest in cars, fashion, or history. Whatever it is, you find out by observing and then find a way to run with that connection that’s meaningful to both of you.


Employees don’t want leaders who lurk around them or invade their personal lives, but it feels great when the people you work for care enough about you as an individual to get to know you. That kind of thing builds loyalty and trust both ways.


Make Every Effort to Remember


All those tidbits you’ve observed? To make use of them, you’ve got to remember them -- and that isn’t always easy. Even if your team is fairly small, it can be hard to remember more than a name, face, and job title.


Even so, you’ve got to make every effort to lock down those details so they’re ready when you need them. Make notes on your phone or in a little book after a conversation. You can also use any of a host of contact management software solutions (many of which are very cheap and cloud-based) to keep track of personal details. Salespeople use these tools to ask how kids and pets are doing or gently make fun of a fan’s abysmal sports team. If leadership is important to you, you’ll do what it takes to remember where Tom’s from and what school Sally went to.


And hearkening back to the last piece’s point of engage, the more you communicate with your team, the easier it is to remember all the habits, interests, and minutiae. Those things might seem like details, but they’re your employees’ lives.


The one-line summary is fairly simple: gather information, remember it, and make use of it in a meaningful way. It’s easier said than done (even with convenient tools), and it does require a time investment -- but the payoff in forging relationships with your team and knowing that everyone’s working together because they matter to one another is worth every bit of effort.

Rodney Steele