This is a quick essay from a leadership moment I had this week. Leading in the context of the past few years has been challenging for me personally and for leaders across industries and organization size. The dynamics of Covid with a large employee base (for us the majority of our organization works in the plant or on the farms every day), combined with massive supply chain disruptions, and wild inflation swings have created the most significant leadership challenge of my 35+ year career. In this context, we have had numerous young leaders “step up” into big roles, with expanded responsibilities, to face the challenges across various departments. It’s in this context that an exchange from earlier this week prompted this essay.
In a discussion with another senior member of our team, we were discussing the situation of a young exec who had stepped up into a larger role over the past few months. My senior team partner expressed their worry about the young exec, concerned that they might have too much on their plate, and suggested that maybe we should “move something” to another young leader to help “balance the load.” I listened and understood where they were coming from but suggested tht instead of just “moving some responsibilities to help out,” I thought we should have someone check in with them to see how they were doing…. Simply put, let’s ask before acting!
That suggestion turned out to be a good move because when the young exec was asked “how they were holding up with the new responsibilities?” they responded that they were energized by the new departments and all the new things to learn, and while they were working a ton, they knew they would get it “dialed in” soon and didn’t want to change a thing. A well-meaning senior leader almost “trampled” the energy and performance of a growing your exec just because they “presumed” a bit too much about the situation without asking a singe question.
Its important to remember that this is tight balancing act and for leaders, especially in challenging moments, its critical to have an “empathetic” eye/ear directed towards the organization.
- the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
This need to be tuned into the company and the team is hard and often is a shifting landscape, so leaders actually have to work hard to their “empathy” radar up and working at all times. The key in my mind is to not let that empathetic “radar” so too far without actually asking much needed questions.
an idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain.
Take a moment as leaders to reflect on this “balancing act” yourselves. My encouragement is to keep you attention tuned into your organizations, but don’t let it go too far based soley on “your opinions!” Ask some key questions through your process, and I am sure you will keep “presumption” out of your leadership toolbox.