Every leader has promises to keep.
Promises that are in effect the moment you step into the leadership role.
The exact nature of these promises may vary somewhat based on the individual, context or culture but the important thing to remember is that these unspoken promises are very real and always active.
They do not need your acceptance and you are judged by your compliance.
Like it or not.
Consider these examples:
“You promise to treat me with respect.”
“You promise to hear to my ideas.”
“You promise to live by the values you ask me to support.”
“You promise to follow through on your commitments.”
“You promise to listen to me without checking your phone or email.”
“You promise to keep the things we discuss in confidence, confidential.”
“You promise to give me a chance to prove myself trustworthy.”
“You promise to help me learn from my mistakes.”
“You promise to provide access to the resources I need to succeed.”
How Do You Know?
If you want to understand the promises by which you are judged, the best approach is to sit down with your team and simply ask, (and really listen without becoming defensive or questioning).
“What are your expectations of me as a leader?”
Conversations like this are very revealing because many of these promises operate at the subconscious level until triggered by an event or brought to light through an open and honest discussion.
We’ve all been in that situation where someone is very unhappy but you have no idea what you did wrong only later to find out you crossed a line you didn’t know existed.
You will also open up the opportunity to talk about your expectations and create a shared understanding of what both sides promise to do to make the relationship successful.
Focus on the following outcomes:
Make it Visible – Bring the promises into the open, discuss what they mean and put them in writing.
Make it Actionable – Describe steps you will take to act on what you learned and verify alignment.
Make yourself Accountable – Give people permission to share constructive feedback and check-in regularly on your progress.
Yes, you will feel vulnerable because you are opening up to feedback that is difficult to hear and expectations you may find hard to meet.
No, it’s not an easy thing to do but it is a major step towards a deeper level of trust and understanding in your relationships that will greatly enhance your effectiveness and help you grow as a leader.
You are closing the gap between your perception and their reality and laying the groundwork for a deeper level of connection and cooperation.
Why take this step?
If you truly want the team to get behind your leadership and accept your influence, they must believe that you are aware of the promises they expect you to keep and observe your understanding and commitment through your actions.
Leadership is a promise kept.