How Do You Make People Feel? (And, Why Does That Matter?)

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Leaders draw their effectiveness less from what they know or what power they wield, and more from how they make the people around them feel.  ~Betsy MyersTake the Lead

I recently had the opportunity to interact with a leader in an organization who prided herself on not always being liked because she was willing to make tough decisions.  Unfortunately, that’s not quite how the rest of the staff viewed the situation. The staff felt as though she wasn’t listening, and when they did express concern or disagreement, they felt invalidated; their experience and knowledge was dismissed.

Not long ago while channel surfing one evening, I came across the show Shark Tank. Individuals bring their ideas or inventions to a panel of about five potential investors, each of whom are highly successful entrepreneurs and have made millions. On this particular episode, I missed the portion where the individual described his idea, but that really didn’t seem to matter. I caught it just in time to hear every single one of the five potential investors tell the guy how much they didn’t like him, personally. They liked his idea and even offered to invest, as long as he had nothing to do with the business. They would only buy him out; they would not invest in his business if working with him was part of the deal. In a matter of less than 10 minutes, this guy/contestant had managed to make every one of the investors feel frustrated and downright angry. Unfortunately, the contestant was completely taken by surprise and utterly baffled by the response he received from the potential investors. He had no idea how his behavior was making them feel.

Years ago I worked for a college president who is a gifted leader on many levels. He was, and still is, one of the best listeners I know. His ability to listen had incredible repercussions on how he made people feel.  When you feel listened to, really heard, youfeel validated. I remember someone saying that if they ever had to be fired, they would like to be fired by this president. Why? He would be honest and candid, but it would be overlaid with compassion and care. In other words, you’d be fired, but could somehow still walk out with your dignity and your head held high because he would make you feel cared for, even in the midst of being fired.

Leadership guru and author, Warren Bennis, says that “good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.

How do you think the people around you feel?

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