In February, my reports took over most of my responsibilities and asked me to spend more time with our front-line team members to encourage and mentor them. That was definitely outside this introvert’s comfort zone, but I was convinced it was best for my company. I took a deep breath, stuck that introversion in a drawer, and got to work.
It felt awkward at first, but awesome things started to happen. Our people felt more valued and recognized. They became more vocal with process improvement ideas. Turnover went down. Some managers joined me and stepped up their game while others were exposed as unwilling or incapable.
Here’s a simple example. While chatting with our delivery teams during loadout we came up with a better way to secure refrigerators. It eliminated an ongoing (and very frustrating) damage problem, and now I have one more thing to compliment when I see it being done right.
As a bigger example, one of our managers couldn’t quite get the hang of being encouraging. When it became apparent it just wasn’t going to happen, we promoted him to “customer.” His replacement (a true encourager) now finds herself with plummeting turnover and rising morale.
Here’s the thing: I used to focus on identifying problems and strategizing grand solutions. Now that I focus on encouragement, we have fewer problems and more solutions than ever. I find that remarkable.
And all the work I delegated? My team is doing it better than I ever did, and I spend my time where I can be the most impactful. I know many people would prefer to forget 2020 but I will remember it as a year of profound personal learnings. – Paul Sherman