Leadership 101: If You’re a Leader, You Control the Weather
By: Scott Elbin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative (Wiley)
During a break in a leadership workshop I was conducting a few years ago for newly promoted executives, one of the participants came by to talk with me. After a few pleasantries he said, “I control the weather.”
The voice inside my head said, “Dude, you’re delusional.” Fortunately the voice coming out of my mouth said, “Really? Tell me more about that.”
He smiled and said a boss he had had ten years earlier said to him, “I control the weather and someday you’re going to do the same thing.”
“Oh, I said, I get it. If you show up sunny and bright, it’s going to be a shiny happy day for your team and if you show up stormy and cloudy they better buckle up because it’s going to be a rough ride. “
He smiled, nodded his head and said, “Exactly.”
Are You Cloudy or Sunny?
If you want to test the theory, just ask yourself if you’ve ever worked in a place where the first thing everyone asked each other in the morning is, “What kind of mood is he (or she) in today?”
If you’ve been there, you know from experience that leaders control the weather.
So, if you’re the leader and you want a team that’s productive and gets results over the long run, you have to be mindful — aware and intentional — about the weather system you’re creating.
As the designated leader, you have an enormous impact on the workplace climate your team works in. It can have a positive and productive impact on employee engagement, or create a non-productive and stressed-out workplace. Which one is really up to you.
Since you control the weather, here are three things you can do as a leader to be more mindful — aware and intentional — about creating a positive and productive climate for your team.
Breathe Before You Speak: Because you have a lot of influence over the quality of their lives, your team takes what you say to heart. Leaders are always on stage. Everything they say (and sometimes what they don’t say) is being parsed, studied and analyzed like tea leaves by their team.
Words of praise and recognition from the leader have a multiplier effect in creating a positive climate. Conversely, harsh and cutting comments — especially those that are delivered in front of a group — can tank morale and generate a stressed-out, fear-based climate.
It’s important as a leader to get in the habit of taking three deep breaths before you speak (or before you click “send” on that flamer of an email) when you’re frustrated or angry.
Some deep breaths from your belly will quiet your fight or flight response and give you the space to consider your answers to two important questions:
- What outcome am I trying to create here (short term and long term)?
- How do I need to show up and come across to create that outcome?
Go Home: If you’re one of those leaders who likes to hang around the office until 7:00 or 7:30 in the evening tying up loose ends, stop it. If you stay late, your team is going to stay late, miss other commitments that are important to them and end up less productive because they’re stressed out and resentful.
Pack up around 5:00 or 5:30, take your stuff with you and go home and work from there if you want to.
One of the leaders I interviewed for my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, was former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen.
As he told me, “They won’t leave until 30 minutes after you leave. I tried to religiously leave no later than 5:00. If I had work to do, I had a computer in my house. You’ve got phones and everything else, so there are very few things that you can do at work that you couldn’t do at home.”
If that approach worked for the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and his headquarters staff, it will probably work for you and your team too.
Turn Off Your Wi-Fi: When you’re at home in the evenings or on the weekends and crack open that laptop to send some emails, turn off the Wi-Fi and save what you’re writing to the draft folder.
If you’re sending emails at all hours of the night and on weekends, two things are going to happen. One, is your team members are going to think you’re an insane maniac. Two, most of them are going to think you expect an answer immediately even if you don’t. In the process, you’re going to make them feel more overworked and overwhelmed and less productive in the long run.
Are those emails you’re sending really that urgent? Probably not. Turn off the Wi-Fi and save it to draft. On Monday or the next weekday morning, go ahead and send all those emails you saved.
The work will still get done and your team will be less stressed in the process because they got a break from your missives.
What are other ways you can be more mindful about the weather system you’re creating for your team?
Scott Eblin is an executive coach, speaker and author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative and The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. He is cofounder and president of the Eblin Group, a professional development firm that supports executives and managers in exhibiting leadership presence by being fully present and a member of the International Coach Federation and holds the designation of Professional Certified Coach. Elbin is also a Registered Yoga Teacher through the Yoga Alliance.
More from Scott Eblin: Listening Skills: The Killer App of Relational Routines