TSB 065: Forget "open door," be in the hallway.

capacity building communication leadership management nonprofit the saturday boardroom workplace culture Apr 06, 2024
TSB 065: Forget "open door," be in the hallway.

Tip of the week: Show up where your team shows up.

Let's be honest, if the only time you see your staff is during scheduled meetings, you're doing leadership wrong.

It's easy to rely on "official" channels and venues, but they can feel impersonal and one-sided.

While well-intentioned, these efforts often feel forced and lack the authenticity that staff truly crave.

  • Instead of waiting for your team to come to you, it's time to proactively step into their world. 
  • Go to their public meetings or events, or ask where they'd like you to show up.

As the poet Maya Angelou wisely said,

"The bigger we get, the smaller we have to act."

This rings especially true for nonprofit leaders. As your organization grows, it's easy to become trapped by meetings, emails, and strategic planning, losing touch with the heartbeat of your mission – your people.

The answer isn't complicated town halls or lengthy newsletters. Instead, it's about showing up where your team shows up and fostering a culture where those at the top proactively seek out connections.

It means trading the corner office for the hallways, the scheduled appointments for impromptu chats, and fostering an environment where your team sees you not just as a leader, but as a genuine participant in the work that matters.

Let's be honest, ditching CEO habits can feel awkward at first. But that initial discomfort is a small price to pay for the benefits. You'll be surprised by what you learn when you take those "micro-interaction" walks.

You'll overhear challenges you weren't aware of, celebrate wins that might've gone unnoticed, and get a true pulse on your organization's morale.

This approach isn't just about you; it's about empowering your team. When you greet a junior staff member by name, it sends a powerful message: their work matters, and their voice is valued.

These small moments build confidence, create trust, and make staff feel they have an approachable leader. They're more likely to come to you with ideas or raise concerns early, saving you from bigger headaches down the line.

Now, a caveat: this doesn't mean being everyone's best friend, overstepping boundaries, or showing up where you're not invited.

It's about making yourself accessible and showing genuine interest in your people and their work.

  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Ask open-ended questions like, "What's got you excited about this project?" or "What's one thing I could do to help you succeed?"

"But I'm too busy!" is the classic excuse.

The truth is that investing even a short amount of time each day in connecting with your team pays dividends in engagement and productivity.

Start small:

  • 15-minute morning hallway walks,
  • a weekly drop-in on a different team's virtual call.

Make this a non-negotiable part of your schedule, and you'll see how, ironically, by being less "CEO-like," you'll become a far more effective leader.

That's all for today. I'll see you again next Saturday!

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways we can help you:

  1. Register for one of our upcoming workshops here. 
  2. Learn the strengths and growth areas for your team and its members here.
  3. Get expert advice to help transform your organization's culture and develop better leaders here. 

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