Valuing Relationships – Humble Leadership

I’m continuing to read and reflect on the book Humble Leadership. The most important part of reading a leadership book is ensuring that not only do we gain new knowledge, but that we introspect into our leadership beliefs and practices and then figure out how the information applies to our lives. Then, the essential part of reading a leadership book is taking the new knowledge and planning how to change our leadership behaviors so that we can ultimately become a better leader. And this book contains a lot f nuggets that spark some thought provoking ideas about becoming a stronger leader.

The key focus of Chapter 2 is defining the four levels of Relationships. According to Schein this is how he defines the four levels:

Level Minus 1 – Total impersonal domination and coercion

Level 1 – Transactional role and rule-based supervision and a strictly professional relationship

Level 2 – Personal, cooperative, and trusting friendships

Level 3 – Emotionally intimate and mutually committed relationships

I am so thankful that he talks about the importance of relationships and that our role as humble leaders is to focus on improving the quality of the relationships with others. High quality relationships have been found to be positively connected to many aspects of organizaitonal success such as high productivity, lower absenteeism, and high morale. If we desire high quality relationships, what Schein refers to as Level 3 relationships, we first need to know the current quality of the relationship so we know where we are starting from.

This is where we need to look at tools that are available to help us assess the quality of our relationships and turning to George Graen’s LMX-7 is a good place to start. This tool provides us with a quick way to help determine whether our relationships with individuals are of high, medium, or low quality.  Knowing the quality of your relationships with each of your employees today will help you to develop a plan to get these relationships to the highest Level 3 so that you and your employees can experience the many benefits of an emotionally intimate and mutually committed relationship.

Using the LMX-7

PREWORK – It is critcal that communication takes place between you and your employees so they know that you have a renewed commitment to improving the quality of the relationships that you have with your team members. It is important that everyone understands the value of high quality relationships in the workplace and recognizes the importance of improving the relationships that everyone experiences. Employees need to know that you want their opinions and you value their input. This is an important step before engaging with your employees. They need to know your goals and intentions. They also need to know that you are committed to changing and that you would like their help during this process. You can not assume that your employees know your plans. This prework is as important as the work itself.  After you have committed yourself to this goal of changing your work relationships and your employees are ready to work with you, let’s start by assessing where you are today.

1. Substitute the word “employee” for “supervisor” in this assessment.   Think about each one of your employees as an individual and take this assessment for each of your employees.

2. Notice how your relationships with each employee is different. Some of your relationships are of high quality, some are medium quality and some are low quality basaed on the score that you received on each of the assessments. Consider what this means to you and to each of your employees. How is the quality of your relationship influencing other aspects of your time at work? Do you embrace conversations with each employee the same? Do you look for ways to spend time with each of your employees equally? What factors influence the quality of each of your relationships? What needs to change in order to improve the quality of the relationship?

3. Now its time to see how your employees view the quality of the relationship they have with you. Ask each of your employees to take the LMX-7 as they think about their relationship with you.  Encourage your employees to be honest and that you value their opinions. Be prepared for the fact that their assessment of their relationship with you may be different than your assessment of the relationship. It may be an eye-opening experience for you to compare your thoughts about the relationship with their opinions.

4. After both you and your employees have taken the assessment, take time to just be with the information. How do their responses compare with your responses? Were there any answers that surprised you? What could you have done during the course of the relationship that would prompt the employee to respond in certain ways?

5. It’s now time to engage in individual conversations with each employee. Come to each employee with compassion, a willingness to listen, and a humble heart. It’s time to hear their voices so you can understand their opinions of what you can differently to lead them in ways that will enhance the relationship. A humble leader asks what we can change, then after we have changed as their leader, then we have earned the right to ask our followers to change. Asking our followers to change before we have changed as their leader, is not demonstrating humble leadership, as it does not create a trusting bond between you and your employees.

Using the LMX-7 to assess the quality of your relationships and engaging in conversations with your employees is an exercise in LIVING the foundation of humble leadership. As humble leaders we recognize that we have changes to make in ourselves. We acknowledge our faults and mistakes. And we come to our employees with honesty and a true desire to make things better.  We lay ourselves wide open before our employees and ask for the opportunity to build something better for everyone.  This is humble leadership and the foundation of what Edgar Schein and Peter Schein are talking about in this book. Let’s take what we read and make a difference in ourselves so then we are able to make things different for others.

I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and grow on this journey.  Thanks for joining me!

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