Voice of a reflective leader: how to truly ‘be there’ with your people

I have to share a post from Joe Thornley’s blog. As CEO of a PR and design firm (Thornley Fallis) with offices in Ottawa and Toronto, Joe writes: “I am regularly confronted with a fundamental challenge. How do I manage to stay connected enough with my employees that I can understand them and their state of mind and also convey a sense of the organization’s overall vision, direction and purpose?”

Great question Joe — and a sign of a resonant leader who cares. Notice his question was not “how do I make sure we are getting the most productivity out of our people”? Sure that’s part of the ultimate equation, but Joe sees the bigger picture…

He shares his experience in shifting his approach wrt to his weekly Toronto visits. Whereas he used to jam-pack his time in Toronto (he’s based in Ottawa) with back-to-back formal meetings that ‘pushed the agenda’ with lots of decision-making focus, he’s learned that those visits used to stress out his people. Now he takes a more informal, open approach and devotes more time to learning about his people and simply ‘tuning in’. He conveys the value of being there for the brown bag lunch get-togethers, some water cooler chat and informal drop-in meetings to help him understand what’s really important to his people – in their work and in their lives. Invaluable and so much more powerful than simply only focusing on task and strategy conversations.

Please read it for yourself. Joe’s post demonstrates the thinking of a reflective leader who understands the value of building relationships internally and seeing employees as way more than their functional roles. He gets that his people have lives in and out of the office. 

Joe says that being present is about so much more than just being physically in the office. He quotes an article from Suzie and Jack Welch in a recent Business Week Column: …the road to the top is paved with being there.”

So to leaders and aspiring leaders,  ask yourself this Monday morning: What does ‘being there’ look like to you in your work life? And how will you be there for your people this week? 

Thanks Joe – great inspiration for the start of the work-week!




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