Haircuts and leadership

Today as I was getting my haircut, I noticed a situation that made me think about the role of a leader in an organization.

What made today different than any other haircut? Today, the owner of the business was present at the front desk. He was there when I arrived, during my haircut, and as I departed. He was attentive, used my name when he spoke to me, and made sure I had a good experience.

During my haircut, I noticed that the (lone) employee was paying less attention to me than normal. He would look over his shoulder every minute or so, to see if the boss was watching.

The boss was usually watching.

He’d return his attention to me and continue. This happened several times and it really made me think.

The boss’s presence shifted this employee’s focus away from the customer and towards the boss. Instead of focusing on getting me a great haircut as usual, he was aware he was being monitored and it had a clear effect on him. And my haircut happened faster and with less attention than normal. (I’ll survive.)

Every day as leaders we make decisions about how we interact with our teams. Remember that every action, every word, every decision will usually have an effect on the team. That effect can be positive, nurturing, and provide clarity, direction, and inspiration to those on your team, or it can reinforce industrial-revolution-era thinking about work whereby the employees exist solely to please the boss.

Which leader would you rather follow?

What To Do When Your Feedback Doesn’t Land

An excellent article by Lara Hogan. My favorite part:

We’re going to have to lean into the discomfort of this moment here. I’m sorry!

It might feel easier to avoid this awkward conversation, or simply trust that the feedback has landed. But moving forward without triple-checking that you’re on the same page wouldn’t be fair to your teammate. As you said, we want to make sure there’s no surprises about what’s expected of them and their behavior going forward.

First off, you have permission to plainly state the facts of the moment: you’re not sure if your feedback has landed, and it’s important that it does.

What to do when your feedback doesn’t land by Lara Hogan

I’ve come to discover this tactic of naming the feeling and then intentionally pausing extremely valuable, not just in this situation. Whenever the conversation gets challenging or tense or it feels like conflict will erupt, I’ve found it effective to name that fear or worry and then stop.

It tends to defuse and clarify.

Monday Links

  1. Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life. Choice quote from Viktor Frankl (who survived the Holocaust): When we are no longer able to change a situation—just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer—we are challenged to change ourselves.
  2. Systems vs. Goals. This one has taken me some time to come around to, but I’m convinced of it now.
  3. Some interesting thoughts on what Elon is planning with twitter; my favorite quote: Liberalism in the Obama era was an essentially dynamist enterprise not because liberals were absolutely committed to capital-S Science but because those years encouraged a confidence that the major technological changes of the 21st century were making the world a more liberal place. Whether it was social media shaking Middle Eastern autocrats, the Obama campaign running circles around its Republican opponents with online organizing or just the general drift leftward on social issues that seemed to accompany the internet revolution, progressives around 2010 felt a general confidence that technological and political progress were conjoined. This rings true to me. One of the questions it raises is whether or not opinions ventured on social media are upstream or downstream from mainstream opinion. I tend to believe they’re locked in a feedback loop, which I find even scarier.
  4. There are too many scams in higher education (well, really, one big scam)
  5. The optimal line length for online articles is 50 to 75 characters