Leadership lessons: David Dye has learned a lot of those. He works with leaders who want to get more done, build teams that care, and meet their goals. He gathered his leadership lessons in the practical book The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say. Time for an interview with David!
Marcella Bremer: How did you come up with the idea of 7 Things your Team Needs to Hear You Say?
David Dye: Leadership is a relationship and relationships happen through words. So that’s why I focused on the things your team needs to hear you say.
In my work with leaders and managers, I see a frustration with techniques that don’t work. People are trapped in fear or try to control by doing everything themselves. So I was looking for simple things. You can read a chapter over lunch and apply it right away. People are very busy – so we need a simple tool. Theory is not effective, but if you give tools – you have a chance.Leadership is a relationship and relationships happen through words Click To Tweet
Marcella Bremer: You mention how many people are managed by fear in the workplace – with bosses who want to control you. “I want to have this done by 10 AM!” And in your head, you hear this voice: “Or else….!” Have you worked in such a place?
David Dye: Yes, I have worked in many places and have seen this mindset at work. When people are in a place of fear, they will do something, but it’s a very small amount compared to what they’re capable of. Their fight, flight or freeze response kicks in and will do the least possible to avoid the challenge or they might fight back and sabotage work. It’s not just more pleasant but more productive if you don’t have fear at work. Leadership is about two R’s: results and relationships, you have to have both. Just relationships means you have “happy hour”. But if you focus on results only, you’ve got a sweatshop with high turnover and whatnot. With both, you have the best of both worlds, and it’s sustainable over time.
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Marcella Bremer: What are the seven things your team needs to hear you say? What are those practical leadership lessons?
David Dye: Let me start with number 5: I am sorry. Part of being a leader is being a human being. And when you have a bad day, you can apologize. Just say you’re sorry when you’ve mistreated someone or whatever. But leaders sometimes won’t do that: they fear they will lose their status with the team, their credibility. But the opposite is true. If you screwed up, your team already knows. You’re not hiding anything – the only thing they see now is that they cannot trust you to tell the truth. And they learn that they cannot admit mistakes. So if you fail to apologize, you harm your credibility, and you instruct your team that mistakes are not okay, and they’d better cover them up. If that happens, you’ll get a very dysfunctional team.Leadership is about results and relationships: you need both Click To Tweet
Marcella Bremer: Yes, but you have to be courageous and let go of the outdated “macho” image of leaders – that prevents leaders from being human, authentic, and “vulnerable”.
David Dye: Yes, it’s amazing how the fears about leadership become self-fulfilling prophecies – and you create what you fear….. You need courage to be an authentic leader. That’s what number 3 is about: the words: I believe. You need to communicate your values to your team – and by doing so, you become very vulnerable. But we want to connect our teams’ hearts to the mission – but if we don’t even show them our hearts – how are they ever going to show theirs? One of my colleagues said: money will get you their hands. If you want their mind engaged, you have to have their heart, too.
If you share your personal values with your team – not the company’s values on the wall but your own – then you open your heart as a leader and start to connect.
This is also helping your team understand why they’re doing what they’re doing – why is it important what we do? There’s research that shows that you can double your team’s productivity by connecting the what to the why.
Marcella Bremer: I like this part of the book, and you include a great exercise that only takes 5 minutes before a team meeting: to connect the why to the what. It takes two questions: “Why am I in this organization? Why do I lead this team?”
David Dye: Yes, that can be very powerful. You can connect the dots – or you know you’ve got homework to do, as a team. Hopefully, the answers are valuable, and people connect to each other. But if the answers are about personal gains only, about money – though of course, we all need to make money – then you’re not going to motivate your team. These are reasons why leaders lead: position, prestige, and purse. The fourth one is people. If you can find out how you can serve your people – you’ve got a key to motivating your team.
Maybe you can add pleasure. Not in the sense of having a party, but it means doing the work that I like, and that helps me develop myself. Like Daniel Pink says: to gain mastery, to become even better in my profession.
Marcella Bremer: There’s another thing you phrase nicely: Every leader is a chief belief officer, a CBO.
David Dye: That is the very first thing your team needs to hear you say: You can! Your belief in your team, that they can accomplish something. I came across this quote, attributed to Frank Cains: Only he who can see the invisible – can do the impossible.
Here’s the essence of leadership: to transfer your belief in a better tomorrow to your people. There are problems to be solved – you can’t do it yourself, but your team will. Over time, your belief will become theirs.The essence of leadership is to create a better tomorrow Click To Tweet
Marcella Bremer: And next, you have to encourage your team: Try it!
David Dye: Yes, that’s number 2. I hear leaders who are frustrated that their team is not problem-solving or innovative etc. The exercise I do with them is: imagine a team member got a great idea overnight and came to work the next morning. What has to happen for that idea to get out of the person’s head to become reality? What leaders often discover is that: There is no path for that idea or there is a path, but it has so many barriers that people give up, or the idea encounters so much hostility because it threatens someone else’s turf….
So: pay attention to how you encourage people to try out new ideas. Try it! And make sure you have a path or a way to test ideas.
It’s necessary to fail – maybe you should have an award for the best idea that didn’t work. If you only reward great ideas – you’re right back to the no-risk-taking environment that fears mistakes. Risking means that it may not work – and that’s okay. It’s vital to encourage the behaviors you want, not the outcomes.
Marcella Bremer: Right, we first manage, or should I say, focus, on the process, not only on the outcomes.
David Dye: Yes, it’s a balance. But I don’t make this distinction between management or leadership – like many people do. The essence is to have both: you have to manage, and you have to lead, you have to balance results and relationships.
Marcella Bremer: You need to balance control but also letting go. Just like the competing values framework I use in culture change. You need to focus on one of the competing values at a time, but eventually, you need all of them in the right mix – even though they are competing.
David Dye: The control part is: what are the criteria that a solution needs to satisfy? What is the exact problem? But within those boundaries: have fun, team! Create! Make it happen. So that’s where you let go.
I read an article the other day about whether leadership is still necessary in the age of Wikipedia and the Internet. The answer is yes, but the role is changing from having all the answers and all of the information to asking the right questions and getting all of the answers, creativity and problem-solving out of your team.
Marcella Bremer: We’ve heard a lot of things your team needs to hear you say – and people should read the book for themselves because it’s worth it – but we haven’t covered yet: This won’t happen here! That’s number 6 about setting clear boundaries.
David Dye: Early in my career I was driving to work and listened to a radio show. They discussed a survey: If you would be boss for one day, what would you do? You might expect people to say: I give myself a raise or better food for lunch or more vacation days. But the number one answer was: I would deal with the trouble-makers, the slackers, who are not doing the work right. For me, as a young professional, that was insightful.
I spent a lot of my career with non-profits, and when you’re volunteering, you’re giving away your time. If the person next to you is interfering with your work or slacking, you’re not going to volunteer much longer. How much worse is it, when you’re paid, and you have to pay the rent so you can’t leave….?
It’s a key part of relationships to have clear boundaries. Here’s the results part. “This is the criteria, this is our purpose, this is what we must achieve.” The team exists for that reason. So you need boundaries and need to manage results.Leaders must be Chief Belief Officers Click To Tweet
Marcella Bremer: This is very clear, helpful book for beginning leaders. But also for seasoned leaders because you can’t be perfect all the time… you might forget one or two of these things your team needs to hear you say.
David Dye: For seasoned leaders, the number 4: How can I help? is very helpful. That’s what leaders tell me. You can use the exercises quickly and get more time to do your work. They’re practical coaching questions that you can use. It helps avoid the pitfall of trying to save everyone, being the hero and becoming exhausted. While disempowering your team in the process – it’s demotivating when you do everything yourself and be the great helping hero.
Marcella Bremer: What is the most challenging part for yourself…?
David Dye: You’re the first one to ask me…. At various times in my life, I have struggled with every single one of these seven things. But I think it’s number 7: giving positive feedback and encouragement. I tended not to do that. My tendency is to push forward, to look for the goals and keep an eye at tomorrow – so I had to learn to be present with the person in front of me today. Where are they? Encourage and motivate them right there. Not worry about tomorrow, start from where we are now.
I heard this from my daughter, too. She showed me a school project, and I immediately gave her a few tips to improve it even further and she said: Why is what I do, never good enough?
That was the same point. Not giving positive feedback and being present in the moment, but pushing further….
Marcella Bremer: Very recognizable – I guess we can all relate to that. Is there something else we need to add, David?
David Dye: There’s one major barrier to applying the leadership tips in the book, and that’s what I call SASRNT Syndrome: So-and-so-really-needs-this. It’s our tendency to want to run off and give it to somebody else. While you should first apply it to your situation and become a better leader and bring people along on the journey. But it’s easier to see: They need this! While we should look in the mirror because we need this – first.
Which of these leadership lessons do you tend to forget? Which is your forte? We look forward to reading your answers in the comments!
David Dye is the Vice-president of Trailblaze Inc.
Marcella Bremer is an author and culture & change consultant. She co-founded this Leadership & Change Blog and OCAI-online.com.