Little things can leave a big impression in life. Small gestures such as bringing a friend her favorite cup of coffee, or taking over the childcare duties from your partner can sometimes leave lasting impressions.
However, there are some small acts that can lead to big consequences.
I recently came across the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, Bosses’ Small Gestures Send Big Signals. The article discussed if you are leader every little move you make is pinpointed and scrutinized.
For example, the article interviewed Linda Hudson, president and CEO of BAE Systems Inc., a global defense company. As soon as she was appointed, she told her lieutenants that she expected “rapid response” to email. Well, those lieutenants took that advice to heart and slept with their BlackBerrys so they could immediately answer her 3 a.m. messages.
Sure, Hudson wanted her e-mails answered but she also wanted her employees to get some sleep. She had to tell her colleagues that they could sleep at night, and she told the WSJ, “It will probably be a few months before we all get used to each other.”
Hudson experienced “executive amplification,” a widespread phenomenon that can affect a career. This is when staffers scrutinize – and possible misconstrue – your deeds, dress, and words.
Even though the executive may send out wrong signals to the employees – the executive themselves might have no idea. As people rise in the ranks, they receive more filtered information. Chances are pretty good that, over time, many of these leaders will operate with blind spots.
If you’re concerned about blind spots, one solution is to gather 360 Feedback from peers, direct reports, and external stakeholders.
The article gave an example of how 360 feedback pursued a newly appointed executive at an apparel company to alter her misinterpreted appearance. This executive wore designer clothing and jewelry, while the rest of the workplace favored casual business dress.
360 Feedback revealed that her employees felt that she was “trying to be better than us,” and that “she is the only one that doesn’t know this is bothering people.”
Once the executive received this feedback and went over the results with her business coach, she decided to tone down her appearance right away.
I highlighted this WSJ article because I think it provides a great example of how some leaders work with blind spots, and have no idea how their gestures are affecting their employees. This is why gathering feedback is so vital – it is hard for people to be objective about their own behavior. Effective leaders are open to feedback, both positive and negative, and will use it to improve their performance.