When I was a Wall Street Journal reporter, my bureau chief bluntly told me one day that I took too long when interviewing some individuals — and sometimes that was a good thing. I got insights about the interviewees’ views on other topics.
He told me that, when I finished writing the story I was assigned, I should write notes about their answers to questions I asked that were not directly related to the story. Then in future stories, I might see where one of those interviewees had an unexpected yet relevant angle and quote them.
In effect, my bureau chief showed me a talent I did not know I had, that I saw patterns between apparently unrelated things people said.
That insight was life changing for me.
Consequently I developed a habit of explicitly telling others when I saw them demonstrate a specific talent that appeared to be hidden to them.
My boss, the bureau chief, was also extremely blunt – and invariably right — in describing my shortcomings and thus ultimately became a valuable sponsor for me in my career. Over time our relationship morphed into one of mutual mentoring, one of the most precious and continuing traits to our flourishing friendship.
Hint: A mutuality mindset multiplies opportunities and moments of camaraderie for us. Bonus benefit: this approach supports organizations’ transformation into a team of teams, as advocated by General Stan McChrystal.
Vividly and specifically praise others when they shine a spotlight on individuals who are showing their strengths. In so doing, connective leaders can contagiously create close bonds and model connective behavior that embodies the sentiment Rosabeth Moss Kanter advocates for leading: “I stand behind you. My job is to make yours successful.”
When They Make a Mistake, Enable Them to Save Face and Self-Correct
What if a team mate, let’s call her Jennifer, successfully completed a project that was vital to the division you supervise, yet left colleagues in the lurch on other projects – without telling them?
Act as if she understood she’d made a mistake. Meet with her privately and say, “I appreciate your great work on that project. And I know you feel badly that your colleagues didn’t learn, in time, that they would need to rapidly make adjustments to get the other projects completed. In our next meeting, how do you want to explain to them how you will do things differently in similar situations in the future? You have strong talents and I want to fully back you in gaining their support.”
Tip: As a mutuality minded leader, demonstrate that being a strong team player is as important as being a rising star — and act as if that is also their true intention.