In the seventh chapter of a series on the characteristics of effective leadership, IQA President Shane Braddy discusses the challenges of being a manager and developing trust, honesty and rapport with workers and staff.
Earlier this year, the Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA) invited me to present a monthly article based on each of the seven core characteristics of effective leadership (Figure 1).
Rather than write all seven of these scenarios myself, I invited a number of people to make a contribution, from a diverse demographic and a number of industries, which I hope you have found interesting.
This is the sixth piece from IQA President Shane Braddy, who selected Trust in your Leadership, his story on becoming an Effective Leader.
I suggest that you find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy a coffee while you read this enlightening piece.
I offered the following brief explanation for Trust in your Leadership in my book The Emerging Leader:
Appreciate yourself, exhibit your values, walk your talk and trust in your worth. Trustworthy leaders work with their people to establish believability, dependability and reliability through open and transparent behaviour that lacks self-interest.
SHANE BRADDY’S STORY
Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was one of the books that gave me some sort of insight because, from a leadership perspective, I have always felt different and I was looking for learning that resonated with my beliefs and values on what it takes to be an effective leader.
What do I mean? Leadership is all about what we are doing together – it cannot be about you – it is striving to do something with a sense of commitment together with your team. It is the strong connection you make with team members. It is about being inspired and being inspirational. It is about having vision and values that are shared by your team.
You need to build strong relationships with your team because you are not only employing the person, you are also going to have an impact on their whole being. There is so much going on in people’s lives and you need to build trust – enough trust that they will share things with you.
Because of your vision and values, you have your direction, you know where you want to go, and there are bound to be times when you may tend to leave people behind. Sometimes, with other stuff going on, your team may get lost and feel unable to keep up with your plans. Perhaps something is going on in their personal or work life, they may be dealing with another manager or team member with whom they have a problem. When you sense that a person does not quite agree with you, or they are not there yet, be prepared to invest time to unpack their concerns, to recognise what is going on, look for those triggers by asking open-ended questions. Explore with them their reasons for not being fully involved or fully embracing it right now. Encourage them to open up and to have enough trust to be able to tell you what is affecting them and whether it is an issue at work or at home.
Some people have an unrealistic notion of leadership, where the leader inspires the people and they blindly follow. Well, it does not happen that way! Leadership is about constantly monitoring progress and, when necessary, returning to the back of the pack to encourage those who are struggling.
As the leader, your buttons will be pushed – and you can over-react – I definitely over-reacted during my first two formative years as a quarry manager, thinking that it was the manager’s role to hold people accountable at all times and I let several people go on the basis that they were not doing their job properly. I know it was misguided back in those days, although that was the industry norm when productivity was below expectations, due to what was perceived or otherwise, eg operators stopping equipment to talk with mates.
With experience, I realised my actions were not wise and not always right as they were based on perception rather than fact. I always felt uncomfortable making those harsh decisions but it was only when I worked out what was triggering my reactions, I realised if I kept on doing this, I would not get the best out my team or me– because it was not who I am.
BEING YOUR BEST
I did not have a formal mentor at that time. However, there was a chap that I looked up to who was a very experienced manager and a father of a large family – I believe of 11 children – so you can imagine I considered that he had a greater mastery of leadership than I did. He was a calming influence and suggested that I should not over-react. To take time to find out the facts, to listen carefully and be considered when making decisions.
There is no doubt that I had started at the wrong end of the stick but I found my way, as I began to mature and learn different things, through a number of people who influenced me at various times and helped and guided me. Mostly, I just wanted to be the best I could be – but sometimes I was trying to prove myself too much because I had come from the frontline.
I was given a lucky break, for which I am forever grateful, because of my connection with the Melbourne Football Club at the time, when one of the company’s senior managers, who had previously played for Melbourne, asked me if I wanted to join the trainee quarry manager’s program which enabled me to go to Box Hill TAFE relatively early and start my formal management training.
I also have been lucky in terms of my family upbringing for which I feel fortunate. It is not just about you, it is about making sure you are doing your best to produce the best outcomes for your family, and whenever your family is in need, you go and help. My father’s mantra was always “I don’t care what happens in life, just make sure you are there for one another”. The same mantra is followed by our families.
I guess that key message carries on into work and many other things. When you see people in need, you look out for them. With this underlying principle, I can go into a workplace and pick up the vibe. I just chat with people and, before too long, I sense the culture, I can see what is going on and I learn by listening to their stories. Sometimes it is necessary to get around a little more frequently, to speak to various people, to ask questions and actively listen – because you may find that there is a systemic issue at this site that is driving poor culture.
I was introduced to a book by Tim Spiker – Who, not What – which said that three quarters of your effectiveness as a leader comes from who you are, not what you do. It talks about being inwardly sound and others-focused. To elaborate:
- The “who” of leadership means inwardly sound and others focused:
– Inwardly sound means being secure and settled, self-aware, principled, holistically healthy, and purposeful.
– Others-focused means being humble, attentive, curious, empathic and emotionally mature.
- The “what” of leadership means to communicate effectively, ensure execution, marshal resources, drive culture, pursue vision, think strategically, cultivate talent and unleash motivation.
Being an effective leader takes courage and being vulnerable from time to time. Vulnerability is both a strength and a weakness. It is a weakness when you do not know what to do with it. It is a strength when you know your weaknesses and you are always seeking improvement and trying to do your best. When you know that there are going to be gaps in terms of what you do, you seek to learn, you seek other ways to do it. It gets frustrating at times because always trying to do something better or different may be difficult to sustain, but you are seeking a better way, so that is the vulnerability of who you are.
So from my earliest days of being appointed quarry manager, I was extremely vulnerable in both technical and leadership knowledge. My weakness was not responding well and reacting in a way that you think others expect you to react – even when that is not who you really are. My strength was that I understood that I was vulnerable and did not know a lot of things. I was largely aware of my lack of competency in a number of areas which allowed me a chance to do something about it, but there are some people who are “unconsciously incompetent” or in other words lack self-awareness and they do not know where those gaps are and therefore the opportunities for improvement.
Leadership is about being transparent and being yourself. I think that people appreciate you more when they see your vulnerability. You are not putting on a show, not pretending, you don’t wear a mask, you are who you are and not what you do, so when you get things wrong, people are prepared to give you some slack because you are seen as being genuine, they understand your intent, your motivation and what you are trying to do. However, if it is all about you, then watch out!
Here is a final thought. As I completed this piece, I received a text from a friend I work with whom I greatly respect. It read: “When I talk to managers, I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important.” •
Shane Braddy is the IQA President and the national quarries general manager for resources and development at Boral Australia.
This article appears in October issue of Quarry Magazine.