We have all encountered the ubiquitous office drive by – a knock on the door followed by “you got a sec?” At best, they are a productive diversion from our day-to-day routine. At worst, they derail our focus and deliver someone else’s problems to our doorstep. It was during my own failed attempt at an office drive by that I received important lessons in leadership that are still serving me 25 years later.
Upon hearing my knock followed by “hey, you got a sec?”, the senior executive looked-up and replied, “It depends.
- Are you looking for somewhere to vent frustration?
- Are you looking for someone to help you think through an idea?
- Or are you looking for some feedback that will help you grow as a leader?”
Without a pause, he went on to add,
- “If you are looking to vent, I suggest you first be sure that it is worth your time. I have learned that it’s not worth my time.
- If you are looking to think through an idea, I suggest you first enlist some of your peers to develop a thoughtful proposal that can be submitted to the executive committee.
- If you are looking for feedback that will help you grow as a leader, we will find the time for that.”
To be honest, I don’t remember how I replied. I think I said something about always wanting his advice on how to grow as a leader, but that I could see that he was clearly busy. All of which was delivered as I was attempting to stumble my way backwards out of his office. Needless to say, I left that exchange feeling embarrassed and with an appropriately bruised ego. With the benefit of a little time and intentional reflection, the exchange provided me 4 lessons in leadership that I still carry with me.
- Leaders don’t waste time venting or complaining.
- Be a good steward of others’ time and intentional with your requests.
- Leaders make the time to develop other leaders.
- Model the behaviors we expect from others
So what about you?
- What is your process to convert “failures” into new learning – new action?
- What leadership lessons are your interactions modeling for others?