Leadership is Boring
Like many of you, I’m watching the job market and the economy, and I’m kind of holding my breath for what comes next.
It feels like we’re in a “will they, won’t they” rom-com with a recession, gen z is changing the workplace game, and smoother seas still feel a ways off.
So what is the role of a leader through all this? What do their teams need from them in the face of so much micro and macro uncertainty? And is what they want to be for their people what their people really want/need?
For me, great leaders don't get to swan dive into passion projects. They’ve gotta stay the course. They don’t follow their hearts and whims every day. They are routined and consistent. They don't get to unload on their teams about how hard their job is. They’ve gotta toe the line perfectly between measured and human.
If this sounds boring to you, GOOD! Great leadership is BORING. Or at least it should be. Great leaders understand the magic of monotony and the impact that being that stabilizing force can have on their teams.
Great leaders repeat themselves ALL THE TIME.
They have one message and they say it again and again even after they’re sick of it. In meetings, town halls, in one on ones, internally, externally, and wherever. What makes this extra boring for most leaders, especially the co-founder, entrepreneurial, tech-motivated type, is that this is not why they got into the game. They got into tech to pivot, move fast, break things, and iterate incessantly. Which is great and obviously works up until a point.
But the truth is, if your company is bigger than the number of people that can comfortably fit around a dining table, it’s your job to create and disseminate clear messages. If your company is large enough that you can’t talk to every person who works there every day, not only do you need to be repeating yourself, but all your leaders need to be as well.
As a leader, your team is looking to you all the time; for clues of what they can expect, for cues on how to be, and for comfort in the face of uncertainty. You owe it to them to be on the same page and to share and communicate a message they can count on, even if it’s just for the short term.
Great leaders have effective one-on-ones.
You and your team dedicate significant time, effort, and resources to attract exceptional talent from a pool of candidates. What a shame it would be to squander that by not continuing to invest in their ongoing success and growth.
The one-on-one is the most effective way to do this.
At this point, 1:1s have become the norm, at least in tech. But are we doing them BORING enough? I think, not. One-on-ones are still too often used to address specific issues, turning into mere status updates or a recounting of the latest exciting/frustrating thing you were thinking about.
Boringly effective 1:1s should include;
✅ a co-created agenda focused on the medium to big picture that identifies any tangible ways to provide support
✅ follow-up from the last meeting so each meeting builds on the last one
✅ notes taken by you, not by them
✅ a space for feedback, in both directions
✅ an overall informal vibe that encourages employees to share what’s really on their minds.
When people feel heard, they not only perform better but they also develop a stronger sense of connection and purpose. Listening is not only a virtue but also a powerful driver for business success. So carve out deliberate time. Turn off your notifications. Go slow to really hear what your reports are saying. And give them your full attention.
Sounds thrilling, no?
Great leaders are skilled coaches.
I always tell leaders that a coach approach is the ultimate productivity hack.
If you find yourself inundated with countless Slack messages, bombarded with easily answerable questions, or constantly putting out small fires throughout the day, then coaching is the solution you've been searching for!
Now, let's be real. Coaching, while it's my personal passion and the most fulfilling work in the world for me, may not be everyone's idea of excitement.
You have to be present. You have to listen and listen and listen. And, if you're doing it right, you don't get to solve any of the problems! You just get to sit there and ask questions and watch them figure it out on their own.
But, if you can embrace a coach approach, you will reap the rewards. Not only will you get so much time back, but you get to actively develop your people, which again, is excellent for business. You’ll be teaching them to rely on themselves and solve their own problems instead of leaning on you for the answers. You are empowering them to trust themselves so you can get back to the work that needs your attention most.
Not a terrible ROI.