Barbara Mannino

Walking the Talk of Leadership: It Has to be More than Skin Deep (Barbara Mannino)

Winning Well Connection

I first met Barbara when she interviewed me during the launch of my first book, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. Here’s a taste of some of the work we did together  Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Boss and 7 Tips to Turnaround Career Stagnation.   What I appreciate most in working with Barbara is that she truly role models the balance of results and relationships, working to make a human connection with the people she interviews and maintaining the integrity of the conversation. -Karin

Being  kind to others may not be spelled out in a leader’s job description, but it turns out it may be a helpful affirmation on every leader’s list.

It seems so simple but in today’s high-pressure, competitive global economy, the message sometimes gets drowned out by discussion of the business case and/or lost in the context of the larger need of the organization to innovate, win and standout in the marketplace.

There’s nothing wrong with executing on the business case to enable a company to deliver on its value proposition and excel and differentiate itself. But things in organizations begin to go awry when the business case is all there is.

Fortunately, thought leaders in the leadership space are pushing back and suggesting new MO’s for organizations in which winning at any cost to employees is currently all there is.

Karin Hurt and David Dye talk about soul in Winning Well A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul; Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton recommend compassion in Awakening Compassion at Work; and Nate Regier tells us about compassionate accountability in Conflict without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability. Even happiness gets a nod from researchers Nancy Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk.

The mythological view of the hard-charging leader who has to rake people over the coals to make them accountable diminishes for leaders very quickly as they realize that model of leadership doesn’t result in the success and the organizations they want, says Woline. What it does create, however, is people who experience high levels of burnout.

Bottom line: Corporations will only get the maximum results they need when their employees feel respected, valued and purposeful. To succeed, managers need balance: They must push people to achieve while creating an environment that makes them truly want to. And this can only occur when leaders show their fundamental human side.

You’re not being a pushover, say Hurt and Dye. You’ll be a manager known for getting results, one whom people respect, and with whom people want to work.

While some corporations are taking steps to respect employee work/life balance (e.g., flexible work policies or arrangements, paid family leave, frequent versus annual or biannual performance reviews) their work isn’t done until leaders evolve their corporations to ensure their everyday parlance and behaviors are kind and respectful.

It is only when leaders show their human side that employees will be respected as individuals with unique personalities, work styles and needs. It is only then that employees will know and feel that the corporation supports them and tells them “We’ve got your back.”

Small Acts That Make a Big Difference

Control your emotions – If you tend to react with emotion or anger when things don’t go as planned, do whatever it takes to help get your emotions in check before speaking to an individual or addressing a problem.

Have fun – There’s nothing like humor to lighten the load of a grueling day or week. Use laughter to inject some cheer into your workplace.

Dig deep – It’s always important to offer a thank you and a compliment when an employee has submitted good work, made an interesting suggestion or behaved in some small way that furthered the objectives or goodwill of the team. Make sure your words include a description of why and how an action mattered.

Understand life happens – Everyone has bad days or makes mistakes. Create a comfortable environment in which employees know that’s okay. Also, choose words and actions that help an employee reset his/her bad mood.

Listen to the little guy/gal – When people have ideas, listen to them—not just the rising stars but everyone. Knowing they are heard and that their opinions are valued helps employees build confidence.

Be humble – Saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll get you the answer,” being accountable and, even in some cases, being tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating shows you’re confident and humble. Plus, being authentic makes others feel more at ease.

Write kindly – When relying on text or email to communicate, you lose the nuance of tone. Be mindful of how you frame your words—and how you punctuate them. When you use multiple exclamation points, question marks, or a combination of both, you are inflicting guilt. Behavior like this not only offends and disturbs the recipient; it also pokes holes in the sense of confident humility a leader must internalize and project.

Winning Well Reflection

We appreciate Barbara’s list of small acts that make a big difference. So often, the power in your professional relationships comes through the small, everyday exchanges that we often take for granted. There are so many good ideas here, but one that jumps out is to ‘write kindly.’ In the harried pace of business, there is still time to watch your tone and think about how your words will come across. Thanks, Barbara!

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