The second principle of shepherding centers on how we engage with others. Shepherding requires that we enter the world of others differently.
Engaging well should not be an afterthought or something that just happens. Most of all, it is not about us. Engaging others effectively requires emotional labor and it is possible the other person may not reciprocate. As leader we must have the courage to take the risk.
The secret to effective engagement that many of us miss; from the most seasoned leader to anyone who leads others is quite simple. Are you ready?
The secret is that we must engage them on their terms, not ours. We must care about issues important to them, not ones important to us.
What does it look like at work?
Simple example. When setting up a meeting for the first time with someone, what do we do? We go to them. In practical terms if people feel more comfortable meeting in their office we go there. If meeting in an employee breakroom is what they prefer, we go there. If an outside venue is appropriate, then maybe the local coffee shop is where we go.
Some people might think they should come to our office. “I have back to back meetings so my office would be the best use of time”, they say.
While that might be true, there is a message being sent that might make our team member feel less valued. For some, always coming to meet us can be a stumbling block in the relationship. If we want people to follow us because they want to, how we choose to engage is critical.
How does ineffective engagement feel?
In short, uncomfortable and awkward.
So, let me give you an example of what happens when people enter our lives the wrong way. It occurs sometimes when people with authority ask us to respond to personal questions we didn’t intend to share, but feel compelled to because they asked. Has that ever happened to you?
The unsettling sensation deep inside is felt when we have not been engaged on our terms. This is very challenging to get passed for some people, so as leaders we need to be empathetic and avoid making others feel uncomfortable. Consider taking our time before getting too personal.
You might be wondering, shouldn’t they care about us too? Possibly. But that is not the point of effective engagement. We will take examine connection (shepherding principle 3) in a separate post.
The Practice of Effective Engagement Simplified
For engagement to have a chance, we must listen and respect the other person. When we do this, especially in our early encounters, it may feel very one sided. Lead with curiosity and in the time you have together let them take you on a journey. No expectations of where the conversation might go, just enjoy the ride.
Honestly, don’t we all need to do better in how we engage others? How do we do this differently? We can do this by giving them the gift of our eyes, our ears, and our heart. We must really want to know about them and to do that we have to get to know them personally as they are willing to share. Here some thoughts to consider as you think about how to engage others on their terms.
• Understand what they like
• Understand their needs
• What they are good at
• Their personality
• Any special talents
What if I don’t?
You might be thinking, “You don’t understand, I don’t have time to do that with all of my people, we got a lot of work to do.” I humbly suggest that maybe some reflection is in order. Instead, could we ask ourselves honestly, how many people want to follow me?
An empathetic leader goes where their people are just like a shepherd. Engaging the right way is one prerequisite in becoming the leader that others want to follow.
Our people are waiting for us to enter their world. How will you do it?
Bonus: Exciting News About Shepherding Principles
Shepherding can work in every domain of our lives (family, work, community, and in our self-improvement). Entering the world of others on their terms is especially effective at home and with our loved ones. Try entering a conversation, not expecting to get anything out of it and see where it goes. We all (me especially) have trouble listening, but with my commitment and practice I am improving. So can you.