by Kelly Vandever
I’d known Julie from “around” but we’d never worked together directly. She had been in Atlanta for a few years then relocated to Denver to take a new role as a peer to my manager. Some time later, she was promoted to managing the larger group and she became my manager’s manager.
I always had a favorable impression of Julie. She was professional, intelligent, and all evidence pointed to her being a good leader. Plus she sported a super cute hair cut!
When she moved into the role as the manager of my manager, she made a special trip to Atlanta to address the part of the organization that worked from here. As she began her presentation, she did something that I’d never seen one of my managers do before. She shared information about herself as a person before she launched into talking about our business direction.
She told us she was married with no children. She may have mentioned a dog – but I couldn’t swear to that. She told us that she and her husband loved to go hiking in the Rockies and I believe she mentioned a couple other outdoor activities that they liked to do.
It’s been ten years since she presented to us.
The only aspect of the business presentation that I remember was a quote she shared about ants from Henry David Thoreau – “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” However, I’m pretty sure the details I shared above about her personal life are accurate. I also remember how I felt when she shared about her personal life. It felt good. It felt like I knew her better as a real person – not just my boss’ boss.
Her sharing of herself has stuck with me all these years later and I still have a positive feeling when I think about Julie even though we haven’t been in contact for years (until I emailed her requesting her permission to share this remembrance in my blog that is).
Tell Your Stories
As a leader, when you tell your own personal stories, people get to know you. Your staff gets a glimpse into how you think. You reveal your values when they hear how you handled a particular situation. Personal stories about your work and your life help your people feel like they’re getting to know you. Getting to know you helps them to see the human side of you – and assuming you’re not a total jerk – as they get to know you, they’ll get to like you. If they know you, like you, and respect you, they’re more likely to do the things you need them to do, especially when times get tough.
When you tell your stories, don’t just speak about the times when you were brilliant. Include times when you didn’t look so good and that failure was part of a growth experience for you. (See earlier post about being vulnerable.)
Include stories where someone else is the hero such as an employee, a colleague, an old boss. Talk about the person who taught you the values and lessons you bring into the work place. None of us make it alone. Share stories where others are the smart ones and you humbly learned from them.
Sharing yourself as a person will change the way your employees look at you. Be willing to be personal.
Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world. Connect with Kelly and discover how being professionally human can bring you better business results.
Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.