Oct. 17, 2022

Did You Tell Them what the Meeting's About? (Challenge #37)

Did You Tell Them what the Meeting's About? (Challenge #37)

When going into a meeting with little to no context, it's easy to jump to the worst possible conclusion. Especially if a team member has had negative experiences with previous bosses who behaved unkindly toward them, their imagination can make things seem much more catastrophic than they are in reality!

 While it’s not your responsibility as a leader to make your team members feel 100% comfortable 100% of the time, simply changing the way you phrase a meeting request can make all the difference.

 There’s no need for meeting invitations to be mysterious. Remember, your pleasant surprise might be someone else’s sleepless night! Unless there is a legal or HR-related reason that you can’t, this is an official leadership challenge to ensure that your meeting agendas are crystal clear.

 It may seem like a small detail, but it's these details that show whether you are truly a thoughtful and kind leader—and you’ll save your team members any unnecessary “we need to talk” fear! 

 To learn more about the huge impact that just a little context can make, you won't want to miss today’s short and sweet episode.

 

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Transcript

When I first got into libraries, I can now see that I was still recovering from a brief-but-traumatic experience I’d had with a boss a few years prior. I won’t bore you with the details, as it’s pretty much the nonsense any young intelligent woman who didn’t know or care to hide her intelligence had to put up with in the late 90s in corporate America. After I was laid off from that gig I changed careers to social services, and worked under good bosses that helped me heal some. And when I got my first library job, I soon realized that the director was just about everything I’d ever wanted in a boss. Friendly, supportive, not intimidated by my brain or my mouth, he encouraged me to try cool ideas I had and even nudged me toward getting my PhD. A great deal of who I am as a leader is because of my years working with him.

So why, for the first two years I worked for him, did I break into a cold sweat every time he called me into his office?   

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Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. 

My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience advising educational and library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me how any leader in any situation can transform their organization so they can make their communities more educated and informed places to live, work, and thrive. 

Kind Leaders know how to make the tough decisions without becoming jerks. We grow our organizations’ impact without burning anyone out. And we’ve learned that when we stop controlling and start collaborating, the impossible becomes effortless. It all sounds pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. So stick around for the next 10 minutes, as I challenge you to part with perfection so you can build a better world. 

I didn’t break into a cold sweat because of anything my director had done, or would have done. Intellectually, I knew that I was doing a good job, if only because I’d promptly been promoted when a librarian position came open shortly after I finished my MLIS (one of a few key strokes of luck in my career, but that’s a topic for another episode). For me it was the fear of the unknown that freaked me out every time he’d say, “Hey, can you come into my office for a second?”.

 When someone doesn’t know why a meeting is happening, it’s easy to jump to the worst possible conclusion. And if a team member has had rough experiences with bosses who were behaving unkindly, then, let’s just say their imagination can make things all the worse. Just changing “can you come into my office?” To “Hey, can you come into my office? I had a quick question about next week’s desk schedule” Is a simple way to add a little context and ease anxiety.

Now to be clear, it is not your responsibility as a leader to make your team members 100% comfortable, 100% of the time. Your responsibility is to make your school or library run as humanely, effectively, and collaboratively as possible within the constraints of your situation. You’re their boss, not their therapist. also there are times where you genuinely have to play things closer to the vest than this. In those cases, your best bet is to give no notice at all, or the bare minimum the situation requires. But be honest with yourself. Do you REALLY have to make that meeting invite a big mystery? You may think of it is a fun buildup to a pleasant surprise, but you could be giving a team member sleepless nights and indigestion for no reason other than your thoughtlessness or power plays.

Long Story Short, unless there is some genuine HR or Legal based reason why you can’t give at least some basic detail, tell your team members what meetings are about when you set them. It may seem like a small detail, but it’s the small details that show whether you are truly a thoughtful and kind leader. Once this episode is done, go through your emails and meeting invites. Did you accidentally leave someone in suspense? If so, fix it. It’s one of the rare leadership challenges I pose here that can be accomplished in less time than it took to listen to this episode—and this was a short episode!

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Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give the show a rating or review—or even better, share this episode with your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.  

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