Before Shereen and I embarked on Thread, we made a list of non-negotiables for new projects. As in, things we were adamant we would turn away, regardless of the company, offer, etc. One of the first ones came to us when we were talking about conducting culture analyses. Which was “if they won’t give us access to all levels (read: namely entry-level), we won’t do it.”
And we meant it. And still do. For 2 reasons…
(1) When we don’t get access to all levels (namely entry-levels), we likely aren’t getting the full picture. Not getting the full picture = not solving the right problem. (This is a topic for another time…)
(2) Perhaps more importantly, not giving your entry level employees a voice means that you likely don’t view them as leaders in their own right. We knew we’d be fighting an uphill battle with any organization or team that didn’t empower their employees from the start.
If you’re new here, we want to introduce you to our core framework – ME-WE-US. If you’ve been around for a while, consider this a crash-course refresher.
We love the ME-WE-US model because so often, we think of leadership starting at the “we” level. As in, you aren’t a leader until you have a “team” to run. While we understand and appreciate different roles and levels of authority, we also believe every employee takes on a leadership role every single day – even if they are “only” leading themselves. (This, arguably, is the hardest to master, after all and the first step to a long journey).
What do we mean by that last part specifically? We’ve seen too many organizations bypass their entry-level and/ or individual contributors, ignoring their “leadership” capability. This means they’re both overlooking AND downplaying the day-to-day role of leading the client/customer side or internal teams, people they might be mentoring, or their overall (positive) influence. (We can always feel a “negative” impact).
That’s why we are so passionate about ME-WE-US.
Before you can leader anyone else, you have to be able to lead yourself. Are you keeping up with your own to-do list? Are you aware of how you show up? Are you communicating effectively? Are you building in time to stay healthy (mentally, physically, spiritually…whatever that looks like for you)? Are you advocating for and receiving your own personal and professional development? Are you aware of the people around you?
Here’s a great article on how and why investing in yourself (ME) is so important. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/10/18/three-reasons-why-leaders-should-invest-in-their-own-professional-development/?sh=149d1009ba44)
Once you’ve taken care of yourself, you can truly start to invest in others. And, we know that feels selfish, but remember… we put on our own oxygen masks first so we can help the person next us. And, “you can’t fill from an empty cup.”
Whether you’re in a positional place of leadership or not, people are always watching. Watching how you react to situations, watching how you interact with others.
One of our favorite ways of seeing leadership skills early on is through micro-affirmations. For example, next time you’re in a meeting (zoom included), try practicing simply micro-affirmations like “yes, and” to build on someone’s idea. Even better if you acknowledge their contribution first with “Wow Shereen, that was a great example. I’d like to build on what Shereen just said with…” It acknowledges others by giving credit where it’s due AND shows you’re listening — two top “leadership” qualities.
So we always start with me. You can’t effectively inspire a team or lead an organization when you aren’t in control of yourself. And, while you only ever truly have control over yourself, you can influence others with how you act.
So we focus a lot on the “me” of leadership. Because being intentional with how we are speaking to and about others will set the tone for how the overall culture of the organization grows.