Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why leaders need a better Face at Rest

As I put in my final preparations for this year's massive IBM InterConnect event, I suprisingly found a little time to reflect on the leadup. Anyone who gets involved in big trade shows or vendor events knows that mad, chaotic dash to the finish line. Some of us handle the stress well, others, well, not so much.

As I looked around at those who didn't handle the stress, an uncomfortable truth snuck up on me. Last year I was one of those people. I finally got to be a people manager, which I was thrilled about. But with it came unexpected new stresses I really wasn't mentally prepared for. I have an amazing team of folks that I lead, and could never in a million years have asked for a better group. It was more the extra workload as both a leader AND subject matter expert (in IBM, managers still have to actually develop continued subject matter expertise), and the subbtle and not-so-subtle shifts in sideways and upways teaming that caught me offguard.

As a result, I was, well, grumpy cat. As Kaplan Mobray said at the recent San Diego Art of Marketing conference, my FAR (face at rest) wasn't a positive one (an amusing meme right now is Bitchy Resting Face).

More importantly, though, was the effect it was having on that amazing team of mine. They were getting grumpy from my own grumpiness. My curtness and impatience led them in that direction. I had no idea that hoary old adage "Culture flows from the top" really was true. As a fantastic mentor of mine, a VP of development at IBM, said to me:

"I have to watch my words and actions more carefully than ever. Not because I'm in the public eye. But because I can send my entire team scattering in completely the wrong direction with one ill-timed word."

So watching some folks in the leadup to this massive event not taking the stress well, like me, reminded me it's not a luxury to have a positive attitude, especially when you're a manager or leader.

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