When I was starting out in my first managerial role I was given a small library of books on management theory by a succession of well meaning friends and colleagues. Feeling obliged, I ploughed through the lot of them and discovered that there was little to distinguish between them, excepting the scenarios with which they illustrated their advice.
Some were thinner on practicalities than others and many were stuffed full of impenetrable jargon, charts and data. One had a bibliography almost as long as the text itself.
It was one of the more frustrating and unrewarding events of my nascent career.
However, two simple words struck me and stuck.
So I started to look at the way the most respected leaders in organisations worked with their people. Their presence, whether physical or otherwise was the single most striking characteristic.
They met their people commitments. They made and started meetings on time. They made time and space for team and individual communication. They put aside personal feelings about personality to seek people-centred solutions. They delegated appropriately and without opacity. They gave space for individual creativity or innovation and spared blushes at glorious failure. By their presence they defined a culture that respected individual and team contribution. They gave constructive feedback in a timely manner. They paid attention to the whole person, not just outputs. They communicated targets with clarity.
People are messy. Complicated, contradictory, contrary and confusing. You can only see them fully by being present. An impatient, invisible, irascible manager does not see people. They merely see obstacles to the imposition of their will or that of the organisation.
They do not hear the nuance of what people are telling them. They fail the business and the people who make it function and who deliver profitability.
Ignore people at your peril or the one thing you’ll certainly be present for is your exit interview.