The human face of (your) leadership


The recent MacLeod report on Engagement found that leadership and management were the key drivers of engagement. Research from Accenture finds that 80% of the variation in engagement is attributable to leadership, and Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe’s research reports that the attitudes and behaviours of senior managers were ‘formidable blocks’ to engagement.

As leaders, we know that engagement drives performance but are we as aware that it’s our leadership behaviours that drive engagement? And that it’s not the quality of our strategy or our spreadsheets that engages our people but the way that we connect with them as human beings, moment by moment…

Engage - Human Face - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Taken directly from our current work with clients, here are examples of what leaders are doing to demonstrate the human face of their leadership:

  • Know the names of your team’s partners and children (and make sure they know yours).  You’d be surprised by how many of us don’t know this about our teams
  • Share something of who you are with your people. We often ask our teams about their weekends but don’t reciprocate. Sharing something about your own weekend or your own personal circumstances, for example, will build trust and deepen the relationship
  • Speak to 5 people before you switch on your computer.  This piece of advice is from Tim Smit of the Eden project who suggests you talk to 20 people…but you may prefer to start with five to begin with!
  • Phone one of your team when there’s no ‘real’ reason to do so. So often we call to check on a deadline, or to relay some client information. This time just call to have a chat and see how they’re doing. Make your relationship with that person the real reason for the call.
  • Give people your undivided attention. How often are we in a meeting and checking texts when someone is speaking?  Or glancing over someone’s shoulder as we’re talking at something else that’s going on in the office? We know how good it feels when we are truly listened to and we need to provide our own people with that same feeling.

Focus on the human aspects of your leadership…and see what difference it makes to you and your people.


Helena Clayton - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

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4 Responses to “The human face of (your) leadership”

  1. seanatbluesky Says:

    Great blog….and I agree with your thoughts, people connect to people. Knowing your team is so important, for me you have to start from a place of actually caring…asking genuine questions, if you ask ‘what did someone do at the weekend?’ and don’t really care, people will pick up on that….

    I would also add walk and connect with people all day long, if you have been sat at your PC for more than hour..take 5 mins out to connect with people

  2. Kev Urwin Says:

    Hi Helen. I loved the “reminder”, thank you. Too often we think we are engaging and when we review find that we’ve lost that total commitment to that engagement. Two other things we have going in our team at the moment are a “funbook” and “Step away from your monitor”. The funbook has some biographical details, a picture from outside of work and the three people that you would invite to dinner. Whilst we can just read it, our Team Leaders are making a call a week, to someone they don’t know well, to have those conversations. “Step away from your monitor” is a 30 minute session, minimum once a week, for all our people to have a conversation away from their desk, or if by phone with your monitor turned off. We have provided some ideas for the converstaion (pure development, coaching sessions, getting to know a function etc) but have left it open. We’re getting good feedback on both initiatives and looking for wider participation all the time. Thanks again. Kev

  3. helenaatbluesky Says:

    Hi Kev, pleased you appreciate the post – and I really like your suggestions. Anything that gets us away from our pc’s from time to time is good thing! I wonder, what difference have you noticed in the team since you introduced these practices?


  4. Kev Urwin Says:

    Hi Helena. It’s still éarly days with both initiatives, however we’re starting to see changes in the following ways. Bear in mind that this a function with five teams.
    People are using the “Fun Book” as an introduction to people that they haven’t yet met-this is leading to coversations about work.Hence our knowledge of how our teams function is increasing.
    We have a people strategy group who are making one call each per week to people we don’t know. This allows us to lead the way and when we are speaking to each person we promote both of the initiatives.
    Some people are using the “Step Away” process to find out more about processses that they can use or support with. So our collective knowledge is increasing. For example one of my team talked to the Project Management Officer about their role and found out that they had experience with budget pivots.These are a feature of some work that we are doing at present so we have a source of information to help us through.
    Most importantly it is starting to change attitudes, which will in the longer term help us to positively change behaviours. Where did I learn that from? Oh yes-Blue Sky! Thanks again. Kev

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