A few years ago when I was six months into a new role, I asked my colleagues for their initial assessment of my performance. I discussed this with them face-to-face then asked them to submit their feedback, comparing my stated goals with what had actually transpired. My colleagues at the time dutifully responded except for one key person in the organization. When asked why he didn’t submit his feedback, his initial response was a vague comment about me being “new.” When pressed to clarify, he candidly stated that he didn’t know me well enough yet to trust me with his honest feedback.
That experience reminded me of the old adage “leadership happens between the fence posts.” In this metaphor, the fence posts represent critical incidents or key issues, while the space between the fence posts represents ongoing relationships at work. If you get to know your colleagues well on a regular basis, demonstrate your authentic interest and your trustworthiness, it affects what happens when inevitable challenges arise. Neglected relationships also rear their head at crunch times, but invariably not in a good way. It’s leadership in the form of relationship maintenance between the fence posts that matter most.
In Balanced Leadership terms, this is all about invoking the best of both worlds, as it were. Getting things done is a priority in the fear-based world, connecting with people is central in the love-based world. Put another way, we report in one world and relate in the other. Too much or too little of either erodes our leadership capacity, while the right balance fosters strong relationships and effective results.
Experience is a great teacher and my interaction with my colleague reminded me that what happens “between the fence posts” makes all the difference.