I was coachinga CEO yesterday on how to manage the impact of his behaviors with his employees. He complained that sometimes people misunderstand him or take him literally when he is being sarcastic. “They should know when I’m joking around.”
Not necessarily, I told him. Employees see and hear everything that you do and say. They have their own interpretations.
Leaders create impressions, send ripples through the workforce, and set the rumor mill to work. I call this the leadership shadow. Sometimes the shadow falls in places where leaders don’t see it, and so they don’t know the consequences. If the boss jokes around with one employee and others hear it, how might the others respond? What will they do with that information?
Leaders must pay attention to all the little nuances that others pick up. They must listen to themselves and ask how things might be misinterpreted. They must ask people for feedback. “How did people take it when I made the announcement?”
Pay attention and watch where your shadow falls. It might just land in your blind spot.