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'Really' meeting people where they are, as leaders.

We have all heard the phrase "we need to meet people where they are", and used it often ourselves, but how do we do this? This article will give you ideas on how to #SHIFT your thinking and create #IMPACT in the spaces you lead and influence.

In the learning space, we reference ‘meeting the leader where they are’ which in practice means that the process needs to cater to individuals to have their personal AHA’s when they are ready, in the context that makes sense for them and in the area that matters most to them.

From a leadership perspective, the same can be true for the way we lead teams in a manner that allows people to contribute at their best by meeting them where and how they work best. The one-size-fits-all management and leadership no longer work because the world has changed, people have changed and what organisations expect from their people has also changed.

What does this mean for leaders? We speak about leaders as being authentic, and this is apt for meeting people where they are because we can only meet people where WE are. This does not mean we need to have experienced their array of experiences, but rather that we need to be able to empathise, and actively listen. What it does suggest is that leaders need to put in the work and have deep self-insight before they can seek to understand others, unlock their potential and create a socially safe space for their teams to innovate and perform.

'Really' meeting people where they are, as leaders.

Here are a few considerations to #SHIFT your thinking and create the #IMPACT in the spaces you lead and influence.​

Psychological Safety

The four tenets of psychological safety based in neuroscience are Bonding, Belonging, Identity and Purpose. Elements of these can be practiced in your teams. The leader sets the tone for this by how they communicate, how vulnerable they are, and how information is shared to garner trust and build on it over time.

Lean into your strengths!

An area of self-awareness especially useful in high-performance teams are strengths-focused teams, who play to their strengths. As the late great Nelson Mandela once said: “Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front.” The thought of leading from the back suggests that leaders need to know whom to put in front based on their strengths to drive the performance of the team.

Although there are a number of assessment tools that focus on highlighting strengths, another idea could be to request feedback from colleagues, project team members, family, and friends. Listing and reflecting on the strengths you have, overlayed with what others think your strengths are, provides a rich picture for you to work with. Ask your team to do the same and put this into practice by facilitating a session where each team member (including yourself) shares these.

We do not have all the answers, but we can have some really good questions.

A useful self- and team-awareness tool is to practice questioning techniques. By working with a peer coach, you can practice and appreciate the power of incisive questions. Request that your peer coach not give advice, but they can ask you some key questions. Once you are comfortable and have practiced your questioning technique, apply them to situations to create insight for your team. Start to create a practice of asking questions in your team sessions, however, create awareness for what you are doing (trust first) so people know why you are asking questions and not giving the answers. The questioning technique, a basis for coaching, is a way of understanding your team to meet them where they are, and in the process, you are raising their thinking and reflection opportunities.

Working through your own triggers

Leaders are human and there are situations that have occurred that may rear its ugly head occasionally, we cannot predict when these would occur, however, we can respond with more grace. When you feel an emotion surfacing as the fire in your belly, pause and sit with it. Think through why you are experiencing this and when you have felt this way before. Reflecting on these emotions without judgement provides the basis for processing them.

Remind your team that you too have elements you have to work through and encourage them that it is okay to do the same. Vulnerability is a human quality, and expressing and encouraging others to do the same encourages the positive elements associated with belonging.

Self-awareness is a rare and powerful insight, and there are a number of tools available to generate this. It begins with being comfortable with some discomfort that self-awareness work will surface, and vulnerable enough to embrace it as it will only #SHIFT your thinking and help you to meet others where they are.

At SBI, we are catalysts for change and through our process we augment the way leaders think about disruption and the future, which will help the way they respond to the same. Our process, underpinned by neuroscience is about unlocking said ‘AHA’s’ for individuals to create the shift they need to.


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