I always considered myself helpful and available to my team, until I asked them if they thought I was.
Long pauses, averted eyes, and pained smiles met me.
I had become like the parents of Lake Wobegon, believing all their children were above average. I was blind to my own deficiencies as a leader.
The issue, several of my directs pointed out, is that I would pop by their office with a question or an update, deliver it quickly, and then walk away once I had accomplished what I came there to do.
This makes sense in my world, because the work is pressing, and standing in the doorway of their office doesn't accomplish anything.
My team however, interpreted this behavior as being inaccessible and "busy".
[Digression: A personal goal of mine is to never refer to myself as "busy" regardless of the content of my calendar or project list. And if my team is my highest priority as a leader, then I should never be too busy for them. This particular instant may not work to engage them, but their concerns are my priorities and should be addressed as such.]
Often, my team had an item for further discussion or approval, but I wasn't standing in their doorway long enough for them to voice it. And so, in the aggregate, they perceived me as disconnected and unavailable. They thought I was too busy for them.
My actions were betraying my values.
The remedy to align your action and your values is three-fold:
Acknowledge the blindspot. By definition, you can't see your own blindspots so you'll need to be proactive in seeking outside perspective. Humility and curiosity are helpful here. Announcing your values to your team and giving them permission to flag you on behavior inconsistent with those stated values creates a culture of feedback that staves off the 'ivory tower' dynamic of positional authority.
Determine the set of behaviors that align your action and your values. In this case, it simply meant taking a moment to ask: Is there something more on your mind?
Track the behavior over time. If you don't measure it, you can't manage it. A simple yes / no chart that answers the question: "did I ask I my direct if there was something more on their mind before leaving their office?" will suffice.
Is there an area where your actions and your values are out of alignment? What can you do about it today?