Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Leading the Left Brain Employee

This essay is directed at all leaders who have a preference for Right Brain Thinking and have the responsibility of leading an employee(s) who has a preference for Left Brain Thinking.

Of the Center for Servant Leadership’s Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader, perhaps none is more important than Self Awareness. You have no chance of understanding others if you do not first understand yourself. “A person cannot be an effective leader if he doesn’t know who he/she is,” says Bill Turner. As predictable as we are as human beings, we do not all think the same way. This is the basic tenet of self-awareness. As a person who has a preference for Right Brain Thinking (intuitive, emotional, nonverbal, whole, spatial, and picture) it is incumbent upon you to understand your strengths and weaknesses.

A person who has a preference for Left Brain Thinking is: logical, rational, often factual and objective, skeptical, predictable, loves math, guidelines, procedures, and has lots of rules (for everything). Typically, but not always, Left Brain dominant thinkers think they’re smarter than everyone else. This is due in large part to most of our secondary schools being made up of the Left Brain, for the Left Brain, and by the Left Brain, and all through school the Left Brain dominant thinker was told by his teacher how smart he was. This is precisely why Left Brain dominant thinkers can be perceived as arrogant. As an employee, the Left Brain dominant thinker can be a tremendous asset to a Right Brain leader. However, if you are a Right Brain dominant leader, there are certain things you need to know.

Do your homework before every encounter with your Left Brain employee. Establishing and maintaining credibility is tantamount to having a good working relationship with them. Come to every meeting prepared. If you can help it, do not ever use the words, “I don’t know” when answering a question asked by this employee. Whether in speech, email, or memo, be prepared. Your Left Brain employee will critique every word you say and will notice the smallest of inconsistencies. If your Left Brain employee is a Third-Third Expressive (outgoing and likes attracting attention), with a 23% or greater of Social thrown in), he will be sure to let you know about your mistake.

Typically, but not always, the rah-rah attitude often displayed by a Right Brain leader can be a huge annoyance to the Left Brain employee. When the Right Brain leader walks into the office on Monday morning all excited about his weekend, you should keep it short and temper your enthusiasm. However, you are the boss, so there may be a level of respect (or fear) that will let you know if your gaiety is falling on deaf ears. The Left Brain employee is all about work. Any laughter during the work day is usually related to the intellectual activity involving a particular project he might be working on at the time. As a Right Brain leader, when working on project, no matter how excited you are to tell the world, slow down. Your Left Brain employee will need time to process the whole thing especially if he is a First-Third Expressive (reserved, quiet, and private).

When leading a Left Brain dominant thinker, it is important to have a clearly defined set of goals that are well-thought out. Nothing irks a Left Brain employee more than a mission that is not clear. If you schedule a meeting at two-o’clock, by all means show up at two o’clock. On the other hand, if you schedule a meeting for a certain point in time and your Left Brain employee is late (even a little bit), that may be a sure sign they don’t want to be there in the first place. After all, why would a predictable person show up late for anything?

Finally, take the time to listen your Analytical/Structural counterpart. Where you, the Right Brain leader, see the big picture, your Left Brain employee sees the logic and the details. Therefore, you better believe that any suggestion your employee makes has been well-conceived. The Left Brain employee wants to be heard. Use their expertise wisely and the two of you will make a great tandem.

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