I love action. Well, not all action. The last time I saw an action movie in the theater it took me a couple of hours to get my breathing back to normal.

When I say “I love action”, I mean decision making, change, and forward movement. You might think that these are excellent leadership components that will change the Winter season in Spring. But that is NOT the case.

As an interim manager I often experienced a workplace with a “wintry” atmosphere: low engagement, no hope for change (“We’ve already tried that.”), employees often sick, and resistance.

If that’s the season of your workplace, don’t force change by making faster and more frequent decisions or demanding commitment. I’ve often seen managers doing that and fail. Force won’t change the season. A huge winter storm in December might cause trees to lose some of their branches. However, the next day you won’t see young leaves in a yellow green color on the branches that survived the storm.

Your leadership needs to fit the winter season. You know not to cut the grass of your snow-covered lawn. Likewise you can’t change your low engaged workplace by the wrong leadership tools.


Two leadership skills fit the winter landscape of your workplace.

1 – Slow down

                        “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi

2 – Listen

                        “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

–Ernest Hemingway


Let’s have a closer look at those two skills:

1 – Slow down

Instead of jumping into action, you need to slow down. The biggest problem with slowing down is your thinking. Slowing down feels like no progress. But the opposite it true. Slowing down gives you momentum to speed up when the season is changing.

Slow down by:

* Reducing certain time commitments

Minimize time commitments that are not focused on spending time with your employees.

* Being present.

Take care to be present with your employees. Don’t formulate the next question or good comment in your head during a conversation. Be with your employees.

* Use fewer words.

Limit the time that you are speaking. The winter season is NOT about action and words are action.

2 – Listen

Listening is MORE than keeping your mouth closed. You don’t consider a dead body a great listener. Listening is also NOT the same as hearing. Most humans are champions at hearing. It’s so easy to make the correct sounds (“hmm”, “interesting”, “yes dear”). Hearing doesn’t equal listening. Listening requires attention. Hearing does not.

Listening is an inner activity. You shut down your inner chatter and increase your awareness. Niki Leondakis, COO of Kimpton Hotel Group, describes this as

“…learning to listen first when there’s a problem or a situation that needs to be addressed. Rather than sitting down with someone and telling them what’s wrong or what needs to be fixed, I ask how it came about and what’s happening here, and listen to the back story”  –New York Times June 13, 2010

If the winter season has arrived within your organization, slow down and listen. It might feel that you aren’t doing anything but you are. Winter season in nature doesn’t mean nothing happens. It means that everything is so quiet that your listening needs to deepen.

This Month’s Coaching question:

How can you increase the time that you are listening with ten percent?