Have you ever thought about the kind of leader you are?
Have you ever thought about how your employees see you? How they feel about working for you?
Leadership is heady stuff but I have found that it’s important to take some time to reflect on the type of leader you are and the type of leader you want to become.
Because when you’re finally sitting in that chair with people looking to you for direction, it’s good to know what type of leader you want to be.
Sure, this is important so that you can achieve your goals. But it’s also important because you’re going to need help.
Think back… maybe way back.
Sometimes leaders forget what it was like to be an employee. They don’t remember how frustrated or unhappy they were with certain managers/ bosses/ leaders from their past;
How they felt there was no communication and going to work was a chore; How when they got home, all they talked about was how their boss was the worst and they couldn’t wait for the first chance to quit and move on.
I think it’s fair to say we’ve all had bosses that made us feel that way.
Hopefully they’re buried in our past.
But if they’re too deeply buried, we run the risk of becoming the style of boss we disliked the most.
You’re probably aware of the 6 different leadership styles (have a quick read here about them if you’re not) and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
But one thing is being noticed - when leaders pay better attention to their employees- the numbers go up.
It goes both ways
These days I lead a small team, a small team of people who help me do what I do.
I have, behind the scenes, folks who inspect and correct the words I write, who reach out to contacts to help get me work, who help limit my time wrestling with websites and social media, and the heavy lifters who haul the instruments I use in my presentations.
These people make my life easier and it’s important I make what they do for me as effortless as possible.
What I mean by effortless is that I allow them to do their jobs as best they can. They know what they signed up for. They know the jobs they need to do.
But if I’m not careful or not respectful of their time, energy and talents, I can actually get in the way of them doing their best work. If I’m not respectful of what THEY want to get out of working for me, they’ll be gone.
Sure, being the boss may give me a little more freedom to do what I’m good at; but it also comes with certain responsibilities, not just to achieve my goals, but to bring these people along with me.
You need to care
So what can you do to keep your people engaged and motivated? For starters, you need to start to (or remember how to) think like them.
When I think back to the people I’ve really enjoyed working for, I realize they all had one thing in common: they inspired me and enabled me to do my best or be better than I was the day before.
They respected me for what I brought to the table but didn’t stop there. They challenged me and saw things in me I didn’t see. They took the time to get to know me.
If I made mistakes, they didn’t just walk away quietly thinking I wasn’t up to the task. They corrected me and showed me how to be better because they knew I could be.
They didn’t act like bosses but collaborators. They were collaborators with a vision.
Things you can do to help your employees succeed.
1) Know they cannot read your mind.
As leaders, we have many things running through our heads. That “over-whelm” can lead to unclear communication. Make sure you take the time to communicate clearly about your expectations; be clear about responsibilities. When your people do something that you feel doesn’t meet your expectations, you need to speak up. You owe it to them to give good honest feedback. For tips on giving feedback, read this.
2) Lead by example – coach and mentor when necessary.
The people who work for you have their own talents and abilities but there will be times when you can help them be even better. You can do this through respectful coaching. Guide them without being controlling. This requires trust and patience. Sure, you could be tempted to do it yourself, but that’s not the point. The point is to eventually have people to do things the way you want them to be done without doing them yourself.
3) Be fair in your expectations – be organized
When you have a great team behind you, it can be tempting for you to think you can throw anything at them at anytime and they’ll do a great job. While you might get lucky with this once in a while, ( I know I have been) you’ll stand a greater chance of success if you think of how much time they’ll need to do a great job. Again, put yourself in their shoes. They’re busy going through all the nitty-gritty that you’re not. For you, that means you need to get yourself organized first. You need to keep your own (perhaps self-made) deadlines and promises in order to make sure they have the time to support you properly and effectively.
4) Say Thank You - often.
Yes, the days and weeks go by. Projects come and go. The continual daily grind of work can make us lose perception of the end. It can feel like there is no end. And since we are used to saying our thanks to people at the end of things, you might go a long time without showing your appreciation. Try to see things in smaller segments and show your appreciation more often.
5) Be humble
Nobody likes a boss with ego. You can have confidence and be great at what you do but showing your humility will do wonders for making people want to do their best for you. How do you do that? You ask people what they think. You use words like “us” and “we” instead of “I” and “me”. And getting back to number 3 –say “Thank you.”
You’ve done your best to hire good people. Make use of their knowledge and experience. Listen to them. To listen well, you need to get comfortable with silence. You can read more here about using silence to be a better listener.
7) Develop trust
Do what you say you will do. Keep your promises. Be kind. Be generous. We might not think that is as important for our employees as it is for our clients, but it is. Integrity is not something you only use when you want to. To learn more about keeping promises, you can read my post Why you should think twice about making promises.
All of this takes time.
Like most great relationships or partnerships, things take time to get right. There will some growing pains and, likely, time spent getting used to each other’s style of communication. Be patient.
Get to know people.
Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions or share some of yourself so that people can learn about your likes and dislikes and get to know your style.