“We launched our new leadership behaviours written in a way that we thought would be easy to grasp and apply”. A client shared with me recently. And yet these behaviours were missing from the business leaders and reflected low employee engagement.
The leadership behaviours were not new, are not difficult, and are not uncommon. They include, making time, appreciating others and inspiring action. What seemed to be common sense, was not common practice. Like many organisations, they are faced with targets to reach, solutions to craft and results to achieve. The executive team recognised they needed to start living the leadership behaviours and bring a more human leadership into the business. They realised they needed to learn how to care for their team members as human beings which in turn will enable them to achieve the outcomes they seek.
Below I share six ways that you can do more of, better or differently so that your team members feel valued, know they matter and are inspired to act.
- Get to know your team members. What are their aspirations? What drives them? What is important to them? Take time to understand them as human beings, rather than simply a resource to get a job done. When you get to know them, make the effort to remember the details. Remember what important events they may be celebrating. Be inclusive and use their name. For example, if they are joining you for a meeting in an observing role, let others know who they are and their purpose for joining. Better still, invite them to introduce themselves!
- Listen. Give your attention, free from interruption and distraction. Listen with empathy rather than just waiting to speak, form a reply or give your opinion. Be interested in what your team member thinks and has to say. Simply ask ‘what are your thoughts?’ and then listen. This simple question together with your curiosity can make a team member feel both included and valued. Listening is one of the most profound gifts you can give another human being. It shows how much care.
- Appreciate and recognise your team members for what they do as well as who they are. Let them know what quality you see in them and what impact it has. Focusing on a quality such as commitment, focus or courage will help your team member to recognise what they themselves may overlook as the contribution they bring to a solution, another person or a situation. Recognise the behaviours you want to see more of in your team and organisation, even if the result is not what you had intended. For example, your team member puts together a pitch for a new client. He gathers research, finds out about the competition and pro-actively designs a pitch reflecting the current and future needs of the client. Unfortunately you don’t win the pitch, however you recognise and celebrate the behaviours of your team member for his creativity and proactivity.
- Help your team members grow. Create opportunities for them to nurture their skills and talents, equip them with relevant organisational information, and enable them to solve their own problems. Encourage them. Invite them to share their thoughts. Ask for ways in which they can improve their own role, for example, ‘if it were entirely up to you, how would you improve your role / this situation?’
- Create an environment which creates connection and says ‘you matter’. Many work environments have moved to open plan being the favoured design, often with hot desks being the way of working. Whilst this brings certain benefits, it can lose the human touch of having something of you in your work environment which enables others to see and connect with you. Consider how you might make your work environment an opportunity for others to get to know. It could be something as simple as your favourite mug! The work place doesn’t have to be filled with colourful bean bags or an array of healthy snacks at the coffee machine (although that’s nice!). Consider what small change you might make to your work environment. Working with another client, their employee engagement survey revealed employees were unhappy because the hot chocolate had been removed from the hot drinks machine. This was simply an oversight when ordering, rather than a deliberate action. It didn’t take much to get the order fixed and hot chocolate reinstated. Employees felt listened to and valued by the organisation as it was swiftly rectified .
- Do the unnecessary. Being clear on mutual expectations is a great way to mitigate misunderstandings and disappointments. Doing the unnecessary when its unexpected shows how much you care. A CEO was recently at a Board Meeting when he received an email from his colleague responsible for people development. He excused himself from the meeting and returned some ten minutes later and rejoined the meeting. When quizzed by his colleagues as to what he had to attend to he shared that a dedicated junior team member who had consistently given her discretionary effort revealed that together with her fiancé, they were unable to afford a honeymoon other than a weekend break. The CEO took the time to go see her, congratulate her on her wedding for the coming weekend and gave her a bonus cheque to cover the cost of a honeymoon. Both the team member and colleague responsible for people development were moved to tears by the unexpected act of kindness from the CEO. The impact of this gesture was far wider than the team member and her fiancé.
Whilst all of the above are acts of common sense, they are not common practice. The main push back I hear to all of these is lack of time. The challenge being targets to reach, calls to make, solutions to craft, emails to respond to and meetings to attend. And yet the reality is we all have the same amount of time. It is about how we choose to use our time with our team members.
Making a conscious effort to make common sense common practice will create an environment where your team members feel and know they matter for what they do as well as who they are. When they feel valued, they will add value to themselves, their families, to you and your organisation time and time again.
What will you do more of, better or differently to make common sense common practice?