More than two-thirds of American workers are just putting in their time at their jobs. Their lack of engagement in the job or the organization can often be attributed to their boss’s poor leadership skills. Unless managers can provide inspiration and instill dedication, productivity will continue its downward dive.
Employees who perceive that their boss is disconnected emotionally from them will themselves become disengaged and unfocused. But bosses who have good rapport with their staff and think of themselves as a coach, rather than a dictator or final decision-maker, will engender employee trust and cooperation.
Follow these guidelines to set the professional bar high and inspire your team to give their best effort:
- Share your vision. Most employees don’t just want a job. They’re looking for fulfillment. It’s your role to help them see how their work at your company is making a difference or serving an important need. Share your passion for the company’s mission with your employees. Articulate your goals, values, and visions, and help workers see that they play a critical role in the company and its purpose.
- Practice principles of common decorum. You may self-identify as a lone wolf, but this doesn’t mean you get to continually avoid co-workers or refrain from returning a greeting when one’s offered. If you regularly keep a veritable “do not disturb” sign on your door, or wear earbuds through the entire workday, it may be time to adjust your thinking. Every business is a people business, after all.
- Back off from micromanaging. To earn your employees’ loyalty, you have to believe in their abilities. Give excellent employees a long leash. Challenge them to take on leadership roles. Compliment them on excellent output, and once an employee’s work is consistently excellent, give him even more freedom to excel and make decisions on his own.
- Give your staff the freedom to fail. A good boss lets his or her people know that occasional failure is an inevitable outcome of trying to succeed. After all, as the old adage says, “No risk, no reward.” Encourage employees to speak up when they make a mistake and reassure them when they do by asking what they learned and what they might do differently next time. Admit your own mistakes; show your workers how you corrected those mistakes and how they made you smarter as a result.
- Be authoritative, not wishy-washy. No one likes — or respects — a waffler. In fact, people would rather follow a leader who makes clear-cut decisions, even if they disagree with some of those decisions, than a boss who tries to please everyone and ends up getting nothing accomplished. Employees want to know what you stand for so they can decide the best way to support you.
- Develop a reputation for reasonableness. Look for compromises when confronted with strong opposing opinions. Don’t be the boss who grimaces and blurts out a negative judgment when an employee says or does something you disapprove of. Instead, learn to have a poker face and keep your mouth closed. When a conflict arises among the ranks, try to listen to all sides before commenting or making a recommendation. If employees view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they will be more loyal both to you and to each other. Work to instill a culture of respect.
- Show empathy Every great leader knows that empathy is a strength, not a weakness. The ability to listen to others and understand where they’re coming from builds morale and makes talented team members want to stick around. But don’t mistake empathy for believing you must give in to everyone’s wants and needs. Understanding another person’s situation helps you know the best way to motivate an employee to peak performance.