Leaders in organizations across the globe are always trying to figure out ways to get the most out of their employees. It makes perfect sense to do this because leaders can’t do everything themselves, and they know that employees are what drive top and bottom line results. If they could do everything themselves they wouldn’t have employees, or need to hire more employees. And like most people we’re always looking for that silver bullet, or some bullet-proof strategy that will automatically serve up the most perfect outcomes that we want, when we want, how we want and where we want. So we spend tireless hours strategizing, debating, concocting ideas and planning for what we hope will turn into what will break us through the walls to leadership bliss, whatever this actually means.
I have worked with many leaders in different organizations, industries, organization sizes, locations and each possessing unique challenges. For those that know me would likely know that I strongly believe that a focus on employee engagement is the key “thing” that can drive effective leadership. It looks at all facets of the organization from people to infrastructure to practices and mindsets. It latches onto organizational mission, vision and values, and helps leaders dive deep into what their employees need and want to maximize their success. It’s a long-term approach, and for the most part, those organizations who have highly engaged work forces understand this.
I also believe that leadership is one of the most influential pieces of any employee engagement strategy. There are 2 parts to leadership; first being tactical “management practices”, and the second being attributes. The former are tactical (e.g. following performance management practices, learning how to have difficult conversations, etc…). The latter is emotional intelligence, or the soft side of how leaders communicate, build relationships, influence and persuade others, manage on-the-fly conflicts, make strategic decisions, identify potential challenges within teams and the list goes on. You get the idea.
But here’s the thing. Building leadership skills takes time. Emotional intelligence (EQ) can be learned but it’s not easy, and it does not involve following a well-defined process. It takes work, and a dedicated focus on self-improvement. So with this long-term focus I always asked myself, “what can leaders do now that could help improve engagement?”
Going back to my high school days when I worked as a customer service associate in a sports store I actually enjoyed serving customers and helping them find the right clothing or equipment for whatever they needed. I think customers appreciated my help because I actually cared, or “gave a shit”. Of course I was in high school and knew nothing about the connection between awesome customer service and business outcomes, but from my own experience of customers reacting positively to how I cared, I knew I was onto something. Fast forward to the start of my career in HR I always tried to provide awesome customer service by taking “I care” approach.
I came across an article on Inc.com called “Want to Be a Great Leader? Do This 1 Thing First (Most Bosses Do the Opposite” by Jeff Haden, who I’m not usually a fan of, but he talked about this very concept of caring. It struck a chord with me because I realized that his simple message is exactly what I have believed since high school when I worked in that sports store.
As we roll into 2017 ask yourself if you care enough about other people, particularly the ones you lead. Regardless of your answer we can always do more to put our employees first by caring about them as real people. Give a shit about others first — a collective boost of your employees’ performance will be huge for you and the organization you work for.