We all know what a good leader looks like. And despite “the clear image” for that persona, many employees still do not believe their leaders do not feel connected with them and the company. Turnover is only one of the signs, but it is even worse if you consider those who stay with the team to see how people and the leader suffer. According to an Inc.com article from 2019, forty-six percent of the employees do not respect their leaders and act against their decisions, assuming that they are wrong or are slowing their work. And that is a considerable number. Almost half of the population does not work to deliver results but sabotage work.
And companies invest in leadership training, hire coaches for the leaders, develop programs for sustainable personal growth. And still, success is somehow obsolete.
The leadership consultancy has snowballed between 2015 and 2020. According to the CEO Magazine, building leadership is more than one point two billion US dollars.
And after so many investments, we still struggle with delivering the best leadership that can win the hearts and minds of people and make them invest effort in achieving meaningful for the company and their results.
In my experience, leadership development is constructed on five simple rules. They have helped the leaders and me I worked with to achieve results while lowering stress and conflicts. These five rules are proven in time and have helped me build respectful leadership with companies I have worked for—even my current employer benefits from them.
How do I know? – My current employer is working in a highly competitive industry where innovation is rapidly happening. Our turnover rate is 3,2% on average for the last five years. Our employees’ satisfaction and internal engagement are 94% for the last three years, and our internal promotability rate is on average 95%.
But let me stop boring you with numbers and give you my five ways to build respectful leadership that makes people stay and achieve results, helping the company grow.
Connect work to the company mission
As an on-site employee and external consultant, I often see this discrepancy. The modern workplace has many perks. People tend to work in a comfortable environment, companies have structured regular bonuses, training is on-site and flexible, and many employees can choose flexible working hours to balance work and personal life priorities. And after all these conditions, performance still struggles. Leaders expect results and, in many cases, get the poor equivalent of that expectations. The reason for that is not in the speed of performing the tasks but in the belief that people do or not do something meaningful.
“How could they understand that something is meaningful or not? – a leader I have worked with in 2020 asked me.”
There is no easier way to show someone that their work is meaningful than to connect it to the company mission and explain how that work contributes to the greater good the company does to the world.
For example, I lead the HR department in a company that produces cochlear implants. With these products, we help people who have lost their hearing start to hear all the sounds from our familiar environment again.
For the people in my team, I explain our work as finding those who want to help others work and live fully and support them develop their potential to help others.
Sound different than the usual: “Our mission as a team is to hire the best talent and help them grow to help the company achieve its business results.”
Think now: Do you translate the company mission into your team’s work, and if not, what needs to change to do it? And you will see miracles.
Be open to ideas
When I joined my current employer, I inherited a department full of people who did not want to share ideas. While I always search for the best idea, I never see the role of the leader as controlling but as supporting others’ opinions. There is no reason to stop creativity and team power and limit it within your understandings.
The situation at my team was terrible. People waited for me to say what needs to be done, how and when I needed to be done. While the deadline is the leader’s responsibility, it can be easily handed to the team members. But to allow your team to be more successful, you need to step back and support their initiatives, empower them to share ideas, discuss their ideas and accept those who are great, taken, and supported by the team members. Maybe not always; these ideas will fit your understanding of how something will need to be done, but inspiring others and boosting creativity, trust, and respect for your role must move through this step.
Allowing others to share, present, discuss and win with their ideas in a specific area is also beneficial for the leader. It saves much time and lowers some pressure to know everything in every moment.
Practice transparent communication
So often heard and so little explored. Communication is one of the “obvious reasons” why something doesn’t work. That is why the leader needs to be transparent when communicating with the team. But what it means to be acceptable? No, it is not to share everything you know about what will happen in the company. It more to focus on sharing the right amount of information with the team every time you get it, but at the same time to share it by using established standards and practices and according to the widely communicated company values. Transparency is a floating concept. Companies define it by taking into consideration the values they want to see in it. No matter how big or small a company is, values are always there. And they are the norms we follow. Communicating in a way connected to them and representing them in the communication process is a sign of transparency and creates awareness and acceptance.
Provide flexibility and empathy
While leaders need to push people to succeed, there is always a need to ensure space and understanding. Gone are the days when the leader came and said, “We need results no matter the consequences!” In the new normality, the leader should understand the employees in its team as individuals and personalities. The team’s success must focus on being flexible enough to allow team members to do the work in their way, without being interfered. The other thing that pops out here Is empathy. A team with a leader who does not understand the emotions flowing is doomed. We tend to look at people more and more like human beings than machines and mechanical resources to achieve the goal. Successful leaders use empathy and create a safe space for understanding and emotions to ensure the full power of the team’s capacity. The sacred the feelings are, there is a good chance that when we see they are understood and supported to flow up constructively, we start investing more energy and feel more connected to the team’s purpose and goal.
Offer constructive feedback and positive reinforcement
The topic of feedback is always actual. Companies structure pieces of training for managers and leaders about feedback, employees talk about feedback, consultants teach how to give and receive feedback. So much is done in this area that it looks strange when people continue talking about how inadequate the input is.
Phrases like: “I did not expect to hear that,” “That was not feedback,” “I was great, the feedback sucks.”
It is crucial when you provide feedback to present it constructively. That means focusing on the positive in the experience and then moving to draft how the person can become even better. This connects the feedback with positive reinforcement. Constructive feedback allows the receiver to focus on what he thinks will be good to add, to become even better in what he does. Productivity in this situation means more focus on status reports and positive support to plan the next steps for growth. This comes from the understanding that the person has invested the best from him to achieve a result every time. What this person needs is only positive reinforcement to continue building positive results in the time ahead.
A respectful leader is an image that every leader should focus on building through time. There is no right or wrong way to achieve that status. The positive the leader reacts and the more freedom and support he offers, the easy it will be for him to position himself in that role.