The world has experienced a shift in leadership due to the social media boom that has made people’s lives much more public. This change has created a shift in people’s willingness to follow a leader, making us collectively more selective when it comes to leaders we’ll support.
At the same time, leaders are asked to do more, be more, and deliver more than ever before, because their teams are no longer willing to follow a leader they don’t believe in. You can see this unfolding in businesses across America.
Employees are no longer willing to plug away at their daily tasks to serve a company that does not care about, appreciate, and commit to their people.
In generations past, there was a specific course of events most people followed and accepted: find a good job, put in an immense amount of work during the best years of your life, follow the directions of your supervisor, hopefully, get promoted, and retire from that same place.
That’s no longer the status quo.
Today, employees seek out leaders worth following. They’re only willing to contribute to a business in reciprocity. If you want to inspire productivity and loyalty, you’ll need to cultivate five leadership principles.
1. Emotional investment
Your team members are people first. You might believe when people come to work, they’re solely focused on doing a good job, and accomplishing their goals. But when employees show up to work, they’re also concerned with being seen as someone of value and being cared about by the people they work with and for.
If you want your people to show up and work hard for you, even when things are tough, you need to care about them — even when you have other things on your plate. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to show someone that you care.
Simple things like a personalized and handwritten happy birthday card, asking how their children are doing (by name), remembering their favorite TV show and referencing it, or simply checking in on them throughout the week to see how they’re doing and if they need any support — these are the things that make a difference.
When someone works for your business, they’re devoting the one resource to you that they can never get back — their time. That’s why it’s vital to have an appreciation process in place. People feel important when they’re recognized for their efforts. Truthfully, your team members are vital to your success. So developing a way to show your gratitude is non-negotiable.
One of the biggest mistakes founders, team leaders, and business owners make with their employees is giving general praise. While a pat on the back can feel nice, it doesn’t quite connect the way specific praise for a job well done does. Meanwhile, obscure appreciation doesn’t always communicate to your team members what they did to excel, which makes it difficult to repeat. Therefore, creating a recognition process of consistent, specific praise will empower your team to work more efficiently and to give you their best.
Personal and professional growth are essential values of today’s workforce. Your team searches for meaning in their work. This is particularly true for millennials who “need to feel like their work is more than just a paycheck. They want their work to be purposeful.”
Employees want to be challenged. They want their work to be meaningful to the business. Giving your employees easy jobs that don’t encourage them to develop or think differently can lead to increased turnover.
If you’re struggling to think of new and meaningful responsibilities to give your team, ask what they enjoy doing, what they like about working at the company, and what they want to learn – listen closely.
As the leader, you can implement and budget for programs, workshops, and training that promotes personal and professional growth or certification in new skills. Education reimbursement can also emphasize the value you place on development and growth. To go the extra mile, every year an employee is with you, you can increase the employee’s reimbursement budget.
4. Performance enhancement
Closely linked with growth, actionable feedback is something your team craves. Employees want to know where they can do better and contribute at a higher level because they want to progress within the company. As their leader, you’ll want to avoid coming across in a chastising manner or telling them that they’re not good enough.
It can be difficult to know the difference between feedback that enhances your team’s performance and criticism that can shut them down.
Here are a few examples:
- Feedback: That’s a great first draft. Your ideas are strong, and the theme is great. One thing you want to be careful of is shifting perspective. Once that is reviewed, it’s good to go.
- Criticism: You’re shifting perspective all over the place in this draft. Watch out for that, and try again.
- Feedback: You’re increasing your sales numbers, which is great! The clients keep telling us how personable you are. One thing that I’d like to see is an improvement in your time management skills. That’ll help you sell more, and increase your client satisfaction rates.
- Criticism: Your time management is lacking, and you’re not selling as much as you could be.
5. Vision enrollment
A company is the sum of its culture. It’s a community unto itself, and a community that isn’t bonded by shared values is divisive, which leads to low productivity and a lack of emotional investment in the company.
Creating a clear vision for the company, and how each member of your team contributes to it, will help emotionally bond your team to the company. This is important because things in business don’t always go according to plan.
When times get difficult, you want your team beside you, searching for solutions and giving you their all. That’s what a common vision does — it bonds you and the team beyond the financial transaction of work for dollars.
Ultimately, if you want your people to follow you and give your business their best, then you have to give your people your best. Be a leader worth following — one that isn’t afraid to go the extra mile for your team, and give them a workplace worth committing to. This is what separates companies with lasting power and companies that are lost to time.
Jolene Risch is a leading recruiter and retention consultant, working with and guiding value driven business owners, companies, and corporations to recruit the RIGHT top talent (ones that actually fit and stay), using the Profitable C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Method™. She uses her over 20 years of experience in communication, organizational psychology, leadership, and sociology, specializing in recruiting and retaining top talent for increased performance and profitability.
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