As leaders, we are always interested in other people’s behavior. What motivates or drives people? What makes them willing to work hard or feel inspired? How can we tap into new sources of energy and transmit it back to our teams?
In the words of the enthusiastic speaker and author Bob Goff: “I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.”
It’s not just about quick ways to influence others that should concern leaders. As Goff shares, “just being” with our teams and existing alongside them in a human way makes a workplace meaningful or a boss inspiring. But beyond inspiring others, there are few practical ways we can meet the felt needs of our team in a way that contributes to their happiness while at work.
Curious what they are?
1. A genuine smile.
Many of us expect executives to act like stressed-out messes because of the decision-making pressure that is a near constant in their lives. A smile and good eye contact communicates basic recognition and alleviates heaviness in the workplace. Smiling lifts the mood of the room and laughter does even more to relieve tension, even while chasing after ambitious goals.
2. Author and inspirational speaker Brian Tracy says to “Treat your employees like volunteers” and I couldn’t agree more. While there is a time and place to buckle down and drive our teams, what if we could shift into a posture of gratitude for every small and big thing our teams do to make progress? I imagine that would make quite a difference.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group once said: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”
3. Ensure harmony in the workplace.
There’s nothing worse than when a disruptive or toxic employee wreaks havoc on your team’s peace of mind or positive dynamic. Toxic energy does not exist in a vacuum, and those who emit it will pollute your work environment for the negative. If an employee is not a fit for your organization, that doesn’t have to be an inherently negative thing. Release them to find a better fit elsewhere and spare the productivity and harmony of your workplace. Too many times it’s said that people do not leave a job, but a toxic boss or team dynamic. Don’t let your company be “that place” and know when it’s time to let go.
4. Listen proactively and express curiosity about others.
There is no feeling in the word quite like being listened to, cared for, or even loved by another human being, but it’s shockingly absent from many workplaces. As leaders, we run at a quick clip and have many excuses as to why we don’t have time for this or that. But the bottom line is, the people around you will notice if you fail to remember their names the third or fourth time after meeting them. They will catalogue that experience in their minds during future interactions with you, but it doesn’t have to be this way! As leadership and influence expert Dale Carnegie likes to say: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Expressing curiosity about others makes people feel valued and seen. Hang around the lunchroom during one of your breaks. Pop into daily team meetings just to observe. See what you might learn about the people all around you.
5. Mentor the next generation of leaders.
This is a big one that few people are talking about in leadership, but it’s absolutely crucial that we learn from the younger generation while also taking the opportunity to save someone else the trouble of our hard-won life lessons. Mistakes are nothing more than opportunities to get vulnerable and show others a different way forward. Many leaders shy away from this because they believe they have to be perfect for others to learn from them, but that’s far from true!
6. Tread carefully with criticism.
As we read a few weeks ago in our blog on The Michelangelo Effect, people are their best selves when they are treated in line with who they aspire to be. Self-actualization happens in others when we believe the best about their actions and they work to make that assumption a reality. The opposite—criticism—is of little benefit to us because we feel slighted when snap judgments or wrong assumptions are made about us. And while everyone is ultimately responsible for their actions, personal criticism of others is rarely warranted in any professional setting. Use feedback as a chance to present opportunities for growth and not to critique others. Make it general and above all else, include as few assumptions as possible. If errors need correction, do it in a manner that uplifts.
7. Create a sense of ownership through delegation.
Delegation is a leader’s secret weapon, but too few leaders use it to set their teams free to do what they do best. Centralized leadership exhibits a false sense of control. While it may feel like the safer option, resentment builds as teams feel micromanaged. Nobody likes feeling that someone is looking over their shoulder, making sure the job is being done right.
As business magnate Andrew Carnegie once said: "I wish to have as my epitaph: ‘Here lies a man who was wise enough to bring into his service men who knew more than he.’” Delegation is humility in action. It demonstrates trust and confidence in the people hired to do the job correctly without undue oversight.
What are you doing today that you might wisely push off your plate through delegation? As always, we’re here for you as you think through these important ways to enhance the value of your workplace and make your teams the happiest ones on earth!