1. Sponsor an employee goal.
Most all leaders know of at least one goal that each employee is working on during the year. Now, get beyond the average leader and help employees take action to achieve their goal. While they bear the primary responsibility for their professional development, it's also your responsibility to help provide resources for them to get there. This might be in the form of funding, but it could also be providing them with an introduction to someone, making space in the workday for their development, allowing them to utilize company resources for their goal, and many other possibilities.
Be creative. The best leaders don't let lack of funds stand in their way – they find a way to ensure that people get development through many opportunities.
2. Know family names.
Before you brush this one off as too personal for you, consider this: how do you respond when people in your life take the time to know the names of your family and ask about them in regular conversation? You pay attention and you appreciate it. While nobody would suggest that leaders spend all day asking about people's families, you should be paying attention to who is important in the life of the person you lead. Those people influence their decisions and values – and when you take the time to ask and to care, people notice.
3. Learn the story of someone you lead.
You probably know the stories that you have observed of the people you lead. Perhaps you even know a bit about them from other colleagues and leaders. However, do you really know what brought them to your organization and what keeps them going? Do you know their long-term career goals? Have they shared a significant turning point in their lives with you? If not, you have an opportunity to learn more about their story. When you know their story, you know them – and you create engagement.
4. Recognize someone publicly.
People are used to hearing from leaders right away when something is wrong. Things rarely get pointed out when something is right – but it's just as important that we make time for this. Finding the time to recognize people in front of others builds trusts and shows that we notice the good things as well. Plus, people are a lot more likely to accept constructive feedback later if they know the leader sees the good.
For a detailed overview of how to do this effectively and to keep it from sounding like insincere flattery, be sure to revisit the ATTRIBUTE-EXAMPLE-THANK model that I discussed in detail during episode #9.
5. Give constructive feedback.
Employees may like you better in the short term when you go easy, but the best leaders know that long-term growth makes constructive feedback a must. Ironically, employees will actually like and respect you more in the long-run if you are someone who is ready to give tough feedback and help them learn and grow. Few leaders do this well and you set yourself apart from many if you can give feedback.
Check out the EXPECTATION-EXAMPLE-EMPOWER model in episode #10 for a roadmap on how to give constructive feedback.
6. Talk about your own mistakes.
Nobody is immune from mistakes and leaders that attempt to appear perfect to the people they lead earn little respect. We are all human and we want to be lead by humans too. When you see someone you lead making a mistake you once made, share your experiences as well. It helps humanize you as a leader and also gives the employee confidence that they can overcome the obstacle.
7. Reward innovation, even when it fails.
The problem with many leaders and asking people to “think outside the box” is that they only really want thinking that leads to immediate success. True creativity is messy and brings failures along the way with the successes. If you don't acknowledge creativity even in the midst of failure, the next person in your organization will be even less likely to stick their neck out. When it comes to innovation, support people in the process of getting there, not just the result.
8. Tell people why you're not taking their ideas.
Most of us are more concerned that we are heard and respected than we are that every one of our ideas is adopted. Good leaders are always soliciting ideas and feedback from employees. Better leaders do something with the ideas they get. The best leaders also come back to those who contributed ideas and say why they didn't take some of the advice. Sure, people will be disappointed when their ideas don't make the cut, but they will know they've been heard and that their contributions to the process were respected.
9. Tap into the bigger reason for what your organization does.
If you idea of motivating people is talking about the percentage increase in yearly raises or sales numbers, you're missing the boat. Sure, we all have to hit numbers – but you are kidding yourself if you think that getting a 3.6% raise this year is going to launch your employees out of bed faster than the 2.8% raise last year.
Money is important, but so is WHY your organization does what it does. What's the bigger reason behind want gets you out of bed in the morning? One of the best examples I've seen in years is the banner that hangs over the F/A-18 fighter jet production line at Northrop Grumman. It says, “Build It Like You Will Fly It.”
10. Be honest.
You might not remember the details of what you said about an employee's next promotion six months ago, but I assure you that they do. Honesty is the best policy – and when people catch you in a lie, you lose credibility instantly. I've seen it happen so many times – most often, the leader doesn't even have a clue what happened since they don't remember changing their story.
You don't need to tell people everything – but what you do tell them needs to be the truth. Be clear about what you can't share, but make every effort to be transparent when you can be. If you are, the people you lead will go to battle for you.
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