Establishing a culture where people feel respected, that they have a voice and can contribute without feeling insecure, will create successful teams. Tia Graham looks at seven ways leaders can create and develop this environment
Everyone has heard a story from a family member or friend, or perhaps you’ve personally experienced it – a horrible boss that made everyone dread going into the office – and we’ve all vowed to never be that way. There are a number of reasons people can be bad bosses, but rather than focusing on the negative, let’s look at the traits that will make you a great leader, and in turn, support employee wellbeing and help grow your business.
1Treat everyone with kindness and respect. This is the day in, day out way that you treat people. And while it may seem obvious, there are small things you can do to be a kinder, more respectful boss. It could be as simple as showing up to meetings on time and not having people waiting on you for ten minutes. It can be having that intuition when something seems ‘off’ with an employee and asking if they are okay.
Google’s research on the highest performing teams called Project Aristotle, showed that when teams have ‘psychological safety,’ they perform their best. So, establishing a culture where people feel respected, that they have a voice and can contribute without feeling insecure, will create successful teams.
2Believe in your employees even more than they believe in themselves. Tell your direct reports and show them how much you believe in them. This will be so motivational and inspirational for employees that they will want to rise to this belief. They will pour their heart and soul into their work.
One way you can demonstrate this belief is to give your employees autonomy. Avoid the urge to micromanage and track their daily activities. If your team is starting a new project and everyone has their marching orders, trust that they have the drive and passion to get the job done right. Pay attention to their results versus how many meetings or calls they’re participating in.
3Be optimistic and positive. Even when there are huge challenges or tough obstacles, leaders need to show up positive. They need to be optimistic about the future and bring energy to the team. Emotions and energy are contagious so if you’re negative, this will trickle down and create a negative team mindset. If leaders appear stressed or burned out, your employees will feel this and it will impact their work. Managers need to create a culture of happiness in the workplace to support employees’ physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being. This will create a stronger and more engaged team.
Being optimistic isn’t about negating or ignoring what the company is facing, but about being transparent and communicating to your staff the positive things that are still happening. Even if results aren’t occurring as fast as you’d like, celebrate the small wins with your team. This should happen on a daily or weekly basis, and it will give everyone the motivation they need to keep going forward and have a positive outlook.
4Be a cheerleader. Employees are motivated by meaningful work and feeling like they are contributing to the company’s mission. Executives need to regularly remind the team about the purpose of the organisation and the impact their work is making. Rally everyone around the common vision and goals to move everyone in the same direction with energy and conviction. You will see employees that are more connected and engaged with the team and the company.
Also, take time for employee shoutouts. You can show appreciation at the start of meetings, on calls, in person, via an email, with handwritten notes, and more. Sometimes providing this positive recognition slips through the cracks – not because you don’t value your employees, but simply because you’re busy. Like any work-related task, add this to your calendar to make sure you’re checking in with team members on a regular basis and telling them how much you appreciate their hard work or to acknowledge a specific achievement. The more you do this, the more it will become a habit and employees will realise you’re noticing their efforts. This will make them more motivated and work even harder.
5Know employees personally. This can take time, but great bosses don’t just know about employees’ current projects and career history. The best leaders know about their team’s families, what they like to do in their personal time, and even what they struggle with. Keep track of these details so you can refer to them later as needed.
Set aside time at the beginning of meetings for employees to share what’s going on in their lives. Human connection is the number one driver of happiness, and research has shown that there is a link between having a good friend at work and the amount of effort employees put into their job. Friendships at work can create a sense of belonging if people have others they are close to in the organisation. All of this creates a family feeling and builds a stronger team that works well together.
The relationship with your workers is different than a friendship, but you should have some level of personal knowledge of your team. This is especially important when working remote to create a personal connection.
6Give consistent feedback. Whether it’s specific acknowledgement about day-to-day work or how an employee is mentoring others, if you provide regular feedback on their efforts, this will act to refuel them like a car and make them operate at maximum performance. Don’t wait for the annual review, consistently communicate with employees to strengthen their commitment to the company and its goals.
There is also an opportunity to provide constructive feedback when things may not be going as well, but in the long-run, this will benefit you and your team. Talking through issues and coaching employees, allows them to adjust and correct. Without this feedback, they’ll likely become frustrated at work, as will you, which negatively impacts the entire team and company. Be sure that any of the ‘people leaders’ in your company are properly trained to coach and mentor.
7Be passionate. When leaders are passionate about the organisation and their work, employees will see this and naturally take on the same passion and emotions. Great leaders are inspiring and motivate others to be the same. This will boost team morale and make them more productive.
With a large percentage of the global workforce feeling overworked and likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, it’s imperative that leaders create an environment that is reliant on the consistent and fundamental drivers discussed above. By doing so, your team will feel happier, and be more engaged and productive. Moreover, leaders that foster and sustain this type of workplace will be in a better position to thrive in challenging times. You can never prevent any employees from leaving your company, but you can ensure it’s for reasons other than, ‘I have a bad boss.’
Tia Graham is a Chief Happiness Officer and the Founder of Arrive At Happy, a company with the mission of inspiring organisational transformation and driving bottom line results through the science of happiness and neuroscience. Her book, Be A Happy Leader, is publishing in January 2022. Tia may be contacted at email@example.com