Leadership Direction that Inspires Employees to Give their Best

Leadership Board

Engaging leaders build an organizational culture that inspires employees and increases productivity. They apply a diverse set of characteristics and tend to exhibit certain behaviours that encourage others.  These qualities are critical for an organization as growth and success are very difficult without an engaged and inspired team.

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the primary purpose of the leader is to serve others. Engaging leaders like to prioritize serving others, especially during difficult times. Very often a leader is appointed because of their qualifications, experience, and domain skills but these alone don’t guarantee that they can drive team engagement.  During the leadership hiring process, be sure to include behavioural questions relating to trust, empowerment, team building, communication, and motivational leadership.  By asking the right questions, you can identify whether the candidate has the characteristics needed to keep employees engaged and connected.

In an organization, there may be a handful of leaders that stand out as engaging.   With care and hard work, you can learn and practice these skills. It is not as difficult as one might think.  The key is to understand the difference between being a manager and being a leader.  Simply put, the manager plans, organizes, delegates, and delivers results.  A leader will influence, motivate, and encourage employees to reach their goals and objectives.  These skills are not mutually exclusive and can be developed and applied in all senior positions. Having leaders in your organization will improve the bottom line. If you want to develop your leadership skills, start by recognizing the characteristics and traits of engaged leaders and learn to incorporate them into your daily work habits.  The suggestions below can help you get started.

Be positive:

Nothing is more important than a positive attitude.  Anyone that’s worked for a boss that is always looking for fault and more concerned about their own needs and interests can relate to this. These bosses forget that their leadership has a huge impact on their employees’ mindset on many levels, both personal and professional.

Being positive can come more naturally to some than others but everyone can develop this skill. It does require awareness and effort though as intentional changes are practiced and applied.  The positive leader will enhance positive emotions and behaviour from their team.

Tips to become a more positive leader:

  • Begin your day by focusing on three things you are most grateful for: this sets a positive mindset for everything that follows.
  • Make the choice to become more positive and practice pushing away negative words.
  • Practice self awareness – set aside time to review your self and journal your strengths, weaknesses, opportunity areas and habits. Once you have established these, determine how you can make improvements.
  • Remember to encourage and praise your employees…. add a regular reminder to your calendar, if necessary, until this habit becomes automatic.

Positive leaders drive their team towards success through empowerment, compassion, authenticity, respect, and positive reinforcement. It may take some time to develop positive leadership, but the impact of improving is beneficial and is essential to team morale, overall engagement, and performance.

 Show that you care:

Learn to listen and pay attention when your employees tell you about their personal lives, including issues they are dealing with and anything else they are willing to share. This involves active listening and requires eye contact and genuine interest when they are sharing. It can be demoralizing when your leader asks you something personal such as how your weekend went and then it’s clear they aren’t listening or interested in the answer – it’s just a formality.  Also undermining is when you have explained a personal struggle or challenge you are dealing with and find yourself having to constantly repeat the details.

If an employee has been off sick or needs to attend to a family matter, ask yourself if you followed up with them as this will show that you genuinely care.  We all get busy in our personal and professional lives, and we sometimes forget about issues that our staff are dealing with, and a small gesture or kind word can go a long way and have a lasting impact on how the employee views their relationship with you and the organization you represent, and they are a part of. 

 Don’t forget to build a connection with your employees by sharing something about yourself when appropriate.  The more you build a relationship with your team, the more your staff will recognize your authenticity and approachability. They will likely feel more comfortable and be motivated and eager to work harder. You do not need to rely on the HR department to find out important celebration dates such as birthdays and work anniversaries, or any other date that is meaningful to them (for example, landed immigrant status, religious holidays, etc.). Take note of these facts, record them yourself and proactively recognize and acknowledge when you can. 

 Adapt your leadership style:

If your natural leadership style in controlling, this is not going to work for your high performing employees. They will most likely feel drained with constant checking ins, and you will undermine the level of engagement you are looking for.  You need to trust more, move out the way and let them do what they know best.  Get to know your teams’ strengths and weaknesses, challenge them with some autonomy and give them the opportunity to be accountable.  Empower those employees that are key performers and are ready for more responsibility.  They will thrive in an environment where they are not micromanaged and will appreciate this empowerment.  Leverage your high potential employees to coach team members rather than doing all the coaching yourself.  This will help them feel valued. Be careful to adjust your leadership style to what specific employees need which may also vary based on the task and situation. While an inexperienced employee may need a direct and assertive leadership style, this may not be favourable for a skilled worker who needs to feel empowered. 

Set clear expectations:

A leader plays a critical role in setting clear goals and objectives for their team and linking them to the corporate vision.  We sometimes neglect to explain the ‘why’ behind a specific goal or expectation. By explaining to an employee how their contribution impacts the organization, you will help them understand context and feel they are a valued part of the organization’s success.  Failure to set clear expectations and context will lead to uncertainty and lack of accountability.  It’s also essential to periodically meet with the employee to assess their goals and adjust where necessary.  Feedback should be regular as it reflects the importance of the role and task and confirms relevance to the organization’s objectives.

Encourage growth and development:

There are ample opportunities and approaches for employees to develop skills.  Effective leaders should continually challenge employees to take on new opportunities for learning and make time for coaching and mentoring.  We can get so busy with the operational side of the business but it’s important to schedule learning opportunities.  Even your top performers have room for growth so it’s essential you continually provide feedback.    Don’t forget to ask your employees for their ideas so that they can be part of problem solving while learning concurrently.   Even small learning opportunities can be meaningful.  You should also not be afraid to provide difficult feedback.  Doing so constructively and in a timely manner will increase employee accountability and performance.

During your coaching moments, ask questions to help them think through the situation from a slightly different perspective and come up with their own solution.  When it comes to career development, pair your high performing employee with a tenured colleague that can mentor them.  By offering continuous coaching and mentoring, you will keep your employees engaged and motivated.

Foster Team building:

There are so many positive benefits when you give your employees opportunities to work as a team.  Not only is it important that your team builds relationships, but it opens the doors for sharing ideas, solving problems, improving productivity, and enhancing team morale.  Schedule regular meetings with your team as additional time to collaborate, discuss challenges and brainstorm new ideas.  Organizing 2-3 team building activities outside of work will also go a long way towards keeping employees engaged and reinforcing company culture.

Recognize and reward accomplishments:

A final but important reminder: ensure you reward important milestones and recognize your team’s contribution.  Showing appreciation for accomplishments will maintain or boost morale. Incentive programs and yearly bonuses that are tied to performance will increase engagement levels and reduce turnover.  Employees thrive on receiving praise and encouragement, and an engaged leader will understand the importance of a work culture that values and supports employees. Get involved in celebrating the success of your team members and keep it creative and fun!

Understanding the impact of leadership and developing and applying strong leadership best practices can be key to employee and organizational success. If you would like to know about how we can support, you in these areas please contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions – (647) 794-5442 or at admin@bridgelegalhr.ca 

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