Being a great leader isn’t easy. It’s a tricky balancing act, which many struggle with; the numbers don’t lie. Employees across the USA are uninspired and uninterested in their jobs. A recent Gallup poll of 25million+ employees reported over half were not engaged at work. Since Gallup published the study in 2013, employee engagement numbers in the US stagnate.
Worse still, around 20% of employees were actively disengaged. This slice of the pie was actually inflicting their unhappiness on colleagues, spreading their discontent. This could even lead to them engaging in activities that undermine the business.
It’s inevitable that at some point during their career, an employee is going to be disenchanted with their job. Yet those figures are quite startling, indicating less than 30% of employees are happily engaged and inspired by their work.
It is the role of managers to turn those numbers around. This is because poor management is the primary cause of disengaged employees. Eventually all managers will disappoint their employees but this needn’t be a bad thing. It certainly doesn’t have to be the end of the road for the employee.
Being disappointed is a strangely powerful emotion. When a manager or a company doesn’t live up to expectations, doubt starts to creep in. Left unchecked, these feelings of loss grow until the employee starts to feel unsafe. Then they start to get angry and you have a disengaged employee, who you’ll inevitably have to show the door.
There are a few things we can do to prevent this downwards spiral but ideally we want to prevent it happening at all. The single most important thing managers can try to do is to communicate with their team. Good communication is fundamental for any good relationship.
Turn the disappointment into a chance to learn and grow as a team. Take it as an opportunity to connect with your employees, to find out how they felt and why. The best thing to do with problems in a relationship is to get them out in the open, so share your feelings with them. You already both share the feelings of disappointment, so you have that in common.
By taking the time to understand their disappointment, you’ll build a better relationship with your workforce. Giving them the opportunity to discuss their disappointment without reproach builds trust. It also sets a strong foundation for working together to fix the problem. You never know, it may even turn up a great idea for your business.
Clear communication can prevent a great deal of other managerial woes. First of all, the only way your employees’ performance will improve is if you give them concise, constructive feedback. Simply saying their work isn’t good enough only multiplies the feelings of disappointment. Be sure to point out the positives at every opportunity and ask them how they think they could improve. Sometimes even a simple ‘Thank you’ is enough to show people that you care.
Communication is also key to connecting with your employees. The best leaders are those that invest their time in understanding and learning about the people around them. They are able to coach their employees more effectively because they understand their personalities. Their praise means more because it is coming from a manager who understands what it took that person to achieve that goal.
Consistently good communication also allows leaders to empower their employees. The degree of empowerment is up to the boss, of course, but studies have shown that even a little can have remarkable effects.
Communicating what you and the company need from your employees is key to effective empowerment. It allows your employees to craft their jobs to fit their interests and skill-set better. In ideal circumstances this translates into a happier and more productive workforce.
The best way to do this is to guide the people in your organization to make decisions by themselves. Being a leader, not a ‘decider’ helps employees to feel integral to the organization. Those feelings spurn employees to go above and beyond, because they actually care about the company, they feel connected to it.
A leader’s burden is heavy. You must communicate your needs without constantly telling and ordering. You must focus on displaying your desires through your actions more than your words. Show the way to do it by exploring the limits of your own role. Encourage collaboration by doing so yourself, and you’ll start to see more innovation, stronger teams, and increased performance.
Engaging with employees in your own work helps to build trust through its natural transparency. It encourages collaboration and makes your office a safe space for new ideas. Start with good communication and authenticity. Then be sure to communicate your needs through actions as well as words, and as long as you aren’t afraid of trial and error, then empowerment can have incredible results. It’s not a guarantee for profitability since your products and services still need to satisfy your customers. Yet, an engaged culture will offer you timely information whether you are serving your market appropriately or whether you need to adjust.
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