Here’s how to lead your staff effectively

Simply offering people a job isn’t enough. Your employees have expectations and needs that have to be met in order to keep them happy and thriving in the workplace. An experienced team leader or manager knows to keep an eye out for changes in attitude and is able to identify employees’ expectations early on, before workers get disgruntled and become disengaged.

It’s not always possible or practical to give your team everything they want, but you can always find a middle ground to meet them halfway so they feel supported and understood.

It really hurts your business when great workers walk out, especially when they are leaving a job they love due to bad management. The cost is high both to productivity and your budget, so it pays to put in the work for successful leadership and inspire your team to remain feeling motivated, engaged and appreciated.

Employee numbers are expected to fall, the Great Resignation has already hit the United States and other countries. We’re living in uncertain times and have been put through unprecedented changes in a short space of time.

It’s only natural that this uncertainty and restlessness is expressed in people’s day-to-day lives as they search for satisfaction and a balanced lifestyle. In order to retain your staff and keep the core of your business strong, it's important to show good leadership to attract and retain your best staff, even in uncertain times.

Leadership

What do employees look for in a manager?

Leadership is not just about cracking a whip and keeping people on task. In fact, the most desired skills in quality leadership are communication and empathy. This is the exact opposite of someone who enforces time frames and sales numbers, rather it’s a person who listens, explains things clearly and cares deeply about what happens to each individual.

A study by the Training Industry found eight major qualities people want most in a leader after surveying more than 2,000 leaders and employees across a broad range of industries:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Values and ethics
  • Personal attributes
  • Coaching and feedback
  • Credibility
  • Direction and strategy
  • Management essentials

The results of the survey are shown in the chart below, with the number of responses illustrating just how desirable each trait was.

what employees look for

Image source: Training Industry

While most leaders would push their credentials and work experience as top priorities on a resume or job application, these aren’t the only factors that make you fit to be a good leader.

Communication skills are more important now than ever with organisations in a constant state of change and upheaval. What people need is a leader who can keep them up-to-date, let them know where they stand and answer difficult questions. Great communication isn’t limited to verbal communication and in-person meetings - clear direction and listening skills are needed across other platforms too including emails and work delegation.

Interpersonal skills also came up as one of the most desirable traits in leaders which isn’t surprising, since strong interpersonal skills create lasting emotional connections with others.

Personal attributes and rapport building skills are highly desirable and include traits like:

  • Passion
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Accountability
  • Flexibility
  • Respect
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Approachability
  • Self-awareness
  • Fairness (treats all people as equals)

Each of these traits shows your team members that you are willing and able to see them through success and hardship. When interpersonal skills are coupled with great communication skills, leaders can successfully build strong and lasting workplace relationships.

Rather than leading through fear, people want a leader they look up to and aspire to be. A leader who understands this mindset is able to bring out the very best in their team and inspire leadership and growth in others, which can only benefit your business performance and equip you with a skilled workforce for decades to come.

How to be a better leader in a time of crisis

No business is immune to crisis. At one point or another there will be some kind of upheaval, be it bad publicity, change in industry direction, a new entry shakeup, or, as we have seen recently: sudden worldwide lockdowns.

Handling crises is something business managers need to be ready for.

As we move into a post-pandemic world, business leaders need to stay on their toes. As well as continued business change and ongoing adjustments to contend with, employee satisfaction is a high priority. The worldwide restlessness has changed the way people properties their work-life balance and many workers are more than willing to walk out on their job in search of a work role that will meet their lifestyle needs. To counter this, business leaders will need to act fast, stay flexible and communicate not just effectively, but with honesty and compassion.

The toll on workers' emotional health and work motivation is expected to be high and adjusting to the new normal is going to take time, emotionally as well as cognitively. As a leader, you’ll be looked to for help in navigating your team through this new normal, which can also mean helping them recover from burnout. Showing patience and staying the course are big factors for success, both for your existing staff and new employees that come into your workforce during this uncertain time.

To help you understand how to be a supportive and genuine leader in crisis, we’ve identified five areas you can focus on to help grow and maintain your professional relationships and support your staff and retain their skill and loyalty.

1. Figure out your leadership style

Your leadership style can directly impact your team. Learning about what the different leadership styles are and which is your preference is necessary for understanding how to give and take feedback.

The most common effective leadership styles are:

  • Democratic - This is where each employee has a say on a project's direction with the leader making the final call after taking all input into account. It is highly effective and rewarding for employees as they feel they are an important part of the process.
  • Laissez-Faire - Where responsibility, trust and direction are given directly to employees. This can be beneficial for startups, however, leaders still need to offer support and have an open door policy for employees to discuss plans and seek assistance when needed.
  • Strategic - This style works to build consensus between divided groups, the most common example being to maintain peace and effective operations between upper management decisions and a stable workplace for employees.
  • Transactional - This is a rewards-based style where employees are given incentives for completing set tasks and bigger bonuses for exceeding expectations.
  • Coach-Style - Just like sports coaches, this style focuses on nurturing each employee's personal strengths, defining and encouraging appropriate goals and building teamwork and group collaboration.

It’s important to understand that no one style will suit everyone in your team, adopting the best from each style will help you stay flexible and support more of your team.

Ask for feedback from your employees to gauge what they need more accurately and also take into consideration what the right fit is for your company size, the type of work your team is responsible for as well as your own personality.

2. Communication is key

In order to communicate effectively, you need to take the time to get to know your employees and understand what makes your team productive. To help make space for this, schedule regular check-ins with your employees and don’t just talk about work.

Your workers have personal lives and may be dealing with difficult matters outside work which can impact their performance and work motivation. Understanding their needs is key to delivering what they want and talking to them about what matters most to them. The only way to discover this is to open the floor for discussion.

Understanding who your employees are doesn’t just make you an empathic leader, it also builds trust and rapport.

3. Be brave enough to be vulnerable

“Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage.” Brene Brown, Professor and Author.

Just like how you can understand your team and assist them successfully when you know them better, your team can also benefit from seeing the real you, the human you, rather than a perfect professional you aim to display at all times.

If you are struggling with the constant changes and feeling apprehensive, be honest about it. This will show your team that you really get where they are coming from and that you are all united against the same conflicts. Contrary to popular belief, being vulnerable isn’t a weakness but rather a sign of bravery. Vulnerability is the courage to see and be seen, to listen and be heard.

No one knows this better than Brene Brown, a key figure in studying good leadership. After a decade of studying leaders and work cultures, Brene Brown found that good leadership is founded on empathy, courage and vulnerability. She explains that if the going is rough, embrace the suck, don’t deny its existence.

If you want to be a good leader, you need to embrace difficult conversations with your team and open up about your personal experiences. The future of leadership lies in brave leaders creating courageous and more empathetic work cultures. If we fail to uphold these values, we get stuck on setbacks and failures, rather than seeing growth through personal awareness.

Courage means showing up, not just for yourself but also for your staff.

4. Practice radical candour

Feedback, transparency and accountability are known to be key traits of good management, however, these need to be delivered in constructive, empowering and compassionate ways to have any benefit.

There are different styles of giving feedback, some of which are more effective than others.

Sometimes a leader can be too harsh or aggressive leaving no room for change or growth. The opposite can also be true if a leader is so afraid they will offend or hurt someone’s feelings that they sugar-coat their feedback and avoid any follow-up action.

The sweet spot is radical candour: the ability to challenge directly while showing that you care personally at the same time. It’s about giving and encouraging feedback without unwarranted, brutal honesty.

5. Encourage work-life balance–and lead by example

With the pandemic pushing most industries to adopt hybrid work or remote work setups, it’s become increasingly difficult to set effective work boundaries. Employees can feel like they’re living at work instead of working from home and the disconnect from the office community can lead to burnout.

Leaders are responsible for setting up and maintaining a working culture their team can thrive in, no matter where they are located.

Everyone has different needs and personal and family obligations, so the equation for balance is different for everybody. Getting to know your team will help know how to meet their expectations but you need to take it a step further and put yourself in your team’s shoes. What kind of flexibility do they need? How can you encourage effective boundaries that will cut the “always-on” work culture?

You also need to ask questions about effective work-from-home setups. If your team is ill-equipped in their home office - i.e. they are working from a dining room table, the internet is unstable or they don’t have adequate privacy or comfort, it’s not going to create a motivating work mindset or enable a healthy work-life balance. Look for ways you can accommodate a professional office environment for your staff, which might not be possible in their home.

Hybrid work setups or work from anywhere setups use coworking spaces to provide an efficient middle ground between a home and corporate office. These established coworking spaces provide state-of-the-art technology and amenities, professional meeting rooms and work environments as well as a community of fellow workers to engage with.

If your team needs a better space to work or room to connect and collaborate with each other, a coworking space is a flexible and affordable way to make this happen.

Leadership and management can benefit from enhancing and displaying skills like open communication, empathy and patience. Employees look up to leaders who they aspire to be themselves, so getting to know your team and their expectations will help you provide what they are looking for to be satisfied, motivated and enthusiastic at work.

With so many employees leaving their roles due to poor management or a desire for better work-life balance during uncertain and restless times, it’s more important than ever for leaders to embrace the difficulties, share their experiences and show flexibility in problem-solving, leadership style and work setups.

When your staff are in the best work environment with the right infrastructure in place they will work wonders for you.

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