When you’re accountable for your team’s results and bottom line, you can feel the pressure to have all the answers, create a clear vision and avoid mistakes. If that’s your approach though, you’re sabotaging yours and your team’s efforts and may not even know it.
Here are four actions you need to STOP in order to be a more effective leader:
1) Having all the answers. Whew! This one should be a relief, right? You may think because you have more experience and seniority than your team members, you should have all the answers. Not so! You not only don’t need to have all the answers, but you’re also not leveraging your team’s knowledge by excluding them.
A leader I worked with shifted from presenting solutions to presenting challenges to team members during meetings. He found that letting team members share their thoughts and expertise around the solutions resulted in them contributing more to the team. They felt their strengths and opinions were valued and were more engaged and energized by this coach-like approach.
2) Mandating the same work schedule for all. If you’ve managed people for a few years, you know individuals have different work styles. Some work best by arriving at the office early in the morning and leaving before 5 p.m. Others are more focused if they arrive late morning and work into the evening. Others can be most effective working from home on occasion.
It’s good to know your team members’ preferences and to allow them the flexibility to approach their work in a way that enables them to be the most productive. Forcing a one-way approach for all team members can be unnecessarily rigid and doesn’t support employee satisfaction or engagement. Certainly, there are exceptions due to legal issues and customer needs. Evaluate, though, if you’re enforcing a one-way approach out of a desire for control or necessity.
Your team members are striving to balance obligations inside of work and outside of work. If you allow them to create a schedule that works best for them and doesn’t hinder the team’s results, their loyalty, engagement, and productivity will increase.
I worked with a company that encouraged employees to work wherever and whenever as long as they achieved their desired results. This approach was the number one factor for employee engagement year after year. (Guidelines need to be put in place to manage a work environment like this; details around that will appear in a future blog post.)
3) Recognizing everyone in the same way. I’m a fan of Dr. Chapman and Dr. White’s work in this area, Appreciation at Work. Their data and online assessment are helpful resources. They understand not all individuals like to be recognized in the same way. Some employees like public recognition; others like one-on-one recognition. Some like words of affirmation; others like gifts. Know what your employees appreciate most, so you’re recognizing and rewarding them in a way that’s most meaningful for them. Gone are the days of assuming everyone should fit into the same program approach.
4) Avoiding mistakes. If you’re creating a work environment where employees fear making a mistake, you won’t get the best results. Team members will play it safe by keeping their innovative and process improvement ideas to themselves and be less engaged.
Fear-based cultures do not promote innovation and engagement; they promote playing it safe. Evaluate how your leadership style may be overtly or subtly communicating an “avoid mistakes” approach.
I’ve worked with leaders who took the time to rebuild trust and allow for mistakes, and they saw a positive shift in team member involvement and product and process improvement. Without the fear factor, your team can focus more on improving value for customers and testing new ideas. Again, guidelines are helpful for an environment where taking risks is encouraged, but playing it safe is not your best option