Business leaders sometimes approach boosting employee performance from an enforcement rather than a reinforcement perspective. This doesn’t mean that all leaders are callous – or even that this method fails in all instances. Some personality types actually respond best to stern bosses and soaring expectations. Recent studies show that most employees, though, don’t fall into this category; in 2015, only 32% of the workforce reported being “engaged” in their work, and those numbers have been relatively flat since 2000.
While these statistics are underwhelming at best, the good news is that leaders have the power to change the collective morale of their workforce and ensure that each team member feels engaged and valued.
Here are five ways that great leaders inspire motivated employees.
- They trust their team. Micromanaging employees is a quick way to see productivity suffer on both ends of the spectrum: Managers waste time issuing too many instructions, and employees come away unhappy that they’re perceived as incapable. Great leaders provide direction and mentorship, but trust enough in team members’ abilities that they’re not involved in every step of every process.
- They’re unyieldingly positive. It is not, of course, possible to be positive in every situation. As the well-cited Charles Swindoll states, though, attitude “will make or break a business, a home, a friendship, an organization.” Leaders who project positivity can set an example for how their teams approach everything from small daily tasks to large collaborative projects. Happy employees are 12% more productive – that has actually been studied – and positive leadership promotes a satisfied, productive workforce.
- They make time to recognize good work. Many leaders acknowledge traditional employee milestones like hitting a sales goal, receiving a glowing client review, or earning a promotion. But what about frequent feedback for smaller, less obvious successes? Good leaders make time to recognize the exceptional work of their staff on a regular basis, proving, if nothing else, that management is paying attention. This reinforcement can also remind team members that they are valued and capable, so they’re more likely to take ownership of their work.
- They challenge their team. It’s both a disservice to the company and to the employee if sub-par effort or a path-of-least-resistance mentality is permitted in the workplace. Inspiring leaders know that, to advance their teams and ultimately their businesses, they must challenge members of their workforce to reach their full professional potential – and support them along the journey. This can entail asking tough questions or counting on an employee to go the extra mile, but nothing breeds action faster than necessity.
- They’re inclusive. For employees who feel included or like they’re part of the team, commitment to a position or project comes naturally. Leaders should cultivate and spread this culture of inclusion, reminding team members that their role – whatever it is, and no matter how small – matters to the big-picture profitability and sustainability of the business. After all, shared successes are sweeter.
Excellent Leadership Matters
The aforementioned Gallup poll measuring employee engagement asked respondents to rate a few key workplace elements – namely, whether or not they felt enthusiastic about, involved in, or committed to their work. Less than one-third of those polled responded in the affirmative, making it safe to assume that the majority of the American workforce is simply showing up and going through the motions rather than taking ownership of tasks and feeling accountable for company growth and revenue. In short, Gallup’s poll indicates that that most employees are miserable.
Leaders who exhibit the traits above (or who find their own leadership method that produces motivated team members) can inspire their workforce to be happier and more engaged.
Satisfied employees tend to be more productive employees, so there’s even a business case for a thoughtful, engagement-driven leadership style. In the end, energy spent building up colleagues and helping to make them feel valued is never wasted. —Dan Newman, Cofounder of V3*Broadsuite
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