Create opportunities for your people to grow, learn and self-improve.
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Creating a long-lasting positive impact on your team will not come from random rewards sprinkled here and there or quarterly team-building activities. Intelligent employees are no longer inspired by tokenism. They search for a deeper sense of fulfillment and alignment in their work, but foremost their leader. Your internal philosophy on how people should be treated drives your leadership behavior and calibrates the degree of positive impact you have on your team.
In exercising strong emotional intelligence, your daily habits and behavior will reflect values of trust, encouragement, self-awareness and collaboration. Working under such principles, your people are likely to feel supported and safe, and a positive workplace culture is more likely to be sustained through the storms and sunny days alike. Here are four daily habits that will have such a positive impact on your team, it will function like a well-oiled machine, even without you.
Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader
1. Tell your people at the beginning of the day that you recognize and are there to support them.
Rewards and recognition are given after a job well done. What if you reverse the order? What if you inspired and invited your people to make the most out of their day for their enjoyment before the day unfolds?
When you were learning to ride a bike, it didn’t matter what happened the first time you removed the training wheels. Mom or Dad was there to steady you, encourage you, cheerlead you. You rode on their confidence to step into the unknown, give it your best and test yourself. You had support before you even got started.
Your team members are likely not children. However, think about this: do you give a degree of unconditional, professional love to your people? Receiving it makes for healthy children. It complemented our fierce sense of adventure to test our limits. As adults, this approach still has an incredible impact on us. As opposed to providing support remedially when something goes wrong, could you inspire them to more confidently charge out of the gate at the beginning of the day?
If you learn or know one of your employees has a lot on their plate, let them know you foresee their strengths and the competency their abilities can reach. Acknowledge that you see they have some tough challenges ahead. Remind them of the support that’s available to them and deliver those resources. It could be a simple check in to see how they are traveling throughout the day, or buying them lunch because you know time is extremely limited for them. Demonstrate servitude in support of your people.
2. Be present and go into battle with them side by side.
Those leaders and managers, who are the best at solving their team’s problems and driving high performance, know their people. They can and know how to empathize strongly with their team experiences. They appreciate what rejection feels like for their salespeople. They stand up for their employees who are disrespected, harassed and bullied by clients and customers.
When you are prepared to transparently declare your values and ethics to defend your people and their values and principles — not to peacock your own agenda and self-righteousness — your team members will remember how you made them feel. In the future when you ask them to participate in a particularly grueling challenge, they will willingly feel indebted to go to battle for you also. Some of the limitations of organizational hierarchies crumble to the betterment of the team, and your team has opportunities to truly showcase what they are made of.
Related: What I Learned About Leadership, as a CEO Who Became an Adoptive Parent
If you are walking past reception and you can see your receptionist is tied up with another customer, could you answer the phone? Could you pick up and deliver some of the mail and deliver it en route to your office, even if you’re a senior executive? How about bringing back a coffee for your executive assistant upon returning from a lunch meeting instead of giving him or her an extra five minutes to step out and grab one?
What small activity could you do each day which makes your team feel and realize you’re in touch with them and what they do?
3. Discuss what you believe in, not just the figures and numbers.
When conversations tickle both the mind and the heart, greater bonds are created. Without sharing your deepest darkest secrets or divulging buckets of tears, be wise and consider sharing what frustrates, upsets and saddens you just as much as what pleases you. Don’t just share your insights. Ask for and listen to theirs.
Be wise about how transparent you are and when. However, when people see and can feel you are human and you accept them as human, they relax and feel less worried about being themselves in their work. They feel freer to perform at their best.
4. Encourage and create opportunities for your people to grow, learn and self-improve.
Carol Dweck has long been researching and sharing results which illustrate the positive impact nurturing a growth mindset has on confidence, performance, creativity and productivity. However, investments in learning opportunities and training that are not a suitable fit, not well planned nor timed well can actually be a waste of time and money. Assigning people to training when their motivation and desire to improve is not present, is unwise. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
Not all your people are motivated to learn. Not everyone desires to improve their intellectual assets and technical skills. Some people simply don’t have workplace goals, let alone goals at all. That’s fine. Suggest they end each day reviewing three things they know today that they didn’t know yesterday. Probe them to think this way, and they’ll start enjoying this expanded way of thinking.
Related: 20 Leadership Quotes From the World’s Most Influential Leaders
If employees have interests to improve or learn activities unrelated to their work, there are benefits in making space for them.
Imagine gifting a tuition package to an employee wanting to learn salsa dancing. He/she undertakes an activity he/she is personally interested in which improves his/her physical, mental and emotional well-being. He/she is happier at work and performing better. That experience is connected to you and the workplace. Imagine how appreciated, personally recognized and valued that employee would feel.
While the actual practice of Google employees dedicating 20 percent of their time to personal projects is in question as to whether this actually happens, the previous head of human resources, Laszlo Bock, explains that whether or not it does, is not actually important. Permission to unleash their creativity for their own benefit is allowed. Open the gate, and let your people out to roam the paddock, learn and be creative. They’ll wander but because of how positive their workplace is, they’ll come back.