I can't count the times I've tossed around the words secure and confident when discussing leader behavior. They're two words that are used so often nowadays they're almost a cliché. But I had never really thought about the real meaning those two words until a note from a reader put it all in perspective:
The word secure pops out at me. I can't function effectively in my role if I am not secure. Secure in my job knowledge; secure in the relationships with employees and (most importantly) secure in my longevity with my company. If I have to second guess what I do because I don't know how my own leader will react, I can't lead effectively. If I am worried about just hanging on to my job I can't be truly focused on my customers. Instead, I'll be focused on my boss. If my eyes are always fixed on the penthouse office I will bump into people on the sidewalk. That's not the way to serve customers. Secure: good word.
This reader's thoughts got me thinking. So, I did a bit of research.
Security in Literature
Innumerable studies have shown the benefits of a workforce that feels secure. When employees feel supported by their bosses, they are more secure and confident in their work. The results of such feelings are increases in morale and attitude.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, when employees feel their leaders don't support their decisions, as evidenced by such behavior as when bosses double-check everything they do, personal identities are threatened, resulting in mutual hostility between bosses and workers.
Security is a two-way street. Bosses who trust that employees are hard working contributors to organizational goals not only reinforce feelings of security in their employees, those employees return the security-favor by trusting their bosses. Feelings of security in both leaders and employees lead to cultures that are friendly, supportive, and collaborative.
Personal Contact, Communication, Relationships
Personal contact between leaders and fellow employees is a critical factor in this equation connecting security/confidence and workmanship. It's important for leaders to communicate through behavior and words their support for employee work. Our reason for gathering together in a community of workers is to produce quality goods and services in fiscally responsible ways. Damage to that sense of collaboration escalates when individuals are micromanaged, mistrusted, or belittled.
There really is something to open door policies (although I'm not crazy about that expression because it conjures images of the lowly townspeople approaching the king's throne). We simply can't communicate without some form of contact. The point, when it comes right down boss/employee relationships, lack of timely and honest communication appears to be the root of all evil. And, the evil of evils is that perceived lacks of communication (even more difficult to pin down) are as damaging as real communication omissions, which makes this whole practice of leadership a challenging endeavor.
Why wouldn't a boss want his/her flock to be secure and confident in the things they do? At a minimum, work performed in secure operating environments can reduce intentions to leave the flock. Feelings of security are important to all workers at all levels of an organization, from CEO on down. Even our top leaders crave support.
Confidence and Security
Any of us could benefit from a good dose of self-confidence. I want to know that the work I do and the decisions I make are appreciated and supported. I want to know that the things I do support organizational purpose. I can't conjure that level of confidence if I'm second guessed, micro-managed, or ignored.
Being a leader is tough enough without having to worry if you're doing things right. It's not just doing things right that count, it's doing them with the right attitude: knowing fellow employee names, telling them they do a great job, and learning the things that are interesting to them. These simple behaviors can reduce the number of 'thems' in the 'us and them' scale.
Confidence and Strong Workers
Our fellow employees should enjoy the work they do. We leader-types must create welcoming environments where employees happily come to work. Warm morning greetings to sincere send-offs at the end of the day can work wonders. We don't have to love each other, but we sure can expect people to get along. I can't help but think that production of goods and services in fiscally responsible ways will increase when all organizational members feel secure and confident in their work.
If my great and approach to the business as a leader can be a catalyst for those good feelings, then I can rest assured I've done my job well.
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; other whenever they go" – Oscar Wilde.