Leadership involves many things. I won’t be presumptuous and try to pound out a complete list, but one thing people in leadership MUST do is encourage the people underneath them.
People want to be successful! If you show them how they’re being successful, and then show them the way to continue being successful, they will strive to be more successful. Certainly they need to know how and where to improve, but they also have to know that they’re on the right road, or their initiative and enthusiasm for their work dwindles – the lack of encouragement takes its toll.
Constant corrections or a habit of pointing out only the opportunities for growth is demoralizing at best, diminishing the organization to a group of depressed, grudgingly compliant robots.
Perhaps you’ve heard the famous Mark Twain quote: “I can live for two months on one good compliment.” ‘Tis true! Think about when someone complimented you on the way you did something. Didn’t you file that away in a special place in your memory, and each time you repeated that task, you made sure to do it in a similar way? Didn’t you take pride in the fact that someone noticed your good work?
Consider what appears in the “Job Issues” section for managers at pagewise.com:
Praise liberally. Take the worst worker you have and start to look for things he does right. Praise him on at least one thing he does each day and you will see his performance grow. He will work for those compliments. People need to be stroked. They need to feel like they are doing something important and they are doing it well. When this happens they will find they must continue to do things well, because you have already pointed out that they can, and since you are the one stroking them they won’t want to disappoint you.
If you haven’t read Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, I highly recommend it. It’s not the end-all book on dealing with employees, but its simple focus on the key points are timeless.
Among Blanchard’s several key “one minute” approaches:
- One Minute Praising - Praise your employees by catching them doing the RIGHT thing.
- The One Minute Reprimand - First reprimand the BEHAVIOR, Second encourage the PERSON.
Note that even when someone does something wrong, they need to be encouraged.
I’ve written in the past about my friend Dave, who is often a sounding board for these articles. In discussing this topic, Dave told me of a boss he once had who never acknowledged Dave’s hard work. Dave was always in the office before the boss, and always in the office after the boss left. His boss would walk right past Dave’s office as he came and went, but never did the boss stick his head in Dave’s office and say, “Hey – good job on “X” project.” Over time, Dave’s commitment levels waned, as his perception was that his boss didn’t care.
Guess what? Perceptions are reality. Dave liked that job and wanted to make a career there, but it didn’t take too long for his commitment levels to drop to the point where other employers looked more appealing. Remember: People like their work to be noticed! They want to feel valued. They want their work to matter. Before long, Dave switched jobs.
Ignore your people’s efforts, and you ignore the glue that holds your company together.
Catch your people doing things right – look for it, and then mention it to them. Then tell their supervisors and tell other people, too. Be a light for what’s happening right. We build morale (and productivity) when we build up the people who are doing the work.