If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning. – John Mackey
I have been leading teams for 12 years in companies such as Yahoo, Booking.com, etc in India and Europe. When I look over the last 12 years, I get a smile on my face on recalling how foolish I was to think that I had it all figured out. I used to believe management and leadership is only common sense, and that I do not need any special training or knowledge for it.
Today, while I still believe that leadership is a lot of common sense, but I couldn’t be more wrong about how easy or hard would be. As it is said, the one thing about common sense is that it is not so common. One of my biggest learnings about leadership is that while the concepts behind it are simple and age-old, they are not easy to actually implement in real life. What I found is that even with all the leadership knowledge, these skills can desert you when you need it the most.
What I learned is that human psychology and our evolution driven behavior patterns are hard to undo. Our ego, various cognitive biases, and our desire to look good in front of others can fool us easily. These very human traits can make us behave in ways that are diagonally opposite to our deepest held beliefs and values.
Leadership is like a muscle. The more you practice and use it, the stronger it gets. Without practice, all the leadership knowledge is only as useful as the knowledge of nutrition while we keep on eating fast food. Below are 5 ways leaders and managers can positively influence the work culture of their teams and companies:-
1. Make Human Health A Priority
Good management starts with taking “care” of your people. As managers, we should all ask ourselves – how well do we know our people? Do we know what they “care” about? And then we should make it a priority to take care of what they care about. If we know that, we can match work projects and assignments to employees better. This leads to motivation, growth, and success for both the company and the employee.
Managers should actively discourage bad practices like working late and on weekends, and encourage people to focus on their health by providing and promoting adequate health insurance, healthy food, and sports facilities – whether inside or outside the physical space of organizations.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek
2. Create Psychological Safety
No productive work is possible if people don’t feel safe at work. If you have to put a mask at work and are not free to say what you feel, it creates a lot of friction and stress. Thus creating an environment of psychological safety is very important for any manager. Your biggest job is to create an environment of respect and accountability, where people have fun and express themselves freely by continuously moving forward towards the team’s goals.
3. Train Managers to Coach People
If you are a manager, you are a coach by default. You don’t have a choice in being their coach as people will approach you anyways. When they are demotivated, when they have a conflict, or when they need help for any other reason; it is your responsibility to listen, understand their concerns, and then coach them to align their personal motivations with the team’s shared purpose and goals.
How well you coach people will be directly proportional to the results the team produces. Investing in learning these skills and making coaching a priority can be your best investment ever.
4. Increase Job Autonomy
Nobody likes to be told what to do. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. We hire people after extensive interviews which test them on their skills. I think we disrespect the same skills when we don’t listen to them.
As managers, it is important to give people a say in how they want to work. Once people have everything they need to do their job, managers should get out of their way and not stand over their shoulders.
5. Honest and Transparent Communication
Finally, we should treat our employees like adults. We should be honest and share what is going on in the company – even if it means sharing bad news. This builds trust and makes it more likely that people will stand by you in times of adversity.
Leaders should stop using complicated language or hiding behind jargon. Share documents openly. Let people ask anything about everything. Transparent communication involves people in problem-solving and they see the team’s or the company’s problems as their own. And, you never know where a good solution to your biggest challenges might come from.
Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability. — Anne M. Mulcahy
Everyone wants to contribute and feel like they belong to a company. People come to work to fulfill this basic human desire to be useful. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for doing a job well. Leaders should create environments that enable people to do that, and not make it difficult for them.