Countless studies have shown that a happy workforce is more productive than a dissatisfied one. When a company can turn itself into a community, miraculous things happen. Unity takes hold and the company’s goals become the individual’s goals. Word gets out the company is a great place to work, and that it in turn helps it to attract even more stellar talent. A perpetual workplace culture of talent is created.
I see this dynamic at play over and over in the companies that I work with. For some leaders, building this level of engagement comes naturally. For others it’s a real daily challenge.
The following 5 steps are relatively simple, practical and doable. Leaders of all shapes and sizes can start today.
In this era of social media, leadership by walking around may sound like an anachronism. But guess what? It works. There is simply no substitute for being seen and heard in person. So make time every day – I recommend at least an hour – to get out there, introduce yourself to your people, ask them how things are going, solicit their input and suggestions. I’m not talking about getting all huggy or making best friends. I’m talking about engaging people with respect, curiosity, and admiration.
When a company can turn itself into a community, miraculous things happen.
When someone does good work, recognize and reward it. I can be something as simple as a “thank you” or it can be a bonus check. Avoid cheesy plaques and gift certificates to the Olive Garden, they scream generic and not genuine. If possible customize the reward to the individual. If Allan is a foodie, give him a six-week cooking course. If Pam is a Red Sox fanatic give her box seats for a game at Fenway. Whatever the reward, make sure everyone knows it. A little celebration never hurts. And never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank-you note. It is, quite simply, one of the most effective business tools in existence.
In this day and age, employees have finely tuned bullshit meters. Never lie, dissemble or prevaricate. When a leader is dishonest, respect and trust go out the window. And they’re triply hard to earn back. We can accept bad news far more easily when it’s delivered to us with simple honesty and respect. Look people in the eye and tell them the truth.
As you see your community growing more unified and productive, looks for ways to nurture it. Arrange group classes and outings, preferably based on suggestions from community members. Pay for advanced schooling. Establish on-site yoga, meditation, and exercise classes. Supply wholesome food (and the occasional tray of killer brownies). A workplace isn’t home, don’t pretend it is. But to the greatest extent possible make it a safe, fun, energizing place where everyone’s best self can flourish.
And never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank-you note.
If all or some of the above are truly and honestly out of your wheelhouse, don’t force it. It’s awkward and embarrassing to see a leader with poor social skills try and be “one of the gang”. If you’re lousy at personal engagement, delegate the interface to someone who is a natural. That said, you must let everyone know why you’re delegating. Just be honest and admit your shortcoming. It’s very disarming. Your people will “get it”. Yes, their leader is brilliant in certain things and not so great in others. That admission alone is an act of employee engagement.
Companies at their best are wondrous, multifaceted organisms that benefit all their stakeholders, and the world at large. Leading them is an exciting, even thrilling, challenge. It simply can’t be done without full-throttle engagement with everyone in the organization. Let’s get to work (and have some fun doing it PLEASE).
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