Your actions as a leader have a vast effect at every level in your workplace. You can visit any organization and immediately get a sense for what kind of leader runs it. What type of leader do you think of when you're in a workplace where people act like they're scared or nervous? How about if you notice everyone seems unmotivated or depressed? On the other hand, how does it feel when you see people who are energized, happy, dynamic and openly sharing ideas and information?
The challenge in many workplaces is that leaders often think they're amazing when they actually run organizations where employees aren't happy. These are the same leaders who puzzle over why there is such high turnover, why people aren't being productive or why morale is low. It's not that these leaders are intentionally trying to hurt their employees; it's simply that they have not yet taken a look at their own behaviors as leaders. Here are three areas you can look at to help you impact your workplace positively.
Morale and Motivation
There's a misconception that employees are solely driven by money but, in actuality, people are driven by how worthwhile and fulfilled they feel at work. If they feel satisfied and valued by leadership and are provided opportunities to use their talents and abilities they will tend to be happier and try to do good work for the company. If leadership doesn't value them or only sees them as machines that produce something, then morale and motivation will be less than stellar. The key for leaders is to help people feel fulfilled and important. You can do this by encouraging employees to use their talents and abilities and giving them opportunities to keep growing. Employees are remarkably more motivated and feel much better when they contribute in ways that are meaningful to them and when they have the ability to function autonomously.
What's the key to productivity? A lot of leaders think it's about constantly assigning tasks, setting goals or incessantly monitoring employees to make sure they're staying productive. This approach is great if you view your staff as appliances that are there to run at full speed all the time instead of being human. People aren't generally designed to only focus on productivity because most value things like feeling that the work matters or being recognized by leadership. Consider the things that make you productive. Do you enjoy constant demands or being forced to meet goals or would you rather be given the ability to produce in a way that makes sense to you based on the things you enjoy doing? Leaders get better results when they give their employees opportunities to be productive because they care about the work and it means something to them. People are more productive if they're doing things they choose to do instead of having work thrown at them or being given orders.
An organization's culture is created by the thoughts and actions of its leadership. If leaders believe that the only thing that matters is selling product then the organization is molded around that. When leaders think it's OK to treat clients like numbers then the organization's practices tend to reflect that belief. You can tell what leaders value by how their workplaces feel. If a leader values no-nonsense order and discipline then his workplace culture will develop along those lines. If, on the other hand, he or she believes in helping employees be fulfilled, then they will create an entirely different trajectory. If you've ever worked in an organization being run by "good old boys" you probably noticed that those at the top wanted it that way and behaved in ways that supported that system. The same goes for an organization that has high turnover or unhappy employees; it's because the people at the top believe and do things that lead to those results. Leaders can adjust their company culture at any time by taking one small step at a time to promote new values and beliefs and practicing different behaviors until they become the new way of doing things.
Your leadership creates the standard for how the rest of your organization functions. Take a moment today to think of the areas where your approach creates a happy and successful workplace. Praise yourself for the things you do well and then shift your focus to the things you might modify a bit to be an even more effective leader. Leaders who have a positive impact on their employees and organizations do so because they set an excellent example and behave in ways that inspire everyone to succeed. What will you do to make sure your workplace reflects your enlightened leadership?