There are managers who “lead” through bullying and intimidation, but demeaning people doesn’t inspire loyalty, only fear. Dictatorship isn’t leadership, and most people don’t perform their best under stress, anyway. True leadership means creating a gratifying employer/employee relationship that starts as simply as treating others with respect. For example:
- When employees talk, listen. Don’t interrupt; don’t shoot down their ideas or dismiss their complaints. Investigate their suggestions as well as their criticisms, and report back with your finding. By being open and responsive, you’ll earn their trust.
- Recognize good performance. You don’t have to offer monetary rewards, but it helps to have a formal recognition program. Post an “employee of the month.” plaque in your reception area, reserve a special parking space, take them to lunch. Honor your people in front of their peers. Corny? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.
- Give credit where credit is due. If someone offers a good idea, attribute it to them (even if you have to modify it to put it into practice). This will encourage more good ideas.
- On that note, ask for suggestions regularly. Beyond the fact that people like to be heard, remember that your employees know aspects of your business you’ve undoubtedly forgotten. You never know where your next “eureka!” will come from.
- Delegate. It will not only free you up to focus on the big picture, it gives employees a chance to grow and learn. It also demonstrates your confidence in them, and confident employees are creative employees.
- Look for qualities to compliment, rather than criticize. When you critique performance, start with the positives and do it in a constructive way.
- Don’t be mysterious about the business. Employees want to know the scoop; they have a stake in the business, too. When you have a big success—like picking up a big new account—celebrate as a group, even if just means springing for pizza or cupcakes.
- Similarly, when things aren’t going well, be truthful, but frame the news in a positive, reassuring light. Don’t let the rumor mill run wild. When morale plummets, so does productivity.
- Schedule regular monthly or quarterly status meetings, so workers can feel confident you’ll kept them in the loop. Share your goals and vision as well as your corporate status. Few things motivate employees like being in the know.
- Similarly, create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing with you, even when it’s bad news. That way, you can nip problems in the bud. Instead of placing blame when there’s an error, approach problem solving as a team effort.
While none of these are revolutionary ideas, sometimes the simple things are also the most effective. And when you take the trouble to inspire your employees, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that they return the favor.