The One Main Mistake Leaders Make

The One Main Mistake Leaders Make

In the 16 years I’ve been helping leaders achieve business success, I’ve learned that the one mistake many well-intentioned leaders make is believing that acting like a drill sergeant can boost productivity.

Yet nothing creates conflict with employees faster than a leader barking orders. Your goal is increased productivity, but your actions have the opposite effect.

Sure, there are those who equate “being nice” with “being soft.” They’re wrong. People can be bullied into performing tasks but only employees who feel respected and connected can help you outperform your competition.

To get the results you want from your team without resorting to being the villain, follow these communication techniques:

  • Provide incentives. Employees who benefit from a company’s success are much more likely to work hard doing what’s asked of them. But be careful not to focus only on revenue or customer satisfaction. Employee productivity is better influenced by WIIFM (What’s in it for Me)—e.g., job flexibility, perks or skill acquisition.
  • Give people a voice. No one knows the troubles brewing in your organization better than frontline employees. Ask your team for feedback on the company’s direction, products or services. The fact that you asked their opinion provides a sense of partnership, which will increase your approval ratings and reduce workplace conflict.
  • Show you care. Employees need to feel that they work for a leader who cares about them. I’m not saying you should walk around in a smiley face T-shirt. But take the time to get to know your team. A gesture as simple as asking “How are you doing?” goes a long way to creating good will.
  • Family matters. In a recent employee-satisfaction survey, respondents placed a high degree of importance on family. You can boost engagement by spearheading policies that foster a family-friendly workplace.

So, when heavy-handed leaders ask me why they’re having trouble engaging their employees, I explain that a) as long as they continue to resort to tough-guy tactics, people will dig their heels in against them, and b) that if they use the techniques described above, they’ll build healthier enterprises—and enjoy their jobs more.

Before you act . . .

Not even a natural-born leader can forge a great business on his or her own. Recruit your best managers as cultural ambassadors and develop a plan for using them to endorse and deliver key messages related to mission, engagement and core values.

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