Even when the economy is booming, remaining ahead of the curve is crucial for business. Winning in the market is not a given, and in the blink of an eye, a business may find itself with the wind knocked out of it as the competition blazes past them on the marketplace superhighway.
One of the ways to ensure sustainable competitiveness and increase the odds of a perpetually winning organization is to focus on your employees, including learning and acting on what motivates them. As a leader, it is your job to reach inside the minds of your team members to not only understand what makes them tick, but also to prove you trust and care enough about them to understand them.
And, by taking action on what you learn, you can empower and equip them to be individually accountable and ultimately, to maximize value across the enterprise and elevate the organization as a whole.
Here are eight ways to do this:
If your direct report must interact regularly with another leader in the organization (in addition to you), and that leader has a reputation for being difficult, then consider how you can help. By performing as an intermediary between the two individuals, you can empower your direct report to focus on their primary, more positive objectives, alleviating the stress of difficult communications.
For example, if being in front of the camera is unappealing and/or unnatural to you, but your direct report loves the spotlight and has charisma, then leverage their strength. Liberate your employee to tell your company, product or service story through video blogs or other digital marketing. Open up channels of public relations visibility to them, and let them run with their talent, accountable for their own outcome.
If you’ve hired well, then different team members bring unique strengths, talents and skills to the table. When the opportunity arises for a particular team member to shine, then encourage them to take the accountability reins.
For example, perhaps change is afoot, and this team member is leading the way on a complex project. The project involves multiple moving parts, a tight timeline, a stringent budget, etc. The person you’ve assigned to this is fully capable; otherwise, you would not have entrusted them to tackle this behemoth project.
So, rather than asserting yourself into the nitty gritty of the project planning and deployment, position yourself as a go-to coach, at-the-ready to encourage, entrust and guide. Be a resource rather than an orchestrator, enabling the employee to stretch their wings and fly.
Create a comfortable climate where employees can divulge feelings and worries, without reprisal. Genuinely listen, and if they express a concern where empathy would be a natural response, then empathize (if it is a genuine expression). If you do not have a point of reference for sincere empathy, then simply listen to understand.
Whether you agree with the nature of their particular concern is of less importance than showing that you actively listened and reflected on what they have said. Internalizing their perspective before responding goes a long way in proving, through a more thoughtful response, that you care. Showing that you care helps prove that you value your employee. Feeling valued spurs productivity and liberates innovation.
If their concern merits action, then do what you can to resolve the issue. For example, if they are anxious about their lack of time spent with their own family because of a long work commute, then look into ways to create a more flexible schedule that includes one or two days per week working from home.
Encourage healthy debates with a cross-section of your staff on decision-making topics. Prove, through deliberate consideration of collective and valid input, that their insights matter. By hand-selecting valued team members for critical decisions and the implementation steps that follow, and then crediting them for the ultimate outcome, you instill trust and empowerment.
Plan interactive, fun events in nature or some other conducive venue; e.g., a day on a sailboat, where team members can hoist the sails, enjoy the beauty of the sky and listen to the lapping of the waves on the hull; or, a hiking excursion through verdant surroundings and concluding with a delicious catered lunch.
Bring your energy, enthusiasm and optimism to the activity. Purposefully protect the scenario from any and all work conversations, enabling a stress-relieving, relaxing experience. Designate this as the time to familiarize with one another personally, building relationships and trust.
Garner unwavering trust by always being factual and truthful when conveying information. A consistently straightforward demeanor when delivering all messages – even those that may be uncomfortable or disagreeable to your employees – cultivates enduring confidence in your integrity. Employee confidence in you as a leader fortifies their trust and confidence in the organization as a whole, which motivates overall performance.
Motivating and empowering your employees is so much more than a pat on the back. While simple appreciation gestures are important, weaving multifaceted accountability threads across the fabric of the day-to-day can create a more durable outcome. This can go a long way toward growing your company’s competitive advantage in an ever-evolving market.