Politics can make or break your career. If you are working really hard and want to get ahead, you certainly don’t want to be passed over or pushed aside, right? Well then, let this be a wake-up call for you. You need to get “real” when it comes to how you fit into the current culture of your organization. You need to take a good hard look at whether or not you have the political savvy to thrive in such an environment.
The reality is that you cannot afford to ignore the politics if you have any aspirations for advancement. Yes, hard work is important. Yes, performance is important. That being said, once you reach a certain level of technical competence, politics is what makes the difference for your career success. This is especially important for women to understand. To our detriment, we continue to avoid workplace politics and set ourselves up to being blindsided and passed over for promotions.
Every organization has unique political dynamics. You have to be willing and capable of adapting in order to not only get ahead, but stay ahead.
So, how do you become politically savvy? You need to observe, listen, and ask questions.
Who is getting promoted and why?
With whom do they have relationships?
How are people rewarded in your organization?
What did they do to get noticed?
What types of behaviors are not rewarded?
Who can be your champion?
Who seems to be in “favor” and why?
Are there certain people who have access to the leadership team?
The willingness to accept the importance of workplace politics for your career advancement opens the door for you to learn how best to navigate the political landscape. It prepares you to learn the political skill necessary to thrive in your organization.
Here are the five things you must do to master the political realities of the workplace:
- Self-promote. You need to identify your value proposition; the unique way you do the work that contributes to successful business outcomes. This is the foundation of savvy self-promotion. Knowing your contribution to the business helps you to build relationships of trust and influence by aligning your value proposition with what others want and need.
- Observe the work environment. You need to develop keen observation skills to see beyond the organizational chart and identify who really has the power and influence.
- Build a strategic network. An expansive and strong network helps you to do your job better and also avoid blindsides. Relationships with influencers helps position you for success. Build and nurture relationships with people who can have a positive impact on your career.
- Find a sponsor. This is the fastest and most efficient way to navigate the politics and get to the top of your organization. A sponsor will protect you and promote you within the organization.
- Hire a coach. A coach helps you to understand your unique value proposition and shows you how to promote and position yourself across the organization with a sound strategic plan.
You must ask yourself where you would be today if you were more savvy and tuned into the way decisions are made in your company.
And most importantly, what is possible for you in the future if you are willing to learn how to effectively navigate the realities of the workplace?
About the Author: Bonnie Marcus is an executive coach, international speaker, writer and award-winning entrepreneur. Marcus runs the online platform “Women’s Success Coaching,” which Forbes listed as one of the top 100 websites for women three years in a row, and is the long-time host of the CBS syndicated radio show “GPS Your Career: A Woman’s Guide to Success.” A regular Forbes contributor, Marcus has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, Diversity MBA and WomenEntrepreneur. For more information visit www.womensuccesscoaching.com
Three things needed for a long term relationship are commitment, caring and communication. Just as partners in a successful marriage, who are committed to one another, understand the benefits they receive from one another, employees and employers require the same. Employees need to achieve results and employers to provide stability.
Caring is not a word used often in employment agreements but love has a place in the corporate world. The best employers treat their employees well by providing competitive salaries and benefits, training supervisors to manage effectively, giving employees the tools that they need to do their jobs, and, most important, letting employees know how they are doing. Employees show that love back by being passionate about quality and loyal to the companies for whom they work.
And then there is communication. In order to sustain a long term and healthy relationship with employees, smart companies provide job descriptions, mission statements, vision, goals, and frequent performance feedback. And smart employees, who understand where the company is headed and what they need to do, offer innovation.
Just like a successful marriage takes work, the relationship between employers and employees requires the same commitment, caring and communication, not just offered once, but provided continuously over the long term.
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
There are numerous different schools of thought out there when it comes to how employees should be paid. Some employers prefer a flat salary because it draws high-end staff members that want assurance they’ll be paid what they’re worth. Others opt for performance pay because it encourages workers to become more productive in order to achieve higher levels of income.
In recent years, performance pay has become the more popular option in many companies, especially those that are small or just beginning to see substantial growth. This pays off sometimes because employees are more motivated to meet business goals since they’re in-line with the income-garnering goals they set for themselves. To determine if performance pay is a wise move for your company, it’s important to look at both its pros and cons:
How Performance Pay Boosts Productivity
If you ask any economist out there, they’ll surely tell you that the ability for an employee to earn more through hard work will encourage them to strive to do their best. This relationship is the basis of capitalism, and can be a powerful tool in your business. Performance pay often serves as an incentive for your workers to raise performance in order to earn a bonus or reach the next pay bracket. For some positions, oftentimes those in sales, performance pay can make up most, if not all, of an employee’s salary. For other jobs, it could be a significant bonus at the end of the quarter or year. By and large, employees work because they want to earn money. By correlating the amount earned with the results they provide, the end product is often a win-win situation for both the business and the worker.
The Downside Of Paying Based On Performance
In theory, performance pay seems to be a practical way of compensation for many positions in the workplace, but in real life that is not always the case. Even when there are quantifiable benchmarks for the employees to reach such as a certain level or sales or low number of customer complaints, performance pay can encourage less-than-honest workers to falsify or otherwise manipulate the figures. When there aren’t quantifiable benchmarks to measure an employee’s performance against, formulating compensation in this manner can be quite subjective to the managers handling the employees’ performance appraisals. This can result in not only discontent among workers, but also potentially open your business up to legal action by those who feel their performance review, and in turn their paycheck, was unfairly calculated.
When deciding whether to pay your employees based on a flat-rate salary or performance pay, the smartest option is often a combination of the two. There are pros and cons with each option, so incorporating the strong points from both methods can result in acquiring the best human capital for your organization. Offering employees a competitive base salary will help attract and retain top-notch employees who are guaranteed pay, free from the effects of situations out of their control, such as an overall weak economy or problems further up the corporate ladder. At the same time, offering a meaningful, yet reasonable, bonus or performance pay based on comprehensive and measureable criteria will encourage your already highly-performing workers an incentive to grow your business even further.
While putting an emphasis on performance pay is great for some positions such as sales where there is a direct financial gain to the organization for every dollar earned by the employee, it is not always the best choice. When goals cannot be directly measured, or do not necessarily benefit the company’s bottom line and future growth, performance pay can actually stunt an organization’s development. For most situations, the ideal compensation plan is a carefully calculated combination of a fair base salary and the potential for an attractive performance-based bonus.
About the Author: Edd Rennolls is a passionate freelancer who enjoys the ability to work from home promoting Wrangle.ca and being able to spend time with his family. Edd enjoys sharing his HR knowledge with business owners and other HR professionals in the industry.
Editor’s Note: Though our guest posts typically come from established business professionals, this post gives a voice to an aspiring future business professional, as she explores her take on the importance of solid writing skills to success in your career.
In our current era of 140 character tweets, quick status updates and instant messaging, one might assume that writing skills have taken a backseat to efficiency and expediency. Unfortunately, those hoping to someday write their business reports in emoticons will have to wait a while longer. If you’re one of the many that feel technology has replaced the need to be a good writer, think again. Writing is as important now as it has ever been.
Unfortunately, writing isn’t held in such high esteem as it once was. Many view it as a necessary evil of the workplace instead of the invaluable communication tool that it is. When we think of improving our communication skills, most of us think about speaking abilities or ways to improve our listening skills. Good writing skills can help us in a number of ways, from improving our credibility in the workplace to improving our persuasiveness.
There are more ways than ever available to us for communicating our ideas through the written word. We have emails, texts, Tweets, letters, notes, reports, presentations and more. If you think about it, we spend a large portion of our time at work communicating to one another through writing. Our writing skills or lack of them are on display every day to a wide audience of co-workers, customers, managers, and stakeholders. Below are some tips for improving your writing skills in the workplace.
Be clear. Eschew obfuscation. That is, avoid confusion. While you want your co-workers to think you’re intelligent, don’t use big complicated words when simple ones will do. On the other hand, nail down the exact message you’re trying to convey by drawing on a large vocabulary. Consider your audience and drop the jargon.
Be persuasive. A big part of your writing efforts are aimed at convincing others to do something you want. Sales and marketing professionals are particularly adept at using this skill. But it is an essential skill at every level of the company. Pay attention to the tone of your writing. Be energetic and positive. Use the active voice.
Be courteous. Don’t become too abrupt in your messages to others. While some forms of communication require you to get straight to the point, this abrupt method shouldn’t be used in every form of written communication you send. Be aware of the sort of language you use and again, consider the audience you are addressing.
Be complete. Don’t leave out information that may leave the recipient with lingering questions. A well written message should be self-explanatory. It should contain enough information so that the person receiving it won’t have to ask for further instructions or information.
If you have effective writing skills then you are viewed as more credible in the workplace. This is a no brainer. Think back to a time when you received an email from a co-worker that was full of grammar mistakes and typos. What was your impression? Chances are you focused your attention on the mistakes rather than the message. At the very best, you assumed the writer was sloppy and didn’t take the time to check their work. At the worst, you viewed them as incapable and perhaps less intelligent. If you want to earn credibility in the workplace, make sure your writing is clear and free of grammatical errors.
About the Author: Jasmine Lloyd is in her senior year of college and looks forward to entering the business world after graduation. When not studying she is often blogging for Essay Edge or working on her writing skills.
When you hire a veteran you’re not simply doing a good deed, you’re securing a company asset. Many veterans have training and experience that puts them high on the talent scale, even when compared to traditional college or business graduates. Although at first glance it could seem easy to miss the translation of military experience to civilian work, don’t let that fool you. By overlooking an applicant because they spent the last couple of years in the armed forced you may be missing the opportunity to find each of the following:
Employers may shy away from hiring veterans because they are under a false impression that veterans lack the civilian work experience necessary to make them successful employees. However, veterans often have training and experience that equip them to be highly competitive job candidates, who translate into efficient, reliable, and driven employees. Traits regularly seen in veterans include:
- A strong work ethic
- Team players/ Leadership
Veterans are conditioned to work in high pressure situations, often with limited resources. For start-ups, this can be particularly beneficial, as veterans provide problem solving and decision making skills needed to lead high impact teams, quick changing logistics and pressing deadlines.
Companies that hire veterans aren’t just getting great talent, they are also making themselves eligible for tax benefits. Two benefits offered by the VA include the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the Special Employer Incentive program (SEI). WOTC allows businesses to obtain up to $9,400 in tax credits for hiring veterans, while the SEI can reimburse employers up to 50 percent of the veteran’s salary for up to six months.
By signifying your willingness to hire veterans, you show that you are also investing in the community that surrounds your company. Communities are often strongly oriented towards supporting their local veterans, and by demonstrating interest in hiring veterans, your community will be more likely to offer you their patronage.
Veterans also have an ingrained sense of loyalty that can translate extremely well into the civilian work world. Once they become a part of an organization, their sense of duty and loyalty tends to also extend to their company. By hiring a veteran, you have the opportunity to experience positive word-of-mouth advertising and enthusiasm about your place of employment. This kind of genuine promotion helps to attract other potential high quality employees within your community.
Finding A-Player talent at your company can be a daunting task. Seeking out veterans who possess skills and qualities you need can make the fabric of your organization stronger and more diverse. So instead of just posting a job to common recruiting sites, the next time a position becomes available in your company, consider posting to military sites or hosting a booth at a local veteran’s career fair. You’ll increase your odds of finding talented, qualified and motivated applicants.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
Women in the workplace, and in particular acceptance of women in leadership roles has come a long way over the years. But despite the progress in this area, women in the workplace still face unique challenges, especially as they assume management roles. A good leadership training program can help give women the confidence they may be lacking due to these challenges.
Women Are Not The Same As Men
The gender difference goes beyond just the physical aspects. The talents, attitudes and problem solving skills differ significantly. So does language. Women find their strength in different ways, and good leadership training recognizes and develops this.
For example, women often have greater powers of persuasion than men. Women are great at absorbing information from multiple sources, and they rely heavily on intuition whereas men are more fact-based decision makers. Women are also more in tune with the emotional motives behind people’s actions. This wide perspective and insight into motivation are great assets when it comes to leadership situations requiring persuasion. Focused management training understands how to cultivate these skills.
Women are empathetic which serves them well in understanding, and overcoming, the prejudices that might present themselves in the workplace. Some men have great difficulty taking orders form women. With the proper management training, women can be equipped with the right skills to handle delicate situations without yielding their authority.
Strong Interpersonal Skills
Women in leadership roles can be trained to take advantage of the natural ability women have at being more flexible, social and empathetic. These are great team building skills that proper training help make even better.
Resistance and Resilience
Men have stronger egos than women in general. This doesn’t mean, however, that women have to transmit an inferior or weak self-image. In areas where women are naturally less skilled than their male counterparts, training pays off big time. Women can adapt to situations faster than men in general. So training them to have a stronger self-image is not only possible, but can bring stellar results to their leadership profile.
This might be a woman’s greatest strength. She is typically more inclusive which leads to strong teams since everyone feels like they are involved. Women are better listeners than men in general, and women like to hear all points of view before making a decision.
Some might find it surprising, but women are more likely to take risks than men. Men are more structured and cautious. Women on the other hand are often more innovative as they are willing to bend rules and not get caught up in worrying about details. Again, these natural skills might not be fully developed, and that’s where good management training can help.
Specific Objectives Matter
A general understanding of the female management psyche is only useful if we have clear objectives for better management skills. Some objects could be:
- Establish a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses
- Set definite personal and professional priorities
- Learn how to lead by providing and receiving feedback
- Decide where to invest energy based on personal cost and benefit
- Acquire networking strategies
- Understand the reach and limits of authority
- Learn how to ask for and interpret feedback
We have seen how women differ from men, and the special challenges that women face as managers. Specific training can help women no only fully develop their natural strengths, but also overcome developmental needs. All this leads to strong leadership in the workplace.
About the Author: Mark Arnold has many years of experience as a HR consultant. He enjoys sharing his perspective and experience with the business community. One of his favorites is focused management training, like that provided by K Alliance. He has worked as a HR manager and consultant for many online and brick and mortal companies. He focus on boosting company’s productivity and culture.
The fundamental idea of ‘giving’ is nothing new to women (women give birth, produce life-giving milk, etc.) but ‘giving’ as a professional philosophy is a path far too often looked upon as sacrificial or inferior by its very nature. After all, for every giver there must necessarily be a taker.
Think about it: Companies don’t want to ‘give’ away their edge in the market or secrets to the competition; if you ‘give’ credit to someone else, you may forfeit your own best interests. And then there’s the ultimate professional ‘no-no’ of ‘giving’ up and letting sales or clients walk out the door.
In all of these scenarios, giving has a negative connotation and no one wants to be on the short end of that stick, least of all women, who still routinely feel the need to work harder and be tougher than men just to be viewed as equals.
But what if cultivating a spirit of giving in the workplace could be just the thing your company needs to get ahead, both professionally and individually?
And consider the possibilities if women were to give from a place of strength rather than from a place of weakness or fear. Next stop: World domination!
But seriously, cultivating a corporate spirit of giving has many far-reaching benefits, and they don’t stop with the people within our professional spheres – they are simply where it starts. And you can be the catalyst to bring about your workplace’s emphasis on internal and external acts of altruism.
For more specifics on why getting in the grove of giving back is good for business, consider the following:
Giving Can Help you feel like a Natural Woman
A recent study presented in the Wall Street Journal indicates that humans are hard-wired for giving.
The study tested the brain’s responses to giving and the surprising results revealed that when people give to charity or extend aid to others, they stimulate a pleasure-sensing portion of the brain. In essence, giving to charity is neurologically similar to ingesting an addictive drug or learning you’ve hit the jackpot. Basically, giving back feels good!
As an added element to the test, subjects were presented with both voluntary and involuntary giving. For example, there were some instances wherein people could choose to give to charity and it was completely of their own free will to do so. Other times, the computer would simply inform them that they were required to give (similar to taxation).
Perhaps not so surprisingly, people responded more positively to the occasions where they were in control of their actions. Although the brain still registered good vibes when the people were forced to give, they were not nearly as strong as when the subjects gave on their own.
In terms of what this means for you and developing your own corporate spirit of giving, make giving voluntary and then lead by example. You’ll find that when you do what you’re naturally inclined to do, you can get back to feeling more like a natural woman!
Giving is Beneficial to your Corporate Bottom Line
When you encourage employees and co-workers to help each other, they can not only feel better about themselves but they can also boost business.
For one thing, the idea that two heads are better than one, three are better than two, and so on becomes front and center for creating synergy within your teams. And when it ceases to be a competition and instead becomes a common goal, great things can happen!
At the same time, communities want to support companies who are about more than themselves. By implementing a philosophy of giving back every day, you can expand your professional impact and your client base at the same time.
What are some of the other benefits women can experience by fostering a culture of corporate giving?
About the Author: Myrna Vaca is the Head of Marketing and Communications at Lyoness America, where she is responsible for marketing, communication and business development efforts. The Lyoness Child & Family Foundation (CFF) is actively involved in supporting children, adolescents and families worldwide, especially in the field of education. Check out Lyoness on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a two-part series about the importance of happiness in the workplace. You can read the first post here.
The conventional pursuit of happiness places a great deal of emphasis on success. Shawn Anchor, author of “The Happiness Advantage” and motivational speaker states that this philosophy is completely backwards.
Anchor’s lectures and seminars on positive psychology are the most popular classes at Harvard University and in recent years he’s established a name for himself as a world authority on happiness in the workplace. Anchor’states “when we are positive, our brains become more creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive at work.” These theories have led many businesses to implement their own happiness strategies to increase employee engagement.
If you’re struggling to keep your employees enthused about work, developing your own “happiness strategy” could give them that much needed motivational boost. Employees who aren’t happy usually won’t have the drive to do their job at peak performance. Even when money is tight there are always ways to implement a happiness strategy without hindering your company’s finances. These tips will help you get started.
Acknowledge good work
Always praise your employees when they perform well. Don’t have the “it’s what they get paid to do” attitude, even if it’s true. Spend a few minutes out of your day to recognize good work and dish out compliments. If you feel like you don’t have anything to rave about, rather than focus on the negatives remind your employees about a successful quarter or pleased client. Emphasizing the positives is much better than emphasizing the negatives. One company that ensures its employees are acknowledged is Google. Over the past few years they’re made several small changes that have increased the happiness of their staff.
Exercise doesn’t just have physical benefits; it will also stimulate the mind and increase productivity. Give your employees the option to take a walk or engage in 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day, outside of their normal breaks. It’s no secret that exercise makes people feel great and could be just what your employees need to start thinking more positively. In addition, consider running a company exercise program and encourage everyone to take part – set weight loss goals, create a diet plan and schedule weekly weigh-ins to keep everyone on their toes.
Open New Doors
The thought of being stuck in the same job position, with the same wage, the same holidays and the same prospects can be very demoralizing. Don’t be afraid to open doors and provide incentives to employees who perform well. Accountancy firm Mercer and Hole recognizes the importance of promotions and credit their incentive program for helping them achieve the rank of one of the top 50 accountancy firms in the UK.
Focus on Engagement
Encourage creativity and spend a little time each week asking your employees for their honest opinions. Getting everyone to feel like part of the team and not just another cog in the machine could drive your business towards success.
Make these positive changes as soon as possible. Incorporate your new “happiness strategy” into your business plan and follow it through. It could yield results that you never thought were possible.
About the Author: Jenna Evans works part-time as an Employee Relations Adviser at Tollers Solicitors. She enjoys eating far too many noodles and travelling. She is also in the early stages of researching for a book related to empowering women in business.
Healthy employees make for a healthy bottom line. The mental and physical health of your employees has a direct effect on your business’ performance. To emphasize this synergy, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at health-focused companies that won its Health Achievement Award and found they consistently outperformed the
Standard & Poor’s 500 index between 1999 and 2012. Companies that emphasize a healthy work culture are more valuable to investors and remarkably impact business performance.
Laughter: An Important Ingredient in a Healthy Workplace
Sure, businesses offer company-sponsored health programs, and the typical ambitious businessperson participates in them. Yet among yoga practice and running, laughter in the workplace can also improve health. Laughter has numerous health benefits—it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormone levels, improves cardiac health and releases endorphins, according to Gaiam Life. Laughter is a healthy high that creates a productive and more engaged working environment.
“Health, happiness and productivity are intrinsically linked,” Josh Stevens told FoxBusiness.com. As CEO of Keas, a workplace health and wellness program, Stevens believes poor health directly affects employee disengagement, lost productivity and low job satisfaction. Employers can use humor as a cost-effective tool that improves an employee’s mental and physical health for enhanced productivity. Humor can release tension and reduce boredom for tedious and repetitive work. A hearty laugh can lower anxiety and stress, which helps an employee concentrate and focus on high-pressure projects.
Embrace a laid-back, relaxing (and productive) work environment where employees can naturally be themselves and make jokes. In an Australian study of 2,500 employees, 81 percent of the surveyed employees believe a fun working environment correlates to more productivity, and 93 percent said on-the-job laughing lowers work-related stress, according to the essay “Humor in the Workplace: Anecdotal Evidence Suggests Connection to Employee Performance.” A Robert Half International survey supports the humor and productivity relationship—84 percent of surveyed execs believe people who have a good sense of humor do better on the job.
Humor connects employees and boosts employee team-building, which creates an open, expressive and trusting work environment. If employees can bond over a silly joke and share a laugh, then those same employees are likely to positively collaborate on ideas and work well together on a project to achieve a common goal.
Get Merrier This Holiday Season
Welcome humor into the workplace by creating a non-hierarchical, innovative office culture that encourages employees to comfortably be who they are (within common-sense, professional limitations, of course). As the end of 2013 approaches, here are some fun holiday-themed events you can use to keep up employee momentum and motivation:
- Invite co-workers to happy hour
- Host a funny family photo contest. Invite employees to submit their silliest Christmas card photos and then create a presentation for the company. Ask employees to vote for their favorite and award first, second and third place winners with a PTO day or gift card.
- Throw an office party and welcome employees’ partners and kids—you can even have Santa on hand.
Use the holidays as an easy transition into a more laid-back workplace that encourages employee humor (and higher performance) for 2014.
About the Author: Henry Griffith is a life coach for personal and professional needs. He works closely with several health and wellness organizations to promote healthy living in the workplace and at home. He has given multiple motivational speeches to public and private organizations. Now that he has small children of his own, he is taking time to write, travel with his kids and work on a book about healthy family living.
Being a leader is much more than organizing resources, executing on plans or knowing where to squeeze out the latest profit. A person responsible for positional leadership has the arduous task of managing their team’s contribution to overall profits and sustainability while supporting the roles and individual needs of their employees. If you’re doing it well, it shouldn’t be easy. In fact for most of us it will be a role that we never quite master, we will always be a student on some level. Along the way though, we can observe other leaders, learn from personal experiences and discover our own genuine way of navigating the work days of the teams that have been entrusted to us. Hopefully in turn, we will pass on what we know, like being part of a sharing community. As you think about your leadership role, here are some concepts worth contemplation:
Don’t Let Profits Be Your Sole Driver
Doing anything solely for profit is an empty pursuit. It leads to compromised business decisions and a bad case of burnout for both yourself and your employees. Going into business exclusively on a profit based agenda isn’t sustainable. It will cause you and your employees to eventually wonder what you’re really working for. Instead, let purpose and meaning drive you. These elements will give you the required endurance and camaraderie you need when times are tough.
Keep Your Promises
If your employees can’t rely on you to be true to your word, their natural default is to question all of your actions and motives. Just think about it, when was the last time you felt immense respect for someone you couldn’t rely on? Don’t make promises to your employees or partners that you can’t keep, and when you do make promises, do everything in your power to be true to your word. Not doing so kills your credibility, making it harder for people to respect you. As a leader you can’t operate business effectively without trust and respect.
Be Competent, Be Committed
The job of today’s leader isn’t to place oneself in a distant, hierarchy based position. People want to believe in the person they report to and we know that one can only truly believe in what they know or understand. As a leader, we owe our employees three main things:
1) Competency in our role
2) Commitment to relationships with our folks
3) A communicated vision for what our teams are working toward
Remember, your job is to protect and serve your employees so they can be as productive as possible. Keep a “people first” mentality and your employees will remain hard working for you and for themselves.
Focus on Development
Everyone is capable of continuous growth – even leaders. Hopefully for all of us, the day we slow down learning about our profession or business is the day we retire. There is nothing that will benefit you, your employees, and your company more than a focus on development. The key consideration here is to provide a variety of options and opportunities for learning. The more varied the offerings, the more likely your success rate will be. Some folks would love a lunch and learn on one of your new product offerings, others would prefer a book study and still others would like seminars or certification courses. Point being, you want to do everything you can to get your employees revved up about their professional and personal development. It’s another way to show you care, and that you are truly invested in them as an employee and an individual.
Of equal importance is your own development. Don’t ask folks to stretch and grow if you are unwilling to do so yourself. When you show that you are committed to your personal betterment, your employees will be likely to do the same.
Do Not Wait For Feedback
Don’t wait until one angry employee finally shows up at your desk with a list of complaints. By the time your employee has reached your desk, you can bet that the poison of poor morale has been permeating your office for weeks or months. Instead of being reactive, choose to be out ahead of it. Ask your employees what they think of you, the direction of the company, office politics, etc.
Keep the doorway to communication open. Expect respect while allowing for dissenting views and opinions. Sometimes that’s where the healthiest outcomes and decisions derive from. You want your team to understand that their input isn’t an effort in futility, but rather a respected opportunity for them to express their creativity and problem solving abilities. You are not bound by a contract to implement every suggestion or solution, but you can show you are committed to listening with an open mind. Granted, this kind of cross-status communication takes a lot more effort on the part of the leader. But, your willingness to explain your business rationale, to listen to others perspectives and deal effectively with differences allows you to reap the benefits of having a more genuine work life and relationships. And after all none of us, leaders included, wants to park their personality or opinions at the door. We all want to be heard.
Continually learning as you lead can mean the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Leaders of substance propel their businesses and engage their employees. They realize that they are meant to serve their folks, not lord over them, and because of that mindset they can rally an entire workforce around their purpose and brand. Leaders of substance aren’t just born; they are taught and actively work to train themselves. If you want to lead a company, and do so as effectively as possible take the time to help build your employees up. Perhaps Lao Tzu sums it up most eloquently, “A leader is best when people barely know she exists, when her work is done, her aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” If you ask me, that’s something really worth striving for!
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors, serving employees in diverse work settings, focusing on environment and behavior in the workplace. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
Photo credit iStockphoto