Time and time again we see leaders on conference platforms and town hall sessions urging their employees to strive for excellence and to outperform their goals. Some of these speeches are inspiring. Others fall way short of the mark. The better ones set out a clear vision and inspires employees to strive towards these goals. Depending on the leader, the culture and employee motivation the organisation sees differing levels of success.
There are so many articles on leadership and culture on the web and platforms such as LinkedIn. I don’t wish to bore you with just another sermon on sound leadership and the right culture. I would like to give you an insight into employees perspective of what makes them strive for success. I hope this is a catalyst to get you thinking differently and ultimately acting differently.
What do employees need?
Feel the connection and care
Some leaders talk only about the the company’s or their own achievements and what their expectations are for the coming year.
“We have achieved the stretch sales targets for the last three years. I have come to expect this, year on year double digit growth. Make sure you don’t let me down”
“We have to keep our operating expenses stable for this year. Looking at the last few years I am sure this is not going to be a problem for us”
While the leader is feeling the top of the world, the employees are thinking:
“We have been killing ourselves to achieve these results. You want to make us work harder!”
“What else will they find to automate or outsource this year? Am I going to be safe? Should I start dusting off my resume and applying for another job?”
“ This fellow has no idea about the changed market conditions. Pigs will fly, before we get double digit growth again”
As you can imagine the employees are not going to rush out the door to work on the company goals. On the other hand if the leader shows empathy and understanding, employees will feel a connection with them.
“I know it’s been a tough year. You have delivered fantastic growth while operating on tight resources. I know that a number of you are exhausted. Let’s come up with some concrete actions to help you maintain your energy and focus”
“As you know we are offshoring transactional accounting by the end of the year. I know that a number of you are very concerned about your future. The company is looking to retrain some of you to do more analysis work. Keep your focus on your job and anything is possible”
These may not be riveting examples. But the employees see that you are acknowledging their issues. They are not just means for you to achieve your end. You are connecting with what matters most to them not just what matters to you. They also see that you care enough to address what is at the top of their mind. Show people that you care and they will return this favour in shovel loads. This applies not only on the podium but also to how you operate day to day.
Feel valued and not just be an expendable item
Employees observe how other employees are treated when they leave the organisation or are made redundant. If the organisation thanks and celebrates their contribution, it indicates that employees are valued and respected.
On the other hand if they see that employees just disappear without any ado, the organisation is perceived to treat its employees like expendable items. These actions will speak louder than any words the leaders may express.
They also observe if the leaders in the organisation recognise and thank employees for going over and above their jobs. This would indicate to them that great employees are valued. If they feel that you are not valuing them, they will seek out other environments which have this quality.
Be in control of their development
“They have just got me building access tables to consolidate the financial reports I want to present these reports to stakeholders myself. I am sick of being the number cruncher”
Individuals need to have a say in what areas they work on and grow. This will give them a sense of empowerment and they will go the extra distance to further themselves in these areas. Wise leaders appreciate that not all employees are made the same. They will play to the different strengths of the employees to do the best for the organisation.
You may feel that you can employ superstars who are good at all aspects that the organisation needs. I doubt that most teams will consist of only these superstars. . It is far more common to have a mix of varying abilities in your team.
Giving employees the room to develop to what their aspirations is a fabulous motivator. Keep this in mind when you try to get the best out of your people.
Contribute to the vision and strategy
Most organisation have both a vision and a strategy. Employees do not want to be silent observers of these key ingredients of an organisation. Employees are greatly engaged when they contribute to both these important aspects. A good example I heard recently, is a company which prided itself in being innovative. Innovation was encouraged at all levels of that company. A suggestion by an employee at cold face was adopted and celebrated by the CEO. This boosted the morale of all employees.
As a leader encourage and celebrate employee contributions. Make them part of your vision and your strategy. You will be surprised at what you can inspire by getting them involved.
Can you be the leader that your employees crave for? Their future is in your hands. Make the right choices to make you the leader that your people want to follow.