by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
As featured in the Forbes Business Council blog
A manager manages, while a leader leads.
Bridging the gap between management and leadership starts with identifying what strengths exist to be built on, what isn’t working and what skills need improvement to foster positive change.
Poor leadership can diminish employee job satisfaction, corporate loyalty and overall performance. It stifles team success, business growth and the company’s bottom line.
Positive leadership happens most often when a leader is promoted to a position that matches their skillset; they received proper training (and experience) in leading, communicating and facilitating to the level required by their new role. In its simplest form, as defined by Gallup, leadership is “the act of getting individuals aligned and moving in the same direction toward a desired outcome.”
Here are some essential ways you can boost your leadership skills and keep your team moving in the right direction:
Communicate with your employees.
Great employees are thought leaders who push the boundaries with new ideas and methods. Great leaders let them push and know they don’t have all the answers themselves.
A lack of feedback from your employees can be a sure sign that your leadership skills need tweaking. Great leaders encourage questions, feedback and new ideas. Some typical skills of a leader who understands the importance of good communication, are:
- Listening more than they talk;
- Taking an interest and investing in their employees as individuals;
- Offering a safe, welcoming office or meeting space;
- Respecting a team member’s time and offering focused attention;
- Providing acceptance and encouragement of feedback.
Positive communication flow doesn’t happen by accident. As Elizabeth Baskin, CEO of global communications agency Tribe, Inc., wrote on LinkedIn, “Without a strong effort to create channels of communication between top management and rank-and-file employees, there’s sometimes very little information flowing between the two.” Baskin also said, “What’s needed is a strategic approach to communicating top management’s strategic direction and vision to people at all levels of the company.”
A great leader inspires and positively influences their team, which promotes employee loyalty and satisfaction. The babysitter (or micromanager), on the other hand, is often perceived as smothering and someone who can’t back off and allow their team to do what they were hired and trained to do. In my experience, the feeling that you need to micromanage is often based on one of three issues:
- You fear that without constant supervision, a project will not succeed.
- You have a lack of proper training in leadership and facilitation skills.
- Your company’s hiring or training of employees is poor, which creates a team that does require constant monitoring—the worst situation a leader can find themselves in.
A secure leader knows how to trust their own abilities as well as those of their team and is ready to step in and facilitate only when it’s needed. You must understand that “babysitting” seldom achieves more than mediocre results. This is a shift that occurs over time, as successes build self-esteem and confidence.
Being micromanaged can be a soul-crushing experience that leads your best employees to question their own abilities as well as their place in the company.
Stay in the loop.
If you never hear about issues until they become an emergency or don’t see warnings of dissatisfaction prior to someone’s resignation, you might need to get your finger back on the pulse of your team.
Poor leadership skills often leave a leader in a “communication bubble” where they hear little, if any, worthwhile feedback. These bubbles can form when team members are afraid to deliver bad news or raise potential issues, or they simply don’t bother because they don’t believe they will be heard.
A great leader welcomes all input, even when it’s negative, and finds ways to deal with it positively. This not only allows you to put out fires before they spread, but also builds employee trust that they can candidly raise issues and have confidence in your ability to resolve them.
Encourage loyalty and longevity.
While the old saying “Employees don’t leave companies; they leave bosses” is often true, the opposite is equally true: Great employees are drawn to great leaders.
Poor or ineffectual leadership skills are a leading cause of employee dissatisfaction and high turnover. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “In general, people leave their jobs because they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years.”
While high turnover is poisonous to productivity and success, I’ve found that ensuring a team is motivated and job-satisfied can have profound, long-term positive effects, including:
- Increased production with fewer delays and standstills;
- Avoiding employee burnout from “picking up the slack”;
- Higher quality of work due to job expertise (i.e., workers aren’t in a constant “training mode”);
- Improved business reputation;
- Increased morale.
Maintaining the longevity and talent of your team is critical. Investing time and resources into your best team members might be one of the most effective ways to retain them. According to the 2019 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn, 94% of employees “would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.”
Great leaders should also make an honest, even painful, assessment of their own skills and actions, especially if they face high turnover and embrace personal change.
The keys to improving leadership skills come down to your willingness to lead by example, recognize and reward performance, and create and communicate expectations with clarity, involvement and actionable feedback. Recognizing and implementing these essential leadership skills can help clear the path to your own success, as well as the success of your team and business.
Are you ready to drive strategic culture change in your organization? Download the Culture Readiness Tool and learn where to start your culture journey.