Here’s the thing. No one who loves their job ever says; “It’s great, my boss humiliates me every time I make even the smallest mistake!” And no one who enjoys where they work ever says: “Upper management only thinks of themselves, I love it and think you will too!” People who love their jobs have bosses who are good human beings.
“Want to be a good leader, be a good human”
I read this somewhere recently, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s so true! Think about it. Any leader that you have had, who you have truly respected and wanted to do a good job for – I bet they worked intentionally at being a good human. The opposite is likely also true. Leaders who you didn’t enjoy working for or with, probably didn’t spend much time considering how their behaviors impacted others.
I’m talking about the leadership version of the Carrot and the Stick metaphor. Do you get your staff and volunteers to do the work that needs to be done by using a Stick or a Carrot?
Using a Stick means tactics like threatening, ridiculing, embarrassing, manipulating or intimidating people. The phrase “Do it this way because I said so” might be common from leaders who employ the Stick methods. It’s anything where the person in charge says or does something that makes a team member feel bad about themselves. Sometimes it’s intentional and the leader thinks that’s the best way to lead. Other times it’s simply that the leader doesn’t consider the impact of their words or actions. Stick leadership doesn’t always come out sounding harsh. It can be sugar coated, or made to sound like the leader is “only joking”. (Hint: they aren’t joking.)
The tricky thing with the Carrot is that it absolutely, 100% has to be sincere and genuine. Otherwise it’s just another form of the Stick. I certainly don’t want to insult anyone by explaining what it means to be a good human. However, often times in business it can be easy to slip into the belief that humanity and business need to be kept separate. Therefore, I’m going to focus on several traits of being a good human and how they relate to the working world.
A considerate person thinks about others and how their actions and decisions impact those around them. A considerate leader talks to the people impacted by their decisions. They consider all sides of an issue and the pros and cons. Ultimately, a leader needs to make decisions based on what is best for the company or organization. However, the considerate leader also knows that if a decision is bad for the employees, it’s likely also bad for the long term success of the company.
See the Value in Others
Good leaders and good humans look for the positive qualities and value of other people. Rather than watch for employees to do something wrong, they lift up the positive qualities and skills of their team members. This isn’t to say that you ignore poor work or inappropriate behavior. If your people have been adequately trained and fully understand the values and culture of the organization, you can rightly expect them to do the job and produce the expected outcomes. Along the way they may do things differently than you would. Look for the positive in the differences.
In order to be considerate, you have to be a good listener. Many leaders are under the false impression that their job is to talk all the time. Worse yet is when they think they should be talking about themselves all the time. Initially, when getting to know their team, the leader may have to show vulnerability by sharing about themselves. If the intent is to get others to share about themselves, it’s a good tactic. The leader needs to know when they’ve shared enough about themself to set the stage, then they need to shift to listening mode. Along with listening, leaders need to practice asking really great probing questions and reflecting what they’re hearing. I talk a lot about the topic of being a listening leader here, here, here and here.
Be Honest and Open
As a leader there are definitely things that you need to keep confidential. Information about other employees, certain business deals, sensitive decisions, etc. However, many leaders make the mistake of keeping everything from their team. Good leaders share the good and the bad aspects of the business. Good leaders explain the thoughts behind their decisions. Good leaders are open about the things they are dealing with. Staff and volunteers like to be informed. It helps them make better decisions and feel more ownership. It also builds trust.
Good leaders build genuine relationships with their team members. They care about staff and volunteers as people. When leadership has put in the time and energy to develop quality relationships, the level of trust and commitment to work increases. The difficult thing here is that it can make it harder on the leader when they need to deliver negative information. No one wants to share something that will be difficult for the people they care about. While it’s hard on the leader, it’s better for the employee. They know that the leader is delivering the message from a place of caring and love.
The number one issue I see in any of the businesses I work with involves communication. I’ve shared before in this article about how the most important things a leader can communicate are: the vision (or mission), the company values, and connecting the dots between each person’s role and that vision (or mission). Because it’s your vision, you should be repeating it every chance you have with your team. You cannot expect everyone to just “get it” because you explained it once. It may take them several times of hearing it before it clicks for them. This takes patience. You may feel like you’re repeating yourself. Go ahead and make that effort. It will pay off significantly.
All of these behaviors can really be summed up in the word respect. People – staff and volunteers included – want to feel respected. They want to know that the people they work for and with care about them as human beings. They want to be heard. They likely work for you because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves and want to understand their part in the success of the business or organization.
Another quote that I read recently goes like this:
Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care.
When does this happen? When the loyal person gives, not only their time and talent to an institution, but also their passion and energy; yet they don’t feel like it matters. When they are not treated with respect. When their frustrations fall on deaf ears.
It is a privilege to lead people. When turnover is a problem, it’s likely a leadership problem. Companies spend a lot of time trying to determine salary ranges and benefit packages. They work for hours on employee handbooks and policies. Treating staff and volunteers with respect and kindness costs nothing, it can be implemented immediately, and it yields amazing dividends. Be the Carrot.
It’s easy to have blind spots regarding relationships with team members. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30-minute consultation to discuss ways to improve employee retention. Calm the Chaos by improving staff retention so you can find time to focus on what’s important to YOU.