We all know the old saying ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’. It may only be an old saying – but it is also painfully true. Too often we see talented employees leaving for a job elsewhere because their managers fail to meet their expectations. These employees expect and need engaging leadership to help them fulfil their potential.
Are you guilty of losing your most talented employees to your competitors? Are they leaving you, not the job?
These are tough questions to answer. They require honest answers. To answer these honestly, though, requires every manager to take a long, hard, honest look at themselves in the mirror. It will bring some uncomfortable truths for each of us. Though, I also believe that we aren’t totally unaware of these truths.
We know there are behaviours, approaches and habits we have that our team members don’t connect with.
So, is ‘engaging leadership’ beyond you?
Absolutely not. There are many personal strategies every manager can put into practice to better connect with and engage their team. Here are 6 personal strategies that will help you become an engaging leader.
- Be authentic
Authentic leadership is key to engaging your team. People like people. What’s more, people like people who are genuine, self-aware and emotionally intelligent. An authentic leader will not hide his/her weaknesses or mistakes. S/he does the job in pursuit of the best result. Power, ego and personal gain is not important. Own your mistakes and successes and show that you believe learning, developing and self-actualising is a continuous journey. Behave in public as you do in private and allow your team members to get to know the true you. Only then can they connect fully with you as their leader.
- Be consistent
This is my favourite piece of advice to all new leaders I come into contact with. Employees want clear, consistent communication and behaviour from their leader. They do not want knee-jerk reactions or a leader who blows hot and cold. Consistency enables your team members to develop their own personal strategies to communicate effectively with you, even when something has went wrong. Being consistent will get you a steady stream of feedback and immediate knowledge of problems.
- Create a team culture where contribution and failure are safe
You want and need a team that thinks creatively and who will come up with innovative solutions when faced with problems. This type of thinking will bring many successes for your team. Along the way, there will also be many failures – any creative process will bring failures on the path to success. If you are uncomfortable with the failures, then you stop the creativity and, effectively, the success. You plot the path to mediocrity. So, encourage your team to be creative and innovative. Meet all failures with support and constructive feedback. No-one gets blamed so everyone feels safe to innovate.
- Put your people first
Still, we hear so many leaders and organisations roll out the old mantra ‘our customer comes first’. People who feel second best will not do their best job by your customers. You need to put your people first. This is linked to No 3 above. If your team members feel that you ‘have their back’, then they will feel more comfortable in doing their job, more confident and will be more productive. More importantly, your customers want to be dealt with and treated well by employees who are highly engaged. Think of it this way. When have you enjoyed your best interactions with restaurants, hotels, airlines, retailers or any organisation when you have been the customer? I have had my best customer experiences when the employees are engaged. They were interested in making my customer experience as enjoyable as possible.
- Communicate a clear vision
Your people will always look to you for the direction of travel for either the team or projects they are working on. Yes, it’s true that we aim to develop a ‘self-managing’ culture in the team where people can be creative and innovative. However, this creativity does need the parameters set by your clear vision. This gives your employees a framework within which they can be the best employees they can be. Give your employees a sense of the team’s future (or the company). Let them feel and experience this future through your communication and vision so it can motivate and stimulate their innovation.
- Be a strong and clear decision maker
People like certainty and clarity. They do not like uncertainty. People do not like waiting for decisions to be made, especially when the decision-maker is ‘sweating the small stuff’ and taking too long. They also dislike decisions being frequently changed. Quick and decisive decision making is an important leadership and business skill. Make the decision, own it and the outcome. The more you do this, the more effectively your team can work, implementing your decisions. This helps your employees feel efficient, productive and successful.