How to Cultivate the Human Side Of Leadership
It can be challenging for top management to translate the company’s strategy into results. In a paper titled Creating value through HR, professional services firm Deloitte points out, “One of the key success factors of high performing organizations is putting people first.”
Unfortunately, the reality in many organizations is perceived as quite different. Many workers actively distrust their leadership.
A Harvard Business Review article, “Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings,” cites a survey which found 65% of workers would be willing to give up a pay raise if they had the option of seeing their manager fired. Similarly, a Gallup poll also found that 82% of workers thought of their leaders as “uninspiring.”
Why do managers get such a bad reputation? In most organizations, the problem boils down to two issues:
- An inefficient performance review process that doesn’t serve its intended purpose.
- A lack of alignment and poor feedback culture within the company.
The Secret Behind Successful Teams
Google’s HR department undertook a project to pinpoint factors that contributed to a team’s effectiveness. They assumed the technical competence of the team members and the inclusion of people with different skill sets would increase the probability of success.
What they in fact discovered was the key contributor to a team’s performance was how the team members interacted with each other. Did they support their colleagues and keep the commitments that they made? Or did people spend time finding fault with others?
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Why some teams succeed Source: Google
How do you get people to contribute in a meaningful manner to team goals? To start, each person should have a well-defined role. If an individual isn’t aware of what is expected of her, how will her performance be judged? Additionally, people should be willing to speak out without fear of being ridiculed. For example, a team leader who constantly interrupts people when they speak or makes a mockery of what they say will soon see a drop in morale.
The High Physical Toll of Bad Bosses
While competent managers can help an organization meet its goals, toxic leaders who don’t empathize with their staff can do great harm. In his book "Dying for a Paycheck," Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, explains how bad bosses can make you sick. He shares a survey which found 61% of workers said stress at the workplace had harmed their health. About 7% said they had to be hospitalized because of the pressure they faced at work.
What attributes do the best managers share? Here are a few to help workers perform at an optimum level:
- Compassion and kindness: Stanford Business School has a course titled Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion. The course teaches students how these qualities can enhance leadership skills. Students are taught how mindfulness can enhance clarity in purpose and boost productivity.
- Integrity: This involves taking responsibility for your actions and keeping the promises you have made to your team members. A vital component of this attribute is communication. Unless you know the pulse of the people you work with, how will you get them to align their interests with that of the organization?
- Coaching skills: “Teacher managers” are highly valued in organizations. They provide training to their people on an ongoing basis. Many of these managers have highly developed technical expertise and constantly try to enhance the skills and capabilities of their team members.
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What Can You Do to Get the Best Out of Your People?
Every worker is different. Some need a great deal of support to accomplish their goals while others perform at their optimum when given the freedom to operate independently. To complicate matters, an individual could be going through a difficult time in his or her personal life, which could have an impact on productivity.
How can a manager monitor each person’s requirements and provide the right degree of support?
In Decoding leadership: What really matters, management consultancy McKinsey & Company states that only four attributes determine 89% of leadership effectiveness.
Four kinds of behavior account for 89% of leadership effectiveness. Source: McKinsey & Company
What’s the #1 attribute managers must develop? Supporting their people. This quality will help build trust and inspire workers to focus on organizational goals.
An effective performance review process is essential to know the pulse of your people. It will help you keep track of the progress that has been achieved against targets. More importantly, it could give you the information you need to take preemptive steps and corrective action. The performance review system could also provide you with the inputs you need to develop your soft leadership skills. You may not even be aware you are lacking these skills.
Knowing how to interact effectively and harmoniously with your people and the development of self-compassion are must-have skills for leaders. Here’s how you can cultivate these abilities:
- Learn rather than judge your failures. If you can’t grow from your mistakes, how will you encourage others to do the same?
- Take a balanced approach to failure. Look for solutions instead of ways to apportion blame.
- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your team. Overconfidence can lead to complacency while underestimating your potential is a form of defeatism.
Remember, the key to meeting your organizational goals lies in people engagement. You need to implement a system of getting feedback from your workers on a regular basis. A yearly performance review isn’t enough. Instead, why not try real-time feedback and a procedure that offers you an opportunity to implement corrective measures in a quick and effective manner?
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About the Author
Steffen is the co-founder of Impraise, the People Enablement Platform. He and Bas Kohne founded Impraise to help unleash people’s potential through more than just performance reviews: accelerating performance, fostering career development, and seizing all the moments that happen in between.