Ann was perplexed. She manages a mid-sized company for many years and – until recently – has always made a profit. She’s worked hard to get the business results that were required for her organization to thrive. Ann’s tried her best to help the people who worked for her to succeed.
In spite of her efforts, employee engagement had progressively deteriorated, resulting in lower productivity, higher use of sick leave, and increasing problems with customer satisfaction. Ann’s been thinking that the newer generations of workers are just less motivated than her baby boomer peers, but the issues turned out to be deeper than that.
The problem came to a head when revenue dropped and some employees were laid off. The remaining employees didn’t seem to care whether the company would be able to turn things around and return to being profitable.
For many years Ann and her management team had focused their attention on achieving bottom line results. They looked at how to improve work processes to get the most productivity out of people. Over the years the managers imposed new systems and changed company policies in order to get the biggest bang for their buck.
But a funny thing happened on the way to improving efficiency and making more money. The employees resented having to deal with unforeseen problems associated with changing the way they worked. And they hated how policy changes impacted their personal lives, causing them to have to rearrange their child care or no longer receive comp time when they worked longer hours to get a job done.
At first the employees expressed dissatisfaction. But when Ann responded with explanations that justified why the company needed to make the changes, they gave up trying to have any input to the decision making process. Over time Ann’s employees came to feel that the company didn’t care about how changes affected important aspects of their lives, so they stopped caring about what was important to the company.
Studies of successful leaders have found that they’ve learned to use 5 positive management behaviors.
First, to better inform their decisions they get input from their employees before finalizing choices. Top leaders have discovered the value of listening to the perspectives of people in different roles who contribute at every level.
Second, leaders who have the most engaged employees use a strengths-based approach to match people’s natural talents to their jobs. Top rated managers rely heavily on teams with a variety of capabilities who have been empowered to perform at their best to accomplish a positive outcome.
The third behavior demonstrated by effective leaders is that they catch people doing things right and provide plenty of recognition for those employees who contribute the most to helping teammates make progress.
Fourth, the most successful managers remain optimistic when setbacks occur. Leaders who look at who was to blame cause employees to become defensive and disengaged. Positive managers control their negative emotions by directing their thoughts toward seeking solutions. They engage in problem solving with their employees in order to turn the situation around.
The fifth trait demonstrated by leaders in high-performing organizations is gratitude. Leaders who flourish realize that it’s the hard work of others that leads to success. And they are exceptionally generous in recognizing the persistent efforts of people that ultimately produced success.
To upgrade her skills, Ann began working with an executive coach who taught her the science of successful leadership. She learned that instilling passion is the first step in motivating people. Passion can be cultivated in employees when they’re a part of the project management discussions. That encourages teams to define their goals in ways that people at all levels can see that positive outcomes are attainable.
Teams create action plans by incorporating input from a wide variety of employees who are crucial to successful implementation. In retrospect, Ann realized how much time and energy had been wasted by launching top-down initiatives and then trying to solve the problems that arose.
Ann says the best result from her coaching was discovering how much more enjoyable it feels to be a positive leader. She loves helping people to be more passionate about their ability to succeed. She’s been able to put down the stick she’d used to prod people into action. Instead, she’s learned to recognize and encourage employees to use their strengths.
As employees have become more engaged, the company has started hitting its performance goals. Ann’s relishing giving her employees the recognition they so richly deserve.