Relationships are built through a thousand little interactions. Each either strengthens or diminishes the bond between people or organizations. However, things move quickly. And there are often competing priorities—customers, competitors, investors, markets and life.
But it is your employees who are going to help you serve your customers, invent ways to displace competitors and create value for investors. Plus make those hours away from your family more enjoyable. Take a moment to consider if your actions are showing them that you care.
At CultureIQ, we have the privilege of working with great organizations and leaders and here are some of the things we’ve heard from leaders who create loyal and engaged teams.
Leaders who care about their teams:
Transparency consistently rates highly among employees when asked what they want from their leaders. However, openness requires a two-way transparency. Employees want to know that their leaders are not only communicating forthrightly and with context, but they want to know that they are being heard. If you have ever given feedback that was ignored, you know how frustrating it can be.
Ways to ensure you are remaining open:
• Take time to craft your message and think about how it may impact your employees from different vantage points (How might this decision impact remote employees? Those who travel frequently?).
• If possible, provide context for decisions. What were the trade-offs, who was involved, and most importantly, what problem you were trying to solve? Not only will this help people know the decisions were made in earnest, but they may have ideas that will help you continue to address challenges or goals in the future.
• When you are communicating something important, always leave ample time for discussion or questions. Often agendas are crafted based on content to be delivered. However, the discussion or question can be incredibly insightful to leaders about what is important to their people.
• Schedule some time with people who take the time to give you feedback to address it. Not only will it show them you are listening, it is a great opportunity to build a relationship and encourage engagement.
5 Languages of Love: Show Your Employees You CareDownload Infographic
All leaders make mistakes, unpopular decisions or have change thrust upon them from other parts of the organization. Like all relationships, what you say is important, but how you say it can be equally as important. The leaders who create affinity with their teams, communicate in a human way. They also take a genuine interest in the welfare of their people.
Ways to ensure you are remaining human:
• When you make a mistake or a project doesn’t meet its goals, don’t be afraid to admit it and show your own disappointment and what you’ll do differently in the future.
• Get to know people on a personal level and what matters to them.
• Don’t forget the power of walking around and engaging in sidebar conversations. Not only will you build relationships, you might learn a few things!
Nothing can undermine a great leader or team more than hypocrisy of favoritism—or even the appearance of it. You don’t need to look any further than the Google Walk Out to see how a company who cares greatly about their employees can undermine all of that goodwill with a decision that is unfair. While it isn’t always simple and there are naturally people with whom you will connect more easily, take a moment to ensure that everyone has the same access or consideration.
Ways to ensure you are remaining fair:
• When assigning projects or opportunities, consider everyone just to make sure you don’t keep going to the same people because you’ve worked with them longer or they are in the same office.
• When you give opportunities, explain why you have given it to someone and how others can be considered in the future. Also, ask people what they enjoy so you can look for those types of projects for them.
• Think about the optics of things and ask for opinions from others on how something might appear if in doubt. For instance, you may have booked that conference months before the end of the quarter travel restrictions that have grounded your services team. In this case, you may want to communicate the reasoning or consider postponing.
Great leaders aren’t afraid to step out of their role and join their teams. It could be for a social reason like a birthday lunch with the team or helping pitch in to meet a pressing deadline.
Ways to ensure you join your employees on their journey:
• If there is a pressing deadline or project coming up, ask how you can help. If you can’t, then maybe bring the team something to show you know that they are working hard and you appreciate it.
• You may be busy, but don’t skip the baby showers, birthday celebrations or promotion celebrations. Little gestures can go a long way!
• Create opportunities for your team to celebrate the wins and lick the wounds –together.
Like all relationships, you will have your ups and downs. However, by staying open, remaining human, aspiring to fairness and knowing that you are a vital part of the team, you can create bonds with your team and show them that you care about them and their success. Plus, work will be a more pleasant place for everyone.