Many day-to-day leadership behaviors allow you to project humility, put people on your level and cultivate a work-inspired culture.
Behavior #1: Forgo Special Perks
Forgoing perks and playing by the same rules as others extends beyond air travel. As the author said, “I don’t stay in luxury hotels when I travel on business (unless that’s where everyone else is staying). I don’t have a window office, because no leaders in our headquarters do. And I don’t get free lunch at the cafeteria in our corporate offices. I’m no better than our employees. If they pay for lunch, then so do I.”
Behavior #2: Give Others the Limelight
When you’re in a meeting, solicit other peoples’ opinions, ask questions and listen carefully. When you give formal speeches, take the opportunity to draw attention to small teams or groups throughout the company, including new employees who recently came on board during acquisitions. These gestures take virtually no extra time and effort. You just have to get in the habit of doing them.
Behavior #3: Show Gratitude
It’s not only the executives making the final decisions who matter. The junior-level people worked hard, and they deserve to be thanked. When that gratitude comes from the mouth of the CEO, or from that of a midlevel manager leading a team, it sends a clear signal not just about the value that every Kronite brings but also about the importance of humility in our culture.
Behavior #4: Remember Basic Respect
Hold the door. If you’re in a meeting and getting coffee for yourself, ask others if they want some, including the 22-year-old intern. If you’re walking with junior employees down the hallway, don’t walk ahead of them, but side by side. If you’re holding a meeting with your team, don’t sit at the head of the conference table every time. If you’re in an elevator with a group of people, look up from your phone and say hello. If you’re in a cab or a restaurant, talk to the people serving you. Ask them about their lives and thank them for their efforts. Practiced daily, little gestures like these make a big difference.
Behavior #5: Get—and Stay—in the Weeds
Some leaders believe they should focus on the high-level strategy, leaving it to others lower in the organization to perform more mundane tasks like interacting with customers and handling their complaints. That thinking is ridiculous.
Behavior #6: Solicit Feedback
Most leaders and managers know they’re supposed to give feedback, critiquing employees on their performance. But think about what it means when you turn the tables and ask others for feedback on your performance. Did they get out of a meeting with you what they had hoped? Did you deliver the guidance they needed? Did your reasoning make sense to them? By posing these questions, you’re again putting yourself on the same plane as everyone else. And you’re getting valuable feedback that can help you improve.
Behavior #7: Over Communicate
No matter what size company or team you lead or manage, making personal connections with your employees is vital. Really talk to people, and enable them to have a voice as well. Walk around and chat with employees informally. Use mass communications to ensure that you connect in some way with every employee at all of your locations. Make frequent, two-way communications an organizational imperative. An engaged workforce is one that communicates, in the richest, most fulfilling sense of the word.
Behavior #8: Trust Them (Again and Again)
Trusting others isn’t easy, especially if your workplace has a history of strained relationships. Also, although the vast majority of employees prove worthy of your trust, a few don’t, and on occasion you might have to deal with the consequences. That’s OK—life isn’t perfect. On the whole, the benefits of infusing trust into the culture far exceed the costs accrued when individual employees disappoint you. The bottom line is this. For a more engaged, higher-performing workforce, start by assuming competence, and then demonstrate to people over and over again that you trust them. Toss micromanagement out the window.
Behavior #9: Keep Your People Safe
Fostering engagement requires so much more than just making sure employees have the tools they need to succeed, are advancing their careers, and have meaningful work. It requires deep, personal engagement from leaders. And it requires taking care of employees’ needs, even those that seem to extend beyond the confines of the workplace itself.
Many companies get the “basics” of engagement right these days. But few treat employees as whole people, doing their best to take care of a range of emotional needs that can and do affect workplace performance. As leaders and managers, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in our employees’ lives. We can teach them, coach them, and spur them to do great work, but we can also help them feel protected. When the rest of the world seems crazy, we can offer them an oasis of stability.