Leaders are under more pressure than ever before to squeeze more from less when it comes to their people. This has led to a carrot and stick mentality – relying on performance targets and compelling individuals to achieve them.
But such tactics often do more to encourage workplace stress and staff turnover than anything else. So how can you drive your people to be all that they can be without driving them into the arms of a competitor?
The answer lies in having a more personal and effective leadership style. No longer can you demand performance from your people. Instead you must inspire it.
1) Confident and strong
The single most effective thing you can do to become an inspirational leader is to build self-belief in others. People have a tendency to live up to your expectation of them. So, if you think John will fall flat on his face the first time you let him lead a meeting, the chances are he will.
Helping people reach their full potential is as much about resetting your own expectations as anything else. Be very aware of any unnecessary limitations you, or others, are putting on people and eliminate negative beliefs. The most effective thing you can do to improve someone’s performance is say, “I believe you can make this happen for us”.
If you don’t think this approach is as powerful as highlighting the consequences of getting it wrong, bear in mind the words of a former Pixar employee, talking about his time working for Steve Jobs: “You just dreaded letting him down. He believed in you so strongly that the thought of disappointing him killed you.”
2) Communicate with passion and in person
If you’re not passionate about the business, then don’t expect anyone else to be. No one was ever moved to achieve great things by a PowerPoint presentation. Get your people engaged and motivated by communicating in person and with passion. Make sure people understand how they contribute to the bigger picture and give everyone a good listening to from time to time. Visit the shop floor and ask people on the frontline for their thoughts on how to solve important business challenges.
Ask often, “If you were me, what would you do about this situation?” It will make staff feel valued and believe that their individual contribution really counts.
3) Positive feedback culture
Culture is the sum of your team’s values and beliefs; not the values and beliefs written on the wall, but how people act on a daily basis. Step back and observe how your people are interacting with one another and people outside their own department.
Do people only get insight into how they’re doing when they go wrong? Or are they more likely to receive attention for doing something right? Ask yourself what do we stand for? What do we believe in? How do we want things to be done around here?
Once you are clear about the behaviours you want to encourage, it’s not enough to simply tell people how you want them to behave. Encourage debate with managers to ensure anyone with responsibility for others has had a say in agreeing the type of culture you want to create to ensure commitment instead of just compliance when it comes to making this reality. Most importantly, don’t just identify behaviours that you want to change. Look at behaviours you want to encourage more of. Then shine a positive spotlight on these by publicly acknowledging and celebrating individual success stories.
4) Keep self-talk positive
Every time you come into contact with a member of your team some of your attitude will rub off on them. If you feel flat or uninspired, this will cause them to feel the same. Never underestimate the importance of how you communicate with yourself.
If the voice in your head is telling you that an obstacle is insurmountable this will come across to others no matter what you actually say. Pay close attention to what you say to others and, most importantly, yourself. Make your self-talk as positive and energised as possible, as developing a can-do attitude in yourself as the best way to inspire this in others.
5) Positive peer pressure
If people only communicate when they need something from one another, blame cultures can easily emerge and minor issues can rapidly escalate. To encourage positive internal relationships, invite all the members of a team to write down the positive attributes they feel towards other members of the team. Collate these and give them to each employee to keep so they have a record of what their peers respect and value most about them. Do not allow any negative feedback.
It is the positive reinforcement from others that unlocks people’s desire to do their best, mutual respect and team spirit. Ensure people have opportunities to interact with one another outside of work to break down barriers and enable people to communicate better with one another in person. If you want to get the most out of your people but can’t remember the last time you all had fun together, plan a social activity.
6) Motivational ability
High-performance workplaces aren’t driven by fear and anxiety. They are cultures where people believe in themselves and one another. When deciding who should be responsible for the performance of others, don’t fall into the trap of placing too much importance on technical competence. Just as much focus should be put on finding those individuals with motivational ability, who have both the desire and ability to motivate and bring out the best in others. If you only appoint managers capable of giving negative feedback, and do nothing to develop their ability to do otherwise, people will naturally hold back. Even if they do the basics required of them, they won’t be remotely inclined to go above or beyond this for fear of criticism.
Remember, most people in this country go to bed hungry, not for food but for praise. Recognition is one of the most effective but also the most underused motivational tools. Banish anyone at any level who humiliates others and remember that criticism, unless constructive, can do more to undermine people’s capability than anything else.
Robin Fielder is a leadership specialist and managing director of LDL, (www.ldl.co.uk) which helps organisations enhance performance and gain competitive advantage.