I noticed that employee engagement and motivation issues have been trending a lot in posts found on my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds. Therefore, I felt that this was a perfect topic to end the workweek with. A few months ago, I had posted a discussion question on the LinkedIn:HR group asking my HR peers to tell me what qualities made a good leader. Not only did they give me some fantastic feedback, but employees also spoke up and let me know what they wanted from their leaders. I thought that sharing this with all of you could potentially spark ideas on how to fix some of your companies’ motivation problems and maybe help find a way to make the workplace better as a whole.
As always, when I think of good leadership, I recall my time working as a customer service representative with CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). The team leads and office manager were simply amazing and I couldn’t help but respect their leadership skills. Melissa Woodrow, one of the team leads of that department, was kind enough to give me some insight on what qualities made her to be the phenomenal leader that she is today.
“I have been a Lead for quite a while (over 4 years) at a great company. I believe leadership has a lot to do with your personality rather than being taught. Sure, you can ‘learn’ how to handle difficult situations with employees. You can ‘learn’ how to coach employees. But you can’t really fake empathy. And the bottom line is: if you don’t care, employees won’t care for you,” she stated.
Comparing the statement she gave against the comments employees had given me, I’d have to say that they are well aligned. A large portion of employees had said that they wanted a leader to be more personal with them and show that they listened and cared. “The most important thing is earning trust in others. That’s where it all starts. Listen. Show good judgment. Be interested in what they are doing. Have fun,” Woodrow added. Along those lines; Jimmy Ruane, an individual who has grown up in a military family, said he has met some of the most admirable leaders over the years. He informed me that the best leadership quality he has seen was a leader who always puts his people first.
One comment I made in my discussion post had a lot of others chiming in with their whole-hearted agreement. I had declared that a good leader is someone that wants you to do better than they had and wants you to do the things they never could. Too often, especially in this economy, leaders fear their job security by letting other’s outshine them. Other leaders simply let their egos get in the way of mentoring their employees to reach their highest potential. In these situations, it’s no wonder why employees lose motivation. Most employees want to grow in some way or another so if you don’t foster that desire they’ll eventually look for other ways to do so, even to the point of leaving your company.
If you want to be a good leader and want your employees to be more committed, then you need to be invested in them. Jim Sweeney, an employee of Amazon.com, had told me that he feels a sense of loyalty to his company due to the fact that his leader (his department manager) invested in his future. He recently started to go back to school to obtain a Bachelor’s in Computer Science in hopes to pursue a career in Software Development. His leader had already taken time to know this and sincerely thought about how to help. Soon after, she told him she was setting up time each week for him to be mentored by someone in the SD/IT department.
“She (his manager) really showed me that she cared about my professional growth and, in turn, made me want to grow with Amazon. It just validated my feelings about committing to this company long-term,” Sweeney said. That is quite a statement coming from a Gen Yer, a generation that is notoriously known for job hopping every couple years.
Leadership style is also something to consider. Human resources professionals had told me that some of their better leaders had been using the participative leadership style. This style includes the employees in information, brainstorming, and discussion. Employees responded well to this type of style because they felt like their opinions were heard and that they truly were contributing something. Also, this allowed employees to feel more accountable in the success of the company.
Leaders, it’s not always about leading the pack and expecting them to follow. Sometimes you need to be a part of the pack to really understand what they want and need from you. Once you successfully implement that into your leadership strategy, you’ll find that your employees will follow without hesitation.
Links, People, and Companies to follow:
The Right Kind of Employee
Jim Sweeney, Amazon.com employee
A special thanks to my brother/Marketing Extraordinaire, Jeff Perez, for teaching me how to use HTML properly