Too often we forget our most basic goal in business—to create relationships with clients, customers, prospects, colleagues, shareholders and, at the center of it all, employees. Everyone at every level needs appreciation and meaningful feedback about their work. If you think that’s an obvious and practiced element of leadership, think again. Nowadays, leaders are prevented from being effective by not showing appreciation to employees.
Communication is the fundamental element of an organization, and the pattern is established by leaders. Healthy communication requires trust, inclusion, recognition, clear directions, meaningful interaction and feedback at the nerve center of the company.
The most effective leaders understand that clear communication helps a company’s bottom line and can increase productivity. They are diligent about building a sense of connectedness with their teams and appreciation of their employees by saying and asking:
1. “Here’s what I appreciate about you and your contribution.”
The basic “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” doesn’t satisfy people who put their heart and soul into their work. Instead, say something specific like, “I appreciate the way you pull in people from other departments to reach your team goals—you’re a connector.” Leaders need to notice employees’ unique, specific contributions.
2. “Thank you.”
From the elevator to the parking lot, daily interactions represent opportunities for leaders to engage in dynamic interactions and show appreciation for their employees’ efforts. Public recognition at a staff meeting, or a thoughtful “thank you” in a newsletter, are also meaningful.
“What do you think?”
Employees often withhold their best ideas from leaders who always have the “right” answer or take credit for others’ ideas. Ask questions such as, “What have you noticed?” “How do you think we could improve?” “What is keeping us stuck?” and “What do you love about it?” Establish a safe environment in which people have the opportunity to express themselves and be recognized for their ideas and they will take ownership of the results.
4. “Here’s what’s happening and what you can expect.”
Companies today often operate in a state of change, and all too often, information is withheld until the last minute. This is a huge distraction for employees who need “real speak” about their futures. Leaders often underestimate employees’ ability to accept “why” if it is shared in an honest way. Leaders will gain deep respect when they share as much as they know as soon as they can share it. Explanations are better than no explanations.
5. “I have some feedback for you.”
Don’t wait for a performance review to tell people how they’re doing. A culture of continual feedback is healthy and nimble.
“Let me share a time I got it wrong.”
Smart, capable leaders who know their stuff are well respected, but employees like and trust leaders who are not only smart but can occasionally lean back and laugh at their own mistakes and who are generous with what life has taught them. The effective leader says, “Let me tell you about something I learned the hard way,” instead of dictating the course to take.