This is pretty closely connected to myth #3 in that as leaders we get bogged down with "busy" work and begin to justify our absence by telling ourselves that our actions or attitude don't really matter that much to our staff. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth and you have far more influence than you realize.
The following is a good exercise to try; google the top reasons that employees leave a company. There is an interesting set of trends that come out of the surveys on the first page alone! Number one on the list is a bad boss. There are lots of ways that bosses are perceived to be bad but when I dug into the results a bit further a couple of things jumped out at me. Consistent in the top list of reasons after "bad bosses' was lack of respect and poor work life balance. How are these connected you may ask?
When you were climbing up the ranks and working toward those coveted promotions think about the bosses you had. We can all point to those bosses that respected us, that gave us an opportunity to be involved and who gave us work that challenged us. No matter how far we climb that ladder we will always seek those things from our boss. So the question becomes are you doing this for your staff?
New bosses struggle with this the most as usually they are promoted for their hard skills and often it is difficult for them to let go of doing those things as that is what brought them recognition in the first place. While it may be a comfortable place to be when you first move into leadership if you stay there you are inviting all kinds of issues. What you will communicate to your staff that they are not trusted to do the job or respected and they won't do anything unless they are certain they have your buy in. It will lead to a type of paralysis of action and innovation as no one desires to be found wanting in your eyes.
In a group of oil and gas service workers I worked with we developed a rule for front line crew leaders; you are not to be "head down - bum up" doing the work out there. If you were caught doing that you were called on it. The concept was they were there to lead not to do. That meant handing off those things they were comfortable doing and teaching their crew to do them instead. It became a bit of game but what they each commented on was how it forced them out of the old thinking so that they became better leaders. In addition, their crews responded well because for them it was a respect issue and they appreciated the effort being taken with them.
This also relates to work/life balance. How? Very often the issue of work/life balance really translates into valuing someone as a person not just as a cog in the machine. If you as their leader won't take the time to get to know them as people and appreciate them for who they are what are you communicating? That's right, they don't matter. We have all worked for those kind of bosses; the ones you know are only using you for their own gain. It is hard for even the most noble of us to go the "extra mile" for that kind of boss.
I saw a beautiful example of how getting to know your team can be done well. At a plant I was working with in the U.S. one of their workers was killed in a car crash on their days off. That person's supervisor knew them well, knew about the fact they had purchased a new house and had a new baby at home. It looked pretty desperate for his widow. This information was passed up the line and very shortly the plant and operations managers from the plant paid a visit to the widow with assurances of clearing all the obstacles with insurance, a pledge to help with the mortgage and a plan set up a college fund for the child. This was certainly above and beyond to be sure but what do you think those actions communicated to the rest of the staff? You got it; they were important - as people. Want to guess what their turnover rates were?
There are so many facets to how your attitude and actions can impact your team. Today we looked at the issues of respect and work/life balance (valuing your people for who they are) and what that says about your leadership. Respecting your people by taking the time to train them, to challenge them and getting to know them can become a powerful hallmark of your leadership and a powerful tool for driving performance.
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