What is the secret to being a great leader? How can you effectively motivate, inspire and lead people? The answer may surprise you.
“Our employees don’t really care about what we want them to do until they know how much we care about them. When an employee knows—truly knows—that you care about them, then they care about you. And when they know you care, they will listen to you and they will do anything for you,” writes Jeff Haden, contributing editor, Inc.com., quoting a business executive.
Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat First, agrees: “It’s your responsibility to take care of [employees], make them feel safe, and they will naturally want to cooperate and work hard, and give you their blood and sweat and tears to advance your vision. All they ask is that you take care of them, make them feel valued and valuable, and the rest takes care of itself.”
Sinek explains further: “If you create an environment in which people feel safe amongst their own . . . the natural human response to those conditions is trust and cooperation . . . Likewise, if you create an environment where we actually fear each other, fear the people with whom we work, the natural human reaction to that environment is paranoia, cynicism, mistrust and self-interest.”
If employees send “CYA” emails or keep a file of good things they’ve done on the job “just in case,” Sinek says those are signs that employees don’t feel safe or cared about by their leaders. As a result, employees spend valuable time and energy protecting themselves rather than doing their job. When people feel safe, they are more engaged and happy in their work.
The first step in creating this safe environment is knowing what makes employees feel safe. Job security seems like an obvious measure of safety, but if your organization is a start-up maybe long-term job security isn’t an expectation of your workforce. Company-wide surveys provide a foundation of data, but it’s important to meet regularly with HR to get the anecdotal stories as well. The chatter of the single mom who many believe was unfairly terminated can ultimately undermine the broad efforts you implement from the top down.
Once you understand (and keep checking in on) what matters to your workforce, you’re presented with the challenge of showing them you care. The groundwork for this is built in your corporate policies and business decisions. And while the connection between what matters to your workforce and the decision or policy that was ultimately made might be obvious to you, connecting the dots is more difficult for employees. The fact that the decision was made with them in mind may not be evident when policies and decisions make their way down the rank and file. A video conferencing solution allows leaders to share information face-to-face with the entire company, providing you with a platform by which to share the decision making process and to give employees an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions.
Once the groundwork is laid, there are measures to foster empathy and caring among employees. While technology and workplace trends have improved the employee experience, they’ve also distanced us from each other. Remote work policies, flexible work schedules and mobile access mean we rarely interact with employees face-to-face. Growing to-do lists turn interactions into transactions. In our rush to send an instant message or text, we often leave out the niceties. And it’s all too easy to fire off a curt email when tensions are high.
We are naturally more empathetic when we can see each other. A video conferencing solution can help by making it easy to meet with employees face-to-face, whether for a scheduled team meeting or an ad-hoc one-on-one call. The very fact that you can see someone while waiting for a meeting to start, for example, changes the level of discourse. Participants go from having superficial discussions about the weather or (worse) sitting in silence, to talking about points of mutual interest.
In order to perform at their best, employees need to know you care about them. That may mean taking a few minutes out of your day to connect face-to-face, but the return is a workforce that will gladly give you their blood, sweat and tears. And, with the help of a video conferencing solution, doing so is as easy as the touch of a button.