As if 2020 wasn’t hard enough, 2021 showed us that we can endure more than we previously thought possible. Among the industries that had to pivot with new regulations, customer attrition, and increased restrictions, employees became the poster child for burnout. And now, with managers among the most disengaged employees in the workplace, a case for more people leaders in the workplace emerges yet again.
With the rise and fall, and rise again, of remote and hybrid work environments, employees started gaining a new perspective. They’re asking themselves questions like:
- Am I valued for the skills I bring?
- Do I have a work/life balance that aligns with my current needs?
- Am I provided opportunities to grow and learn new skills to take me to the next level?
- Will my role help me achieve my long-term goals?
It’s time for leaders to determine what they need to do in their organization to make sure those they lead have the answers they are looking for before it’s too late.
It comes down to three key leadership practices that aren’t necessarily new to the scene, or even complex in nature if you have the right training and tools in place. The only question leaders need to ask themselves now is: “Am I going to lead my people or my business first?” I promise one follows the other, but the order you choose matters to the outcome.
Engage your people
Everyone wants to feel valued and connected to those around them. The human brain is wired to desire connections. People can’t help but want to feel noticed and appreciated. So then, why do we tend to see work environments as ‘all work and no play’ – when research proves adding a little fun into our workplaces increases overall productivity.
When we are in a positive state of mind, our brains release dopamine and function at a higher level. This allows us to become better innovators, problem solvers, and controllers of our emotions. Introducing these concepts to the workplace not only increases engagement but squashes workplace drama before it becomes toxic. Laughter shouldn’t be something only shared after hours, it should be commonplace in our workspaces.
The bottom line: If leaders are going to hold on to top talent, they need to find ways to deepen relationships in the workplace. Employees want to feel heard, valued, and supported as people, not as assets. They want to be connected to something bigger – part of the ‘in tribe’. Seek and utilize tools that invite employees to engage authentically at work and enjoy the company of those around them.
Extend empathy and compassion
Before you shy away from what might feel like the “touchy-feely” side of things, extending empathy and compassion is actually simpler than you think. Being a people leader is about being present in every interaction you have with others – being willing to take the time needed to show you care.
In our program, we spend the first 2 modules unpacking what that looks like, and how to become more aware of those we lead. Often, people feel empathy is an inherent skill – you either have it or you don’t. That’s not always the case.
Empathy is an emotional muscle, and just like any other skill, it can be developed. Yes, it may come easier for some, but everyone can take steps to become a more empathetic leader. The outcome isn’t just about becoming a better person. It’s about having the skills to authentically connect with people, and in the business world, that leads to employee retention.
Learn to flex your empathy muscle, and you’ll soon see that empathy precedes compassion. Compassion is when empathy moves from feeling to a desire to help – to be an ally in someone’s journey (struggles and all). As a leader, if you are able to show empathy and compassion, everyone wins.
Supporting employees as individuals helps offset lost productivity and lack of focus. So, do the work and enjoy the benefits of shifting people’s brains into a rewards state – enabling them to function at a higher cognitive level.
The bottom line: Leaders who take the small steps to begin developing trust and personal connections will soon reap the rewards. Right now, you might be thinking this sounds more like counseling than workplace interactions, but soft skills matter.
This is a slow and steady process – not a bare-all and hope for the best. Over time, expressing different levels of empathy will create an environment where others feel valued, and your culture becomes high trust rather than toxic. People know you’ve got their back, they’re connected to a purpose, and they have more reasons to stay than leave.
Go From Manager To People Leader
Embrace uncertainty and change
If there is one thing we learned since COVID reared its ugly head, it’s we do not know what tomorrow will bring. And, sometimes, what we didn’t plan for just may contain a perspective that was previously hidden within our biases and past experiences. Those things you thought were non-negotiable suddenly become the greatest new idea or the solution you were looking for all along.
Change is a part of everyday life. Accepting that early on as a people leader will be to your advantage. Being able to take risks and navigate change is what allows companies to thrive. Some risks provide exciting new opportunities, and others not so much. It’s how you view those setbacks that make all the difference.
- Do you quickly rebound and try again, or do you wallow in your defeat?
- Do you consider what you learned through the setback, or keep focusing on the failure?
- Do you have a healthy relationship with failure, or is it something you avoid at all costs?
The bottom line: Being a people leader starts with a growth mindset. You need to be willing to ask ‘how can I adjust’ when life throws a curveball. You need to not fear change but realize it could be just what you need to begin thinking differently. Great leaders know how to get out of a rut, move beyond embedded biases, and see things from a new perspective.
Why It Matters
Becoming a people leader doesn’t happen overnight. The responsibility you carry in a leadership role is immense, and at times, overwhelmingly so. Step back, begin to invest in yourself, and positively influence those in your midst. Harness your inner people leader, and the benefits will go far and deep.
- You’ll attract and retain talent – naturally: External forces can’t always be helped but retaining the talent that keeps your organization running smoothly starts at the top. Set the example, share it with others, and let your retention strategy fall into place.
- Managers will pick up what you’re putting down: When great leadership exists at the top, managers will follow suit. Employee morale is a trickle-down effect, and when your managers receive the support they need from you, they pay it forward to their teams.
- You will simply be a better person: Learning to celebrate your strengths and seek growth from your struggles won’t just make you a better leader. It’ll make you a better person all around. From the relationships you carry at home, to those you’re building at work, you will be a happier, more focused, and purpose-driven person.
Go From Manager To People Leader
Level up your leadership skills with the Unmistakable LEADER™ program. The program dives deep into understanding the brain science behind interactions and how you can utilize that knowledge to influence those around you. Participants leave with the tools and experience to make a real difference in their organizations.