A new HR Manager noticed that a large portion of employees were consistently wearing non-professional clothing that clearly violated the company’s dress code. She took it upon herself to start gently reminding employees about the dress code with the hope that the professional standards of the employees would start improving.
One day, she boarded the elevator and noticed an employee she hadn’t seen before dressed in substandard clothing. She introduced herself and then proceeded to gently remind the employee about the company’s dress code policy and how the organization expected all employees to dress professionally. Upon reaching the top floor, the employee thanked the HR Manager for her input and agreed that he should start improving his professional attire. He then proceeded to introduce himself and identified himself to the HR Manager as the CEO and owner of the company.
The CEO could easily have interrupted the HR Manager during her gentle chiding, but instead allowed the manager to do her job and not only listened to her advice, but he promised to follow his own company’s policies when it came to the dress code. It was only after this that he introduced who he was.
As we move through our professional career, we are often faced with a hierarchy, both inside and outside of our organization. While it is good to have designated authority and an understanding of who is in control of the organization’s direction, as professionals we need to ensure that no matter where we fall in the organization’s hierarchy, we treat every individual with respect and dignity.
A positive personality that is open to critique and feedback can enhance not only your ability to get along with those around you, but also increase the positive and professional relationships with your employees, coworkers, and managers. Think about those you work with who possess that natural positive and accepting personality. Watch how they interact positively; most often these positive interactions stem from the fact that they treat those around them with respect and dignity whether they are the CEO or the Janitor. This can start by simply taking a genuine interest in those around you. What makes them feel important?
Take the next few days to think about how you present yourself professionally. Think beyond how you dress and even beyond your work effort. How do you interact with your coworkers? Do you take the time to get to know the name of the person at the front desk? Challenge yourself this week to start taking a sincere effort to take a genuine interest in everyone one you work with.
Whether in your personal or professional life, establishing a solid foundation of trust is key in ensuring a long lasting and successful relationship. Actions which prove to your team that you practice what you preach are far more effective than simply giving promises and assurances when it comes to building those relationships in which honesty and integrity are prevalent.
Be the Example
Making certain that your words line up with your actions is a vital component in developing trust with your employees. If there is a significant disconnect between what a manager says and what they do, skepticism and wariness often ensue, tainting that foundation of trust.
Let’s say there is a tight deadline that requires all hands on deck. You expect your employees to work non-stop on the deliverable, even working overtime if necessary to ensure the client is satisfied. Rather than barking orders, work with them to ensure the job gets done. Getting down in the trenches and showing your employees that you are willing to work just as hard as they are will not only strengthen that level of trust, but can help promote productivity and engagement.
Part of leading by example and “practicing what you preach” is making certain that you follow through. If you cannot commit to something, even the most well intentioned promise means nothing if you cannot successfully act on it. Whether the action is something as simple as answering a question or looking for a resource, or helping your employee complete a project or working towards a professional goal, making certain that you maintain your commitments will prove your integrity.
Following through is certainly a type of consistency, but this concept is far more outreaching than simply applying your policies and behaviors regularly. It is vital to the success of your team as a whole that you treat every individual in a fair and consistent manner. Inconsistent treatment including giving favors, providing leniency, having favorites, and nonchalantly enforcing policies are trust-building killers. All employees observe inconsistencies, and regardless if the observation is from an employee who is receiving or being excluded from the treatment or behavior, the observation of contradictions can put your honesty into question.
Building trust takes hard work. It isn’t something that is earned overnight, and is a relationship factor that needs to be nurtured and maintained over time. Focus this week on taking an honest evaluation of the honesty you have with each employee in your team. Are there areas for improvement? What steps can you take to help strengthen those levels of trust?
Bob (a fictional character) has been the head of accounting for many years and has several employee’s working for him. While Bob really enjoys crunching the numbers and making sure that every penny has its place, he knows that he isn’t good at relationships, but figures that the “real” business is all about the numbers. Whenever an employee approaches him with a problem or a misunderstanding he waves them off, saying they should know how to fix it, or worse, he talks down them as if he was a school teacher reprimanding a child.
I am sure most of us have seen this type of manager in one form or another, but the negative results of such management can be costly to any organization. A manager like Bob can cause more than hurt feelings. This management style can cause a drop in production, high turn-over, costly mistakes, and negative morale. When an employee lacks the support and encouragement that all of us instinctively need, they will often hide mistakes to avoid retaliation, look for a way out of the organization (or department), or simply stop working to the best of their ability.
A manager’s real job is to encourage and support employees in doing their job correctly. Unfortunately, all too often managers are promoted because they are good at what they do without any thought to training the new manager and working on their interpersonal skills. In addition, many organizations not only mandate management duties onto their supervisors, they also demand some kind of production goals. This leaves many managers defaulting to what they know best, production, rather than building strong professional relationships with their team.
Taking on a managerial role is certainly not for the faint of heart. Every manager should strive to build professional relationships with their employees. To accomplish this, they must become active students on relationship building, conflict resolution, active listening, and effective communication. These traits don’t come naturally to most people and are often some life-long learning opportunities.
Take the next week to objectively observe how you interact with your employees. Even those without employees, you can still learn the art of professional relationships and become more approachable.
Many years ago as a “newbie” in the professional world, I went to lunch with my boss and a co-worker. During that lunch, my supervisor and my co-worker spent most of the conversation talking negatively about all of the other employees in our division. Even at my young age, I sat there stunned by the gossip and negative talk. The thought that kept going through my head during this lunch was “What do they say about me when I am not around?” What I learned from this lunch was two-fold; first, don’t say anything negative around my coworkers and secondly, that negative talk about others only harms communication and trust in the long run.
My former boss and coworker were far from impeccable with their words that day and as a result they harmed the trust and relationship that I was building as a new employee. Being impeccable with your communication and your words means that you realize your words can build up or tear down. For example, when you need to discipline your employees, think about how you view the discipline. Is it a way for you to retaliate to your employee because they did not perform as expected, or rather do you view the discipline as providing your employee a path to success? The latter mindset leads you to approach the discipline as a building exercise rather than the tearing down of an individual.
What does Impeccable Communication really mean? The word “impeccable” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as being “in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless.” This meaning of impeccable communication translates to us as managers as a need to hold our words (written, verbal, and non-verbal) to the highest standards of quality. This requirement is achieved by our understanding that our words have power.
While no one is perfect with their words and we all have faltered with negative talk, we must constantly improve our communication skills by seeking and eliminating negative and harmful words. A good leader seeks to inspire and promote wellbeing in the workplace, not tear down and manage by fear. Managing by fear results in a leader who doesn’t have enough information, is unapproachable, and as a result, has poor performing employees.
My challenge to you this week is to try to eliminate negative words and gossip from your communication for one week and see how it will impact those around you.
There are many traits that all good leaders should have in their arsenal of skills to effectively manage their employees and work well with individuals at all levels. Though not all inclusive, here are four of the top traits that every great leader should strive to excel in:
Impeccable Communication – Good leaders are good communicators. Great leaders are impeccable at communication. This means not only possessing a willingness to regularly talk to your employees about their needs and concerns, but more specifically the careful selection of what words you use, and how you articulate that message (tone of voice, body language, etc.).
Approachable – Being personable is one of those leadership traits that is vital to maintaining strong relationships with your employees. Strong leaders take a genuine interest in their employees, actively listen, and are empathetic and compassionate.
Trustworthy – Earning respect is a vital component in successfully leading your team. Actions that promote honesty and integrity such as being willing to dig in and work side by side with your employees when work needs to get done can help ensure that those levels of respect are built.
Personal Presentation – Presentation in the workplace is more than just your physical appearance and professional image. How you present yourself as a person, your positive personality, and your interactions with individuals at all levels can help elevate your interpersonal skills.
Read along this month as we further expand on each of these positive traits that each great leader should possess to be successful and well respected. Learn about how each of these traits positively impacts career development and professional relationships, and how to improve in each of these areas.