Leadership: What it takes to inspire your teams to ‘want’
Welcome back to the Culture Hacker series on how to reprogram your company culture and improve the employee experience. We will now talk about one of the most important mechanisms in how employees feel about coming to work, leadership.
Research tells us that poor leadership results in numerous issues including poor morale, increased stress, mismanagement of resources, a lack of motivation, and increased turnover. There are many angles, ideas, and thoughts about leadership and you could say that everything we have discussed so far in the Culture Hacker blog series or my new book, Culture Hacker, is an aspect of leadership, and we would agree. But as a mechanism within our Culture Hacker methodology and for the purpose of this blog, I want to focus on how you as a manager inspires your people, because this might be the most powerful mechanism to influence how someone feels about coming to work every day.
If managers want the team to go all-out in delivering the desired customer experience no mater what their role is, how much they are paid, or what they do, then managers have to inspire team members to want to do it. After years in managing staff responsible for all levels of customer experience and service, there is one truth that holds true – you cannot make your people take care of the customer. It is this point where so many managers fail. Unfortunately I see many managers still operating under the outdated philosophy that a title means your staff will do whatever they are told, and it does not matter how it is said. This just does not work, especially in roles where staff deals with a customer. If you want your staff to make your customers feel good, then you have to make your staff feel good. If you want your staff to do something, then you need to inspire your staff to want to do it.
As the manager in charge, there are four things that you can do to personally inspire your team to want to do the things you need them to do:
- Love what you do (even knowing there will be bad days)
- Put in the effort (smartly)
- Be an expert in your field (but never stop learning)
- Care about and have respect for your team
Over the years I have seen these four elements be the foundation of a managers’ ability to inspire the team.
Love what you do
As a manager, it starts with being passionate about your job, company, and team. Teams are naturally attracted to those with passion, and that passion is contagious. Unfortunately, some managers lose their passion over the years, but even worse some just never had it; they have progressed in an industry and within a business without really being excited about what they do or whom they do it for. On top of this, they have found themselves in management positions and have not embraced the possibilities or responsibility of making a positive difference in their people. As a result, they lack passion at work and as such, fail to inspire their people to love what they do.
Passion is a critical characteristic for all managers to have if they want to positively influence their people. Leadership author Robin Sharma wrote, “Influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work.”
A manager must put in the effort. When we think about the effort it takes to inspire your team to want to do what you want them to do, a few key points come to mind. You must have a willingness to get in and help, to be there when it is busy, step in for your staff when customers do not play nice, or to just show up and take care of things. Now please note that we are not suggesting you should spend all your time in the operation, because that is counterproductive. You must find a balance of time to work in tyour operation and time to work on your operation. However, getting into the operation, leading by example, showing off skills, and stepping up when things go wrong, ensures a level of respect from your team.
It is important to be smart about the effort you put in when it comes to inspiring your teams because it is no longer just about how many hours you are at work each day. The question of effort is no longer just about putting in long hours, but what you can accomplish in those hours. When it comes to effort we must aim for quality over quantity, as working smartly is an motivating factor for many employees, especially younger generations.
Managers must have credibility as an expert to inspire others to want to do well. You have to know what to do and have the confidence and credibility to inspire others to do it, too. Expertise allows you to excel in the coaching role and enabling performance. The bottom line is, you must know your stuff, which means that when you offer your insights, feedback, or ideas, people are willing and eager to listen.
As an expert, you must remember that you still have to learn and have a certain curiosity about how to improve. As such, look both in and outside of your industry to see who is doing what, connect with other experts, and be willing to challenge your status quo. I find the best leaders are always interested in what their people think about and what their insights are. You don’t have to know it all to be an expert, but you do have to be willing to find out who does, and that often means talking to your people.
Finally, managers must show that they care about their people and respect what they do. The only way to inspire teams is to care about them. The old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” applies today more than ever. Show an interest in your people beyond the job they do. Respect them, which means recognize them and appreciate what they do. Research indicates that respected employees are 55% more engaged in their work, along with numerous other benefits. It is time to show your employees that you care. Be approachable and available to the team as required. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “From caring comes courage.” This is exactly what great leaders can give their teams.
Remember that a title does not make a person a leader; a leader makes their title with a combination of passion, effort, expertise, and caring. When these elements are brought together, you create a situation where you can inspire your team to want to do what you want them to do.