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Recognize, Trust, Listen: The Triad of Transformational Leadership

As a speaker to organizations, especially during times of huge change and transition, I often speak to the fact that the core mission extends beyond mere oversight; it involves empowering team members to excel and thrive. The foundation of effective leadership lies in ensuring employees are well-equipped with the necessary tools, training, and support they require from the get-go. This commitment sets the tone for their transformation journey and significantly impacts their engagement and productivity.

I've observed that not every manager naturally excels at leadership. It's ok if it doesn't come naturally because many of these skills can be learned (hint: that's what I consider my job). Effective leadership is a skill that must be honed. I've identified three detrimental behaviors that, if unchecked, can severely undermine a team's morale and organizational success:

1. Undervaluing Employee Contributions

The significance of recognizing the hard work and achievements of teams cannot be overstated. Extensive research, including studies by Gallup involving over four million employees globally, highlights the profound impact of regular recognition on productivity, colleague engagement, retention, customer satisfaction, and even safety records.

Action Items for Leaders:

  • Regularly acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and positive behaviors of team members in ways that resonate with them, be it publicly or in private. Actually do both. If this doesn't come naturally to you, schedule it as a reoccurring meeting your calendar. This not only reinforces these behaviors but also strengthens the connection between employees and your organizational values.

  • If you're not revealing any confidential information, consider recognizing the employee on a company blog post or even from a leader's LinkedIn account.

2. Micromanagement

This is obvious but still unbelievable to me how many leaders haven't learned to let go when moving from a high-performing individual contributor to a leader of a team. Leadership that veers into micromanagement stifles creativity and innovation, eroding trust within the team. This overbearing approach discourages teamwork and limit the team's potential, pushing talented employees toward opportunities elsewhere. Seriously, they will quit if you control everything. In my New Leader program, a training series for new leaders, we have an entire session dedicated on how to let go of the executional work.

Action Items for Leaders:

  • Having a genuine interest in what the team is working on.  It’s not a gotcha game.

  • Let your team set the agenda. You can see if they know where the business is at.

  • Trust in the capabilities of your team and delegate responsibilities accordingly. Focus on guiding your team toward outcomes rather than overseeing every step. This shift demonstrates your trust, encouraging autonomy and boosting morale. Try adding this simple question to your regular meetings: How much involvement do you want from me?

3. Dominating Conversations

A leadership style that insists on having the final say without welcoming input from others reflects poorly on emotional intelligence and can significantly damage team trust and morale. Authentic leadership involves valuing and seeking out diverse perspectives, especially from those closest to your customers. Listen!

Action Items for Leaders:

  • Foster an environment where feedback is sought, valued, and acted upon. Recognize that frontline employees often hold key insights into customer needs and operational challenges. By embracing a culture of listening and inclusivity, you can drive engagement and innovation.

  • Try using the "I like, I wish, I wonder..." format of receiving feedback. Use Slack or a Teams space to openly accept suggestions and feedback.

As you navigate through periods of change, reflect on your management practices. It's crucial to ask yourself what we can start doing—or stop doing—to shed these counterproductive behaviors. By using these adjustments, you can pave the way for more effective leadership, bolstered employee morale, and sustained organizational growth.

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