10 Tips on Being a Better Leader at Work

Create a positive work environment where people genuinely want to do their best every day.

Former NFL Coach Jimmy Johnson probably said it best, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” This is especially true in leadership.

Getting the business fundamentals right is critical for success, but how you treat people is that little “extra” that can truly inspire an organization.

The problem is that too many leaders don’t recognize this. A Harvard Business Review study of 20,000 people worldwide found that a majority (54%) of employees felt their leaders didn’t treat them with respect regularly.

This lack of respect and civility has a real impact on employee engagement. The same study found that being treated with respect was more important to employee engagement than any other factor.

Employees who said their boss treated them with respect were 55% more engaged.

Employees who said their boss treated them with respect were 55% more engaged. Click To Tweet

The truth is, it’s not that difficult or time-consuming to display genuine respect for your employees. It’s that little “extra” you can do to create a positive work environment where people genuinely want to do their best every day.

In more than 30 years as a leader, I found these ten simple activities can make a difference:

Be present – Never underestimate the power of your presence. You can’t lead your company from behind your desk. You need to be there. You need to walk around. Employees need to see you, and you need to see them.

Focus on them – When engaging employees, remember it’s not about you. Ask them questions. Find out about them. Find out what’s on their minds. Most corporate communication is top-down, but when you talk with employees, this is a chance for a more interactive dialogue.

Be polite – It doesn’t take extra time to say please, thank you, and acknowledge that you appreciate someone’s effort. It shouldn’t be rare to be civil. I was shocked to learn from a former employee that I was her favorite boss simply because I was always polite.

Don’t forget to smile – As a leader, you are on stage every day, and your attitude is contagious. Even if you are having a bad day, force yourself to be positive and smile when engaging employees.

Give them your full attention – Nothing says disrespect more than ignoring an employee. Stop what you are doing and acknowledge them. It’s acceptable to let them know you need a minute to wrap up what you are doing but then put it away and give them 100% of your attention. When it comes to employee interactions, never multi-task.

How you treat people is that little “extra” that can truly inspire an organization. Click To Tweet

Send thank-you notes – A simple letter thanking an employee for their extra effort helps reinforce the right employee behaviors. It shows you care. I also like to send the notes to their home where they can open them in front of their family.

Send get-well cards – I keep a stack of “get well” cards on my desk to send to employees who are sick or having surgery. It’s a simple thing that shows you care about them as a person.

Catch them doing something right – Most bosses focus on catching people making mistakes, but author Ken Blanchard says there’s a better way. He says the easiest and quickest way to improve workplace morale is to notice, encourage, and celebrate all the good things in your organization.

Welcome new employees – I once had a boss who sent a large basket of cookies and snacks to my home after hiring me. In it was a note that said, “I’m looking forward to all the great things I know you will do.” It was a simple gesture that I will never forget. I always try to do the same for new hires to my direct staff.

Promote a culture of mutual respect – You must select leaders who share your desire to show respect to employees. The primary reason employees leave companies is the poor leadership of front-line managers. Make sure your leadership team knows the importance you place on respect by promoting those that display the right behaviors.

To be an extraordinary leader, you have to love people. You need to do the little “extra” things to show you care, you are listening, and you recognize your employees’ efforts.

Most leaders claim they don’t have enough time to respect their employees. Yet, they seem to find time to deal with the aftermath of poor employee morale and engagement.

I challenge you to try these ten simple activities and see if it makes a difference in your organization.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

[Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash]

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