We have all seen it, a ‘leader’ who is there not for their people, but for the next promotion or title. Good managers care about their people, but they also see what they need to do to move up in their organization. Great leaders motivate those who work for them, give them what they need to be successful and happy, encourage their professional growth, and provide the tools needed to complete their tasks. Part of this is mentoring, having a process in place to help grow the employees and prepare them for future responsibility. Another integral part of great leadership is working for a happy and fulfilling work environment, and that’s where this piece will focus.
What do our employees need to be happy? Does their happiness affect their work product, and our organization as a whole? This is a multifaceted issue, but one that can not be forgotten about if we want to maximize the output from our staff. Of course, most leaders want their staff to be happy with their jobs. We know we can not please everyone 100% of the time, but we should be striving to improve the work environment and maximize their work-life balance to keep them motivated. The question that arises is, how do we go about doing that?
Make the work place as safe and comfortable as possible. I’m not talking about any need for large cost investments in most cases, just simple steps that show both compassion and an understanding of the needs of our people. Maximizing of space, or simple good utilization of that space is a simple step we can take if the need is there. Have people working shoulder to shoulder, if the space is there and not being used, allow them to spread out. Nobody wants to work in a sardine can, but most understand that the cost per sq/ft for expansion may not be feasible. However if you have space, empty space that isn’t being used (and hasn’t been in some time) allow them to occupy it, at least in the short term.
Fairness is another issue that falls into this paradigm. All staff should be treated with fairness and with equability, to do any less breeds discontent and mistrust that will be hard to overcome. One section should not be given preferential treatment above others, be that by locality, class, or title. While positional perks are the norm (higher pay, better working conditions as you promote), in the same functional class all staff should be treated the same. The person who places widgets in the machine in San Diego should be treated fairly when compared to the person who places those same widgets in a similar machine in Boston.
Work-Life Balance: Are they being asked to work extra shifts, attend meetings and activities in addition to their normal responsibilities, work with them on their schedules if they need a day off. Have to cover multiple departments? When no one volunteers to move to the other side, forcing them should be equitable across the board. We can’t pick favorites and give them what they want, while not understanding the pain this causes others.
So Why Do Some Managers Not Follow These Simple Leadership Examples?
This gets me back to the title of this piece, the peril of the title. Sometimes to achieve these ‘simple’ staples of fairness we need to stand up and ask for them to those we report to. If your goal is simply to move up yourself, the fight may not be in your personal best interest in your mind. The manner in which you ask the question can have a profound affect and the answer. If those you are asking don’t feel you are invested in the change your seeking, they can find it must easier to give you the easy no. ” Is there anyway we could possibly buy item x for the office? I know the budget is tight, and the cost is $500 dollars.” Well asking the question in that manner sets you up for the easy no; why would they spend the money when they know you don’t really care? Asking that same question in a different manner may get the hard yes. “We need to invest $500 dollars on item x for the office because we have identified that it will improve productivity and staff satisfaction within the department. I have looked at the budget, and feel this is a needed expenditure at this time.” True, you will need to be able to answer the why question/s that may follow, but you didn’t simply give your boss the easy way out, the easy no. Will this work every time? Of course not! No one should expect to win every time, ask for what you and your staff need in the right way and occasionally you may win.
In many workplaces, we as leaders are only as good as our staff allows us to appear to be! Poor quality, lack of attention, lack of engagement all will eventually show poorly on us. It is true that in the short-term we may be able to distract from our failing by blaming others. The management staff is failing below me, they are just whinny, if I was in-charge things would be better, are poor reasons some give to explain their personal failings. Staff will change over time, middle managers will leave, but the same issues will still be there. At some point, someone above you is going to look down and say, ” WHY IS THIS STILL HAPPENING?” The title is attractive, advancement is a goal, but remember that all power corrupts, and we will all hit a bump in the road that requires self reflection – it’s the people below you that will keep you moving forward, if they are motivated, engaged, and happy…