Adding elements to a workplace that enhance people’s value effectively empower people to achieve their potential. Here are six ways leaders can do this.
1. Make a human connection with as many people as possible.
Leaders need to acknowledge individuals. There’s no easier way to show you value people than to learn about them and use their names when you speak with them. Knowing names and personal stories helps leaders make a powerful emotional connection with people in a short time. Leaders from the top down should be expected to know the stories of the people with whom they frequently come in contact.
Connection is increased by helping employees know each other’s stories too, especially those of people who frequently interact with each other. One way to learn more about others is to maintain an intranet-based directory including employee names, pictures, and information they feel comfortable sharing, such as interests outside work, favorite books, movies, and quotations, and other items that communicate their unique stories. Giving individuals an opportunity to express themselves brings the color of human personality into the workplace.
2. Treat and speak to employees as partners.
Treating people below you in your organization’s hierarchy as equals rather than as inferiors enhances their sense of personal value.
As a leader, you should make eye contact, say hello, and use the person’s name, if possible, when you walk by an employee. Aloof behavior only communicates that someone is not worth acknowledging. Treat employees as partners too. Don’t expect them to do personal errands for you. Think of others as partners who play different roles from yours. You will keep them connected and energized as they sense the respect you show them.
3. Help employees find the right roles.
Another way to show appreciation is to help people better understand their abilities, temperaments, and values. Each individual is a unique combination of natural and learned cognitive capabilities. Assessment tools enable people to identify their skills, temperaments, learning styles, thinking styles, and values. Providing these resources to people will help leaders place them in the roles where they will be most likely to excel. People who excel will be more likely to receive genuine recognition and respect, and well-deserved praise is encouraging and strengthens connection.
Although many companies provide personality testing to selected leaders, few offer it to people throughout the organization. Chances are it has been a tool to help leaders build a well-balanced team of people based on their personality types. This is a good start. But more tools should be used if you are serious about bringing out the best in the people you lead.
4. Educate, inform, and listen to employees.
Educating, informing, and listening to employees enhance their sense of value. If you don’t let people know what you are thinking, if you don’t inform them and hear their points of view, they’ll probably assume the worst. When people can’t see the direction they are headed, they naturally experience anxiety. Conversely, when you inform and listen to them, they will be grateful that you recognized them and valued their ideas and opinions. With information and understanding comes a greater sense of security and optimism that the future is bright.
5. Decentralize decision making.
Allowing people to make decisions shows them that you respect their abilities and judgment and that you value them. Many firms over the last hundred years decentralized decision making. Decentralization gained momentum when Peter Drucker persuaded Alfred P. Sloan Jr. to decentralize decision making at General Motors Corporation. It also grew when manufacturers worldwide began to adopt the Lean Manufacturing practices of Japanese companies, replacing the overspecialized, assembly-line mentality with teams that developed broader knowledge and skills and had greater autonomy. One contributor to the continued success of Toyota Motor Company and its Lexus Luxury Division is the higher quality and lower cost benefits resulting from the Toyota Production System. This management approach combines a high degree of team-based training, autonomy, decentralized decision making, and responsibility for continuous improvement.
6. Recognize the human need for work/life balance.
Finally, we all have times when things outside work require our undivided attention. It may be the health of a loved one or our own health. Leaders need to balance giving employees time off to attend to urgent needs in their personal lives and being fair to other employees who have to do more work when a colleague is away.
Encouraging people to get sufficient rest and relaxation outside work is an important part of keeping people from burning out. Toward the end of most days, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt held a gathering for cocktails and poker where the only rule was that no one could talk politics. He cherished the time to relax and recharge. It revived his energy level and helped him maintain the optimism to lead America out of the Depression and through World War II. It also stimulated his creativity. During a vacation that some members of the press criticized FDR for taking, the president conceived the Lend Lease program to provide military assets to Great Britain in its hour of need.
Successful leaders imbue the culture they are responsible for leading with human value. Leaders such as Napoleon and George Pullman failed, at least in part, because they didn’t understand what motivates and demotivates people. Wise leaders know that applying human value in the work culture can make a world of difference by connecting and firing up people, ultimately affecting their own success or failure as leaders.
More From Michael Lee Stallard
Michael Lee Stallard, president and cofounder of Connection Culture Group, speaks, teaches and consults on leadership, organizational culture and employee engagement. He is the author of Connection Culture and Fired Up or Burned Out. Follow him on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn.