Leadership might be a one way street, but it is undoubtedly a two way process. One cannot effectively lead people that refuse to accept it. Although there is a slight chance that some people are ill-willed and you cannot simply work with them, for the most part human beings are good natured. It’s just that some of them have had such bad experiences in the past that they cannot easily trust others. As the old adage dictates, “you end up paying for all the previous peoples mistakes yourself”.
So what is one to do in such a situation? It’s true that the simple existence of a hierarchical relationship should defecto prevent such situations, but such is life and “we can only ever do the best we can with what we got”. That being said, it falls under your leadership prerogatives to instill and nurture goodwill amongst your team, but at the same time you also need to focus on your own issue and cannot waste too much time on such things. So what can be done?
Here is a simple checklist of things you can do that will generate or at least inspire goodwill among your team. Mind you, most of this stuff can be delegated or at least automated so as to save as much of your precious time as possible.
- Keep track of your team members days off, whether sick leaves or holidays. It is apparent enough that if one of your team members takes a lot of time off something might be wrong, but the reverse is also true. If you have someone who almost never takes any days off, something might also be up there. Either the work is too intense and does not permit absence, or the person in question is simply burying themselves in work to avoid something. Both situations generate an unbalance and as such are unsustainable long term. If you notice such behavior, take the time to speak with the person in question. In a calm and un-intrusive way bring this fact up. You can use a softening statement beforehand i.e: “George, I’ve been monitoring your progress and you are on point and I appreciate your work and how you handle your tasks. I allot some time periodically to check up on all my team members days-off use and something caught my attention with you”. Again, the point of the exercise is to “show that you care” and “generate good will”.
- Periodically check up with your team members on their work (clients, accounts, tasks etc) and ask them how they feel about it, especially about accounts that you know are either stressful or clients that are oftentimes problematic or hard to work with. Ask them if they like it, if it causes any undue stress or such. Most people are polite enough to give the generic answer of “Everything’s o.k boss” with the exception of something abnormally wrong going on with their work. As such, to be able to drive the point home, ask them if you should switch out their account or switch out their task. i.e: “Hey George, you’ve been working with XYZ company as a client for some time now, how do you feel things are going with them. Would you like me to search for a different client for you? Would it makes sense to look around for a new account and pass this client to another person whom you could onboard on it or even drop them altogether?” What this does is instill the idea that although you are business oriented and profit focused, that you do still care about how your team members generate business for you. It shifts in their minds the focus from “client oriented” to “employee oriented”. This is a great way to generate good will since even if no changes will be made, you show that you are willing to take care of your teams and will not tolerate a “business at any cost mindset”.
- The old tried and proven strategy of surprise. If your corporate account can – as is should – accommodate such expenses, surprise your team from time to time with some nice things. Mind you, these need not be either expensive or impressive, as they are there to improve upon a decent relationship. Silly things like an unexpected catered lunch day, or a taste-testing Friday for something like craft beer, whiskeys or even food. Keep in mind that for out-of-office activities it works best if you schedule them during office ours. Please never make plans for your people on their time. A once in a blue moon “half day Friday” in which the second part of the day is occupied with pleasant “out of office” activities can go a long way and it need not be as expensive as a team building event nor as disruptive to business as a full day off. If you don’t want to specifically organize anything, even expressly rewarding your team with a half day Friday from time to time as a result of the fine and productive work they’ve done will earn you bonus points.
The list can be extended, but the overall theme to be kept in mind is of finding ways to generate good will and trust without affecting business negatively, without generating increased costs or occupying too much of your time. If you have any examples of such productive things done in your workplace, please let me know below.