Employees aren’t stupid. If they were, we wouldn’t have hired them in the first place.
However there appears to be a gap between hiring human beings and then treating them as human beings once they start working. Instead they become cogs of the wheel, or work horses, leadership have a desire to assimilate them, when it comes to the job itself.
Employees are people too.
When did real conversation become impersonal? When did we decide being politically correct was better than talking to someone honestly and openly? Leaders have closed themselves off to the fact their employees are human beings, because they are afraid of stepping out of line, or being perceived as discriminatory.
Employees know when someone is being insincere or disrespectful, dishonest or uncaring. They don’t call leadership out on these things, because a vast majority of employees don’t enjoy a transparent or trusting relationship with their leaders. But rest assured that they are talking about. While gossip is destructive and can damage the employees reputation as much as the person they are talking about, it does seem to have become the socially accepted form of complaint about leaders. And nothing gets done about it. So we end up in a destructive cycle of no trust and no engagement.
Maybe we can change that cycle? Maybe we can bring back the human factor? Because the truth is it is hard to get to know someone, what motivates them and what will engage them, if we don’t talk to them as a human being.
Employees will make you proud.
I can guarantee they are great people. Talented people. Why? Because you hired them! They are people who if properly incentivized and engaged, would move mountains to ensure the work is done well…for you.
But first they need to trust you.
How can you build trust? Well here is the universal truth. How you treat people is how they will treat you. Here are five basic skills that will help us in leadership and life!
1. Be transparent.
If they understand why they are doing the work they are doing, and where they fit in the organization, they will surprise you with how diligent and committed they are to getting the job done.
2. Be honest.
If you are honest with them, they will be honest with you. They must be able to trust you with the truth, if there is a mistake in the report, if they don’t have enough time, if they need more resources, or if they have an issue at home. Only with this information can you stop issues before they start and get the job done well. Their work reflects on you after all.
3. Be respectful.
If they are lower in the food chain than you, if they are paid less than you, if they are younger than you, they still deserve your respect. I have seen leaders visibly roll their eyes, scoff, laugh, yell, cut off, or generally deride employees, and it happens all the time. Every time it happens, you lose their respect. No one will work well for a leader they don’t respect.
4. Be authentic.
I cannot over state this one. Authenticity is highly underrated but one of the most valuable traits. Walking through the office saying hello to everyone because you read somewhere this creates a team dynamic, but then not knowing peoples names, family situations, or stopping by to welcome someone back from maternity leave or vacation, is not sincere or authentic. In fact, please refer to the first line of this article – do you think your employees are stupid? They see right through you.
5. Be empathetic.
There are plenty of leaders completely missing the empathy switch! It’s a crucial part of leadership, if you cannot put yourself in the shoes of your employees you cannot understand how to motivate them. In fact, I would go so far as to say, if this seems a struggle to you, then you shouldn’t be in a people management role, but rather an expert role. You affect the lives of your employees, and if they feel you don’t care about them or their lives, then why should they work harder for you?
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, it is just a list to make the point that we need to start treating each other as human beings again.
Sure we’re not perfect and we won’t always get it right, but if we strive for basic human rights and treat each other with kindness and respect, we’re bound to achieve more. The truth about trust is that you can’t buy it and you can’t expect it, you have to earn it…over and over again.
The reward though is worth it, dedicated, engaged, and loyal employees, who will get the job done, and done well.
Earn that trust, it’s worth it.