Heather is today’s guest on The Freedom Club Podcast (listen at the links above), and we discussed her book, the key to building employee loyalty, and her career track from attorney to facilitator/author/speaker.
Listen to your employees.
Let’s start with a discussion on listening to your employees, because Heather’s professional life is entirely based on listening to, noticing, and responding to, professional situations.
She says, “We all want people to know our name. We want to be important and feel important to people around us.”
Think about this as a basic human right. Whether this is in a personal or professional capacity, feeling heard and understood makes a world of difference in an individual’s personal sense of security. All too often, a manager feels he or she is listening to employees but really the words aren’t getting through.
It can be tough to listen to criticism, especially if it is from someone that works with you. It’s vital to step back and make a point of learning from the situation, rather than getting upset.
One of the best ways to listen is to hear individual words from the speaker and imagine what he or she is saying with visuals in your head.
There is a fine line to balance as a manager, one that is not aloof but one that is also not too friendly.
Heather says, “The idea of transparency…that was one of the tough ones for managers to do and take. How can they reveal a piece of themselves without going too far but giving their people exactly what it is they’re looking for. Because their people are starving for that vulnerability, for the transparency.”
This could mean being honest about the decisions management might be making in the future or even involving your staff in workflow or operational decisions.
Heather says that you can get treated like an adult or a child in the workplace. It could be with the employee/employer or even a client/employee relationship but treating others like children verges on the disrespectful. It creates a culture of fear.
Most people have worked at a company where the next minor problem could turn into a big explosion; Or, perhaps, in a workplace with a corporate ladder that seemed impossible to climb; or in a job with a “boss” that didn’t care about anything except the bottom line.
You don’t want to be this type of manager.
First listen. Then remain transparent.
So, back to Heather’s laws.
Give great support.
Her number one law, the law on which I want to focus for the rest of this post, is to give employees great support. She spends a considerable amount of time on what makes a great manager, and how to define what is great and supportive. For Heather, this boils down to emotional intelligence.
It could be as simple as some of the following basic ideas like going back and apologizing if you made a mistake or giving your staff choices so they feel a sense of control over their own workplace. Everyone has stories where they aren’t perfect.
An accessible manager that is willing to provide great support makes all of the difference.
It also takes time to build such a consistent culture of engagement. Simply putting on an “employee appreciation party” now and then won’t cut it.
“It’s a lot of pressure on the manager to have to do it all. But their recognition is most important, so the manager showing a level of appreciation is the most important but it shouldn’t be the only thing a workplace has.”
And appreciation should be immediate and meaningful.
Heather adds, “And actually, there’s a stat that says that if employees have not been recognized within seven days, they feel like they’ve never been recognized. It’s as if it never happened a month ago if you wait that long.”
Apply this factor to your own leadership. Recognition makes all of the difference. Don’t forget to show support; in addition to the other things you focus on listening and transparency.
Being a leader isn’t easy.
It might come down to accessibility, support, emotional intelligence, or a whole bunch of other factors, but working on these skills is the only way to growth.
Heather says, “I love the work that I do because, in this space, I really talk a lot to leaders about things that are really around emotional intelligence. It’s always so curious to see how people talk, how the leaders and managers of teams talk to their people. Trying to increase that awareness in the leaders about what their actions and inactions do to the people around them is a big part of the work that I do.”
At the end of our discussion, I realized that my conversation with Heather only refreshed my mindset that a good leader needs to constantly work to improve himself or herself. If we are asking our employees to grow, innovate, and create, then we should hold ourselves to this same standard. Our connections – the ones between us and our leaders, us and our coworkers, and us and our employees – keep us happy and successful in the workplace.
Thanks for listening!