How to be a better leader: 4 practical ideas!
How to be a better leader THIS month
Whether you are a Team Leader or Top manager, it’s good to set time apart to self-reflect and plan actions.
Here are 4 tips on how to be a better leader.
Few leaders have accomplished great things without their teams, right?
During COVID, counting on your team is more important than ever.
So chances are that you already established a healthy rhythm to converse with your employees about how things are going.
Perhaps they have already given you open, direct and honest feedback about how you can be a better leader.
If you need tips to improve, we listed 4 ideas that we gathered from some of our favourite users:
1. Put employee morale time on your agenda
Here’s a first practical tip for how to be a better leader.
Open up your calendar right now and block some team-time every week, for the full year.
Use these moments to connect with your team.
Our first tip comes from a Manager who has really, really nailed nurse engagement at their hospital. Her tip? Get to know your team members.
Every Thursday for 10-15 minutes they take the time to perform team exercises. Every single week.
The goal is for you as a leader to get to know your team members. But an equally important goal is for your team to know each other well too!
On a designated day, in their case it’s Thursdays, they perform Teambuilding exercises:
“For several weeks we did a Show and Tell, which was well-received. People would bring in their collections, or tell a story about themselves.”
“One lady brought in her knitting of scarves, and hats.”
“We also just do little teambuilding exercises that everyone seems to enjoy.”
“One week we did an exercise that was low/high impact with up-beat music. We played MadLib Mission Statement game, as well as The Barter Puzzle, Truth/Lie.”
Here is the link to a few of the games they employed over the last 7 months.
A fun way to improve leadership skills!
How did the teambuilding exercises contribute to employee wellbeing?
The Nurse Leader says that before, their team was somewhat isolated in the business.
When their team merged with another team, some new needs emerged:
“Now we come together to perform these activities. Everyone looks forward to this weekly activity. It promotes good attitudes!” the Nurse Manager concludes.
They also had daily employee morale data to back the statement.
Stuff to reflect on:
- How many hours did you set apart last quarter for your team?
- What events worked well, taking into account your company culture? Would your team members agree? Which activities can you improve?
- What does your team think is “fun”? I.e. what is the equivalent of bringing in your knitting kit to a team-building exercise? Or silly socks day? Lunch Roulette?
- What new things could you test this month in your business?
- What do you think you could learn? Or understand a bit more?
2. Be Transparent
The Nurse Manager started with the weekly team exercises for a simple reason. She noticed a slight drop in their weekly employee morale score.
Their Employee Mood KPI would normally be over 90% green. I.e. 9 out of 10 employees said they had a good day at work.
They then went through an 8 week period where they were having to flex people off.
Employees had to use their vacation time, or not get paid.
Needless to say, her employees did not like that… and the Mood KPI dropped to 85%.
As a leader, there will always be bumps on the road ahead. The question is how you choose to handle it.
What actions do you DECIDE to take? How to be a better leader is about choices.
Not doing anything, is also a decision.
We see many managers who hide behind a closed door when “the shit hits the fan”. Some avoid the burning topic altogether.
Others blame Top Management to make themselves look better.
How Robyn, the Nurse Manager, handled her situation is what makes her such a great leader.
She opened up an open, honest, face-to-face conversation with her team:
“We were transparent about the situation. My team was aware that all other departments were going through the same thing. Having open communication about everything helped. It made them understand that it’s not just them.”
“Nobody was getting “picked on”! It seemed to help to have the open conversations about what everyone was experiencing. How they were feeling”, Robyn states.
This is how you build trust in your business. And trust is one of the key things that help you become a better leader.
The impact of these conversations was also mirrored in their employee engagement data.
“People were telling me that they are having a green button day. Especially on Thursday’s with team-building exercises”, she finishes.
Stuff to reflect on:
- What can You be more transparent about next month?
- What topics could you have handled differently this quarter? Why?
- Who could you ask for help to improve in your business?
- Which people on your team are already being transparent and honest? How can you “copy” their behaviour and spread it to the other team members? Are you leading by example too?
- Did you lose someone’s trust this year? How did that make you feel?
- What discoveries do you need to understand a bit more?
3. How to be a better leader: Don’t fake it
Do you bring your whole self to work?
Someone said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.
Who are You at work?
No one says you have to be the exact same person as when you’re cooking up a barbeque with your mates. Then again, no one says you have to put on an act either to be the “stereotypic boss”.
If you wanna do better than the average manager, you gotta talk with your people about what is going on. But if you’re hiding behind some idea about what a manager “should” be like, chances are you will come across as fake.
Do you admit your own mistakes and learn, or do you hide them?
Do you lead by example?
Here’s a great business quote from Mark C Crowley’s excellent book about how to be a better leader.
Lead with your heart, not just with your mind:
“Most of us were taught that the heart acts like Kryptonite in leadership. It inherently undermines a manager’s effectiveness – and lowers productivity and profitability.”
This month is as good as any to start improving something. For example, that red-button issue that makes your employees feel like NOT coming into today’s night shift.
Or for them to apply for a job at the manufacturer across the street that are hiring employees.
Or update their LinkedIn profile (tips here if you’re on the market hehe).
According to Josh Bersin, companies that are inclusive are 1.7 x more likely to be innovation leaders in their respective market.
So great leadership translates into higher business benefits, over time.
Stuff to reflect on:
- Would you like to show more of your “true” self with your team? What stops you? Or is it a who that stops you?
- Are your employees used to top leaders walking around, chatting with people at all levels? If not, it might make some people uneasy. Don’t fake your approach, just be yourself and make the most of it.
- 9 classes to help you create a diverse, inclusive, and supportive team here
- More about ethical leadership here
- Authentic leadership is the single strongest predictor of an employee’s job satisfaction. +info
OK, so this sounds really basic, right?
Thing is, one thing we notice in our daily employee morale data is that many employees don’t feel listened to.
Sometimes it’s not about identifying what you need to fix in your work culture.
(“The new machinery breaks down an average 3 times per shift!“)
Sometimes it’s simply about being FEELING that you are being listed to.
This is also why teambuilding exercises are so effective: People feel like you care about them.
Let’s try an example:
Perhaps I’m an employee who has been complaining to my team for the last two weeks. I’m super frustrated that management isn’t doing anything to fix “the new machinery I have to restart every hour“.
Chances are that more things come into play.
It’s not just about getting the maintenance team to fix the machine.
It’s not just about finding out what the problem is. It’s also about how we got here. Let’s learn and understand more! How can we avoid similar things happening again?
– What do we need to start doing?
– What do we need to stop doing?
– And what should we continue doing?
When you have a leadership style that includes active listening and a hands-on attitude, then people will come to you.
Not to get their problems fixed, but to bounce things with you.
To see how THEY can solve the situation at hand.
”If you see something, bring it up”, is how the Factory Manager at BASF puts it.
He simply asks his factory workers: ”how do you see improvement possible?” “When our employee mood is good, the productivity is better“, he states. And what good leaders don’t want more productivity and profits for their business?
When you talk with your employees, you forge bonds. What’s helped you before?
Good leaders are high on compliments – and low on criticism.
Nothing is more effective than a face to face conversation when it comes to how to be a better leader.
But if an employee prefers to be anonymous, you could have an old-school suggestion box, or give it a twist.
Stuff to reflect on:
- How many hours a week do you set aside to walk around and listen to what people have to say? Do you listen more than you talk?
- Are you creating future leaders among your team?
- How can you ask open questions?
- If you put a suggestion box, how will you promise people to followup on the messages?
- More info on Management by Walking Around by Forbes here.
- Do your people look forward to you coming up to them to talk? Do they like your weekly meetings?
This article first appeared on Leadership Girl.
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