Carrot and stick. And so goes the age-old debate of how to achieve great business results. Do you shower your employees with accolades and pats on the back? Or do you focus on the consequences for under performance? Is your tone one of optimism and assumed-success? Or is your temperament such that you lead with a, “if we fail” mentality?
There are as many different leadership styles as there are leaders. Our styles are born from our life experiences from childhood, up to and including, the role we currently occupy. How you were raised is as important as how you were managed in the first several years of your career. Most experts agree that the “formative years” for a child occur in their first 12 years of life. Likewise, the formative years of someones career is their first 5 years in the workforce.
Human beings are natural-born observers. We watch. We absorb. We learn. We take what we learn and begin to construct potential outcomes for the scenarios we encounter later in life. Like, cause-and-effect, we begin to build a mental inventory of outcomes based upon actions and reactions. We learn how to alter outcomes by changing our actions or behaviors. Yet we all learn in different ways. Two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different views or perceptions of that event. And herein lies the formula for how our leadership styles evolve.
Are you a positive motivator or negative? How do you know? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you work in your office all day with the door closed?
- When was the last time you sent a communication to recognize a team member?
- How often do you walk around the office making eye contact, saying hello, and simply engaging people?
- How many people on your team do you rate as a top performer, and if so, when was the last time you told them how much you appreciated them?
- Are you losing more than 20% of your employees each year?
- Do you hold regular team meetings or even informal get-togethers?
- Do you consistently meet, or miss, your numbers?
How you answered these questions may be an indication of your style of leadership. On the other hand it may also be a reflection of the culture within your workplace. Either way it’s worth your time to evaluate. Why? Because there are several reasons to have a true understanding of your personal style and that of the culture in which you work. If you genuinely want to build lasting value – for your company or your client – the first step has to be the development of relationships. In the absence of trusting relationships a company will not be able to experience sustained growth, and nor will you.
According to an article published earlier this year by Forbes, the number one reason people left their job was for stability reasons. People leave when they don’t feel secure. Insecurity is often the result of a bad manager. In fact a subsequent article in the Huffington Post Small Business, it cites the number one reason employees quit is “Their boss sucks”. Micromanagers and poor communicators topped the list of horrible bosses. The negativity that flowed from these bosses infected the workplace so much so that people run for the doors.
According to the American Institute of Stress, the top 2 causes of stress in the workplace are work overload and people. The AIS estimates that stress causes American businesses more than $300 billion each year in lost productivity with a major contributor being a negative workplace. So how can you change it? First change your behaviors. Try doing these three things each day:
- Walk around the office at least twice a day and say hello to folks.
- Work with your door open (if you have an office) when you can.
- Look for the good things that are happening and recognize them.
These are all within your control. If you’re working for a company that has a negative-tone culture you may need to reevaluate what’s most important to you. Remember, jobs come and go, but your reputation stays with you no matter where you are employed. Don’t let the dynamics of an organization define who you are and how you act. If your belief system is in direct conflict with the office culture, you may need to make a change. Great teams are built by great leaders, and to be a great leader you’ve got to recognize and acknowledge that your people are in fact your biggest asset. Only by growing your workplace relationships, developing trust, and displaying respect will you be able to develop a high performing team.