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‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is a progress. Working together is success’ – Henry Ford.

Here’s a truth I want you to think about:

Individuals join an organisation because of a great ‘vision’. Individuals leave because of poor leadership.

A friend of mine started a new job in February. She was so excited – this was a dream job, with a dream company and she’d fought hard through the recruitment process to show her potential new boss just what she was willing to bring to the role.

Here we are in September, seven months later and the honeymoon is well and truly over. She and her leader are not as aligned as they originally appeared to be. Their working styles are vastly different and there are communication issues. She feels stifled, and despite the company’s original desire for her to carve a new path (a fundamental reason she was interested in the job), in reality, her boss just wants her to do things the way they’ve always been done.

This is not an isolated incident. The numbers stack up – Australia has one of the longest working weeks in the world, but only about a third of our workers are really satisfied with their jobs.

And the irony of all of this is that, as studies over the past decade or more have shown us, happy workers are more productive. So if we take time to ensure people are content at work, they’d actually get more done and we might be able to put a dent in the horrendous fact that 25% of Australians in full-time employment are working more than the expected 38 hours a week, and one in five are working more than 60 hours per week.

Personally, I feel that bringing working hours down would make a massive impact on the happiness of our society overall, but that’s another story …

Companies need to remember that people are not a ‘set and forget’ proposition. Once you hire and train someone, you cant just give them a desk and leave them to get on with it, people need to be continually engaged, made feel ‘part’ of something and given opportunities to grow and learn and contribute.

Leaders are the reason people excel, or exit…

If your company is losing good people, chances are it’s not your business or your company that’s pushing people away; it’s their leader.

A leader is a reason people will excel, and also a reason people will exit.

Research clearly shows that the number one reason why people become disengaged within an organisation is because they don’t feel ‘valued’. Being appreciated in the workplace is vital for any employee.

Communication is Key

It is fundamental that leaders in any organisation communicate clear expectations and clear communication to receive a clear outcome. It is also vital that leaders drive a feedback culture by constantly asking for feedback and giving feedback as a way to inspire and make their team feel empowered, appreciated and confident that they are doing a great job.

A leader’s role is to provide direction, keep people together and make sure they collaborate.

Driving a Collaborative Culture

So… how do we engage people and ignite performance through a collaborative culture? Characteristics of a feedback culture include:

  • One single goal (vision) that everyone believes in
  • The opportunity to give and receive open and honest feedback for the collective ‘good’ of the team.
  • Diversity and an atmosphere that honours people’s various differences
  • An atmosphere that encourages curiosity and open-mindedness
  • A team that listens to each other, always.

This not only makes people feel valued, it creates strong bonds and it builds solid relationships. Aside from that, the next good idea could come from anywhere! Annie in accounts might be able to solve Mary’s marketing problem, you just never know, until you ask, and listen, and involve people in open two-way communication.

Acknowledgment and Appreciation

Once upon a time leaders wrote a formal appreciation letter to acknowledge and appreciate someone for a job well done. What ever happened to that? Neuroscience tells us now how our brain engages with its environment and connection is the number one human need.

Dale Carnegie an outstanding leader once said that people work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.

It could be as simple as a ‘thank you’ card and the elaborate why you appreciate them so very much. Acknowledgement does not have to be fancy, but it must be sincere, and it must be timely…. Don’t wait until weeks down the track to say thank you because it just completely devalues the action in the first place.

As human beings, we have for the most part, a natural drive to be collaborative and work together … we’re ‘tribal’ at our very core. Strong leadership therefore is the key to harnessing talents and skills and acknowledging them too, so that the ‘tribe’ will not only get the job done, but look after each other too

If you want to attract and retain the best and brightest, and create resourceful and resilient teams, then leaders need to embrace their people and take steps to ensure they know they are their organisation’s most valuable assets.

Empower Your People

We talk a lot about ‘empowering’ our people and this is something leaders often struggle with – especially when it comes to having appropriate boundaries around empowerment, responsibility and accountability.

But one of the simplest ways that a leader can empower and motivate and engage is simply by listening to an employee’s problem and asking one simple question: what do you need from me?

This little question has so many positive connotations. It demonstrates you’ve listened, it shows that you’re taking the problem seriously. It also shows that you understand that your team member knows the particular problem better than anyone (including you) and is therefore the best person to drive the solution. It also personalises the interaction between you and it creates respect, trust and loyalty.

Give it a go and see the magic unfold.