It’s really quite easy to demotivate a department, a team or a person.
We all know not every boss is inspiring. Some people are just not born to lead; for others it takes time, training and patience to get there but they can do it. Motivation in a leader is an intangible quality – one you can’t physically see in the person, but it’s obvious in that person’s team and how they operate. Is there joy in the workplace or is there toxicity in the air?
When you work for a great, motivating and inspiring leader, the workplace can be a wonderful place to be. If there is no inspiration at the helm, the days can be long and dark, only punctuated by those ever-flicking overhead fluorescent lights (i.e. Joe Banks with Mr. Waturi in Joe Vs. The Volcano).
Recently, I overheard an executive in a discussion with one of his direct reports. The conversation elevated to the point the executive was yelling loud enough the entire office could hear. Then, the executive didn’t think yelling was getting his point across, so he began dropping F-bombs as adjectives. It was uncomfortable for everyone and completely unnecessary: the yelling was a good enough indicator of his irritation. Afterwards, when I spoke to the employee on the receiving end of the tirade, he shrugged it off and said, “Oh well, that’s his managing style and it doesn’t mean anything.”
But it does. It means a lot. Yelling, swearing and calling out a team member in front of others is demotivating and demeaning, and a sure way NOT to get the best work from a person or team. It also acts like a virus – one that can bring down a team.
In another example, one former supervisor was just not good at managing his people or invoking trust. He was unpredictable, blatantly showed favoritism, and also had a penchant for dating the women on his staff (a whole separate issue I won’t get into here.) One day while dealing with a particularly difficult client, he put me into the line of fire and stepped away. Afterwards, when I went to discuss this situation with him, he told me, “I would never throw you under the bus.” It was truly a matter of semantics, so my response to him was, “No, not under but you’d throw me OFF the bus, make me out to be wrong in front of the client. Then you’d whisper, “I’ll come back to pick you up later.” His response? He laughed, shrugged, and said, “Yeah, that’s probably what I’d do.”
Two good things came out of that situation: 1) I learned how to motivate myself; and 2) I promised myself I would never do to my teams what he did to me.
When you have a leader who is incapable of motivating, you really have to take things into your own hands. Change your mindset and create your own motivators, set your own goals, ask for feedback from colleagues, and build a support system – both in the company and outside. You can’t always rely on someone to be a solid, inspirational leader. Maybe that means it’s up to you.
When promoted to an executive position a few years ago, a friend gave me congratulatory card with a magnet that read, “I’m not bossy. I just have better ideas!!”
I laughed when I received that magnet. It wasn’t too far off the mark. Promoted as the youngest female vice president of a Fortune 500 company, that achievement did not come by being a follower without originality and gumption. As funny as I thought that magnet was, though, I wasn’t about to bring it into the office and set a tone of being close-minded.
I am not offended by the term bossy because I tend to remove the “y” and just think of it as “boss.” And in turn, I think of myself as a leader with a leadership style advocating for the employee and for each other. I also work with each individual to increase strengths and develop weaknesses supported by plenty of on-going feedback.
As part of my summer reading list, I finally cracked open Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. This book led to the creation of the Ban Bossy campaign by the Lean In Organization and Girl Scouts of America. A tenet of the campaign focuses on women predetermining advocacy for each other in the workplace where they ask opinions, reinforce ideas and provide support. I think this is a great idea, however, I do think it should apply to both genders. Think about this: what if in second grade during a math lesson, the teacher sent Billy into the hallway while she taught Sally, Susie and Betsy how to add? Billy would never learn the concept.
The Ban Bossy campaign also offers valuable resources and reference ideas on leadership. It focuses on how to help each other. I believe inspirational leadership is an all-inclusive process. Leave no employee behind.
business, communication, employee development, employee engagement, employees, executive, financial, Gallup, internal audiences, internal communication, investor relations, leadership, reputation management, technical
Most companies pay attention to what is happening externally – the response by its customers, sales channel, investors, bloggers and the media. Most companies do a decent job of monitoring the external reputation. Companies track blogs, forums and articles to audit discussions and trends. Online reputation management is easy to read, monitor and respond. It has become critical in business as a medium.
Reputation management has a big impact on a company’s revenue, and addressing the external audiences is important. Often, organizations will base reputation management programs on what those external audiences say. In my career, I’ve seen Communications and Investor Relations staffers draft scripts for the executive team to deliver information on trending topics during quarterly calls or at financial conferences. The teams provide answers to anticipated questions with accurate information on which investors can depend, which is safer and smarter than allowing inaccurate information to filter in from elsewhere. This is an avoidable risk.
However, failing to notice or regard what internal audiences are saying can be a bigger risk. Oftentimes, companies fall short in managing their own internal reputation management. It is one area that does not always garner the needed attention it deserves. Some companies do not view employee perceptions as a significant component to reputation management, while other executive leadership teams may not understand the importance of employee perceptions within the organization.
While the customer may always be right, your employee is the one in contact with that customer. Employees are the first line of brand ambassadors. They are the ones who, when they believe in something, will stand by a company through the darkest days. Conversely, if they have lost faith or confidence in the leader, the product or the philosophy of the company, there is going to be a major disconnect in trying to move a program, idea or concept forward without their support.
Do not disregard water cooler talk. Any employee discussion can glean valuable information.
According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace, strategy and leadership philosophy is the most effective way to generate employee engagement. “The best leaders understand that there is an emotional undercurrent to everything they do … they take a strategic, top-down approach to engaging leadership teams and then cascade engagement through the ranks of managers to employees on the front lines.” In order for a business to be successful, the leaders need to provide a clear vision of how their people connect to the company’s mission and growth strategy.
What can you do to establish your organization as one of the best? First steps including assessing your communication and knowledge management. Are you taking a strategic approach to align employee engagement communication efforts? Are you hoping it will just organically happen? Look for ways and methods to communicate your organization’s engagement impact throughout the year. Next, share engagement tools and best practices within the organization. Use every opportunity, touchpoint, and available communication channel to reinforce and recognize your organization’s commitment to employee engagement.
When your own employees have good things to say about your company, product or service, a corresponding response from external audiences will not be out of range. If you develop, build and nurture a strong internal reputation management, you have engaged the best brand ambassadors – your own employees.