• 26 March 2014

A good leader recognises their staff are human

Due to a lack of good leaders in the UK, employees of all ages and across all income levels are feeling apathetic and detached from their work, resulting in a loss of productivity, increase in sick days and poorer quality work, according to cognitive psychologist and business improvement specialist, Dr Lynda Shaw.

There are plenty of good managers in the UK workforce, but there is a lack of dynamic business leaders who inspire and drive their workforce to be their very best. As top management attempt to juggle more business roles and responsibilities during an uncertain economic climate, as well as the growing demands of social media, networking, accountability, and never ending bureaucracy, we are neglecting our staff and increasingly treating them as robots on a production line, which ultimately harms profit.

Differentiating between managers and leaders

This is crucial - managers need to ensure that people are happily engaged at work and that the company is harnessing their employees’ individual personalities, goals, needs and abilities to build a successful and intuitive working environment. We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, so managers need to be able and willing to facilitate workers’ accomplishments by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort.

As a leader though, you need to inspire your staff to be the very best they can be and to have a thirst for knowledge. Leaders need to give their staff opportunities to develop and grow, and to lead by example. A good leader also is able to make firm but fair decisions by listening to all sides and then trusting their experience and instincts.

How a leader reads and then reacts to a positive or negative workplace situation can have a huge effect on staff. If employees are unhappy, unmotivated or frustrated, it has a profound effect on creativity, productivity and commitment. 

For example, we are far more likely to have new ideas on days when we are happy because we widen our attention and broaden our perspective when feeling good. By default, if we feel positive about something, we are more likely to want to repeat that experience and our motivation centres in the brain embrace new experiences and growth. When we feel negative however, we tend to narrow our attention naturally in order to focus on what is making us feel bad.   

Many of the key traits a leader needs; perception skills, problem solving and excellent communication skills all have their roots in cognitive and social psychology. By our very nature, human beings are social species rather than individualists, thus the vital relationships we have with others in the workplace are hugely influential on our happiness and emotional stability and dedication - we need good leaders to encourage and drive this.

Managers are of course vital too. Communication should be the absolute golden word for any successful manager. Not just between the business and client or customer, but amongst the staff. Being able to engage well with your staff, be empathetic to any problems and stresses they face, and to relate to them on a human level, is crucial to a happy workforce but can be overlooked in the drive for profit. Colleagues must be able to work together, to support each other and to feel like a team and this is the job of a good manager.

A 2012 survey of 1,000 workers in the United Kingdom conducted by the job search website, Jobsite, showed that for 70% of respondents, friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. 

Leaders on the other hand need to be constantly aware that the atmosphere in any working environment has a ‘trickle’ effect. It starts at the top of the hierarchy and works its way down to all team members. Studies in the past decade have proven that emotions in business can be infectious.

I can’t stress enough the importance of positive energy - the often used ‘FUD’ method; fear, uncertainty and doubt, can not only damage workplace moral, but also have a detrimental effect on employees’ personal confidence.

A good manager will recognise the human inside the suit. They will be able to be sympathetic to the employees’ concerns and needs. Failing to do so will only damage relations, and in the long-term the business. A good leader should be the driver, motivating, encouraging new ideas, and passionate about what they do which in turn will filter down through the workforce.

Below are my tips on how to be a good leader:

  • Communication

Whether it’s walking into a meeting, talking to a colleague, addressing an audience, or even answering the phone, in order to have strong leadership presence, you need to have an authoritative voice to sound convincing and credible. 

  • Passion is powerful

You don’t have to force a smile every moment of the day, however, it’s important to treat everything as an opportunity and to be passionate about what you do.

  • Engagement

Stand tall, make steady direct eye contact and use pauses to position yourself as thoughtful and confident. In addition, never put your hands in your pockets because you won’t be able to convey true enthusiasm and energy.

  •  Role model

To help your colleagues do well, inspire them.  Also celebrate successes, boost morale and recognise when people need a break. These will all show that you care. 

  • Delegating

Sharing the work load is essential. The art to delegating is sourcing your colleagues according to strengths, weaknesses, what they enjoy doing and how good they are at devoting their effort and time to complete tasks effectively. 

  • Trust and honesty

This is a double edged sword. Your staff need to have faith in you but the same applies to you. Generally speaking, if you can trust your colleges and you are highly ethical, they will follow suit. This comes from being ethical and committed to them and your work.

  • Personality and a sense of humour

As well as displaying a good level of sociability, colleagues seek a sense of enjoyment when their leader can inspire. Keep things light, fresh and creative for high productivity and morale.

  • Firm but fair

A good leader is able to make firm but fair decisions by listening to all sides and then trusting their experience and instincts.

  • Clear rules and instructions

Construct a code of conduct. This shows employees what you expect of them and breaching this can result in consequences. 

  • Be negotiable

It’s very important to listen to others within your team. They might have some great ideas which could strengthen the business as a whole. If they have a good idea, tell them and reward these ideas and never take credit for their work. This improves the employee’s self-confidence and they are grateful to you in recognising this.