Are you new to being a leader or manager and feeling all hurt and lonely from the experience? Or maybe you have been at it for years but still beat yourself up for unhappy staff.
Fret not. You are not alone.
And… you really don’t have to beat yourself up… at least not so much… but just enough to keep getting better at it.
As a leader, you will naturally be scrutinised by all (even the best staff and the friendliest of mgt people) because you are in a position of influence and authority. If you do not have the strength to face all that scrutiny, you might want to consider going back to being an individual contributor.
What to seek when you become a leader
Seek to serve your people
Contrary to the popular pyramid model of the leader sitting on top with everyone else at the bottom taking orders from the top, try toppling that upside down.
Serve and support your people so that they can do their best to fulfil the company’s vision and mission (or cause). Provide tips, guidance where required. Give them space to care for their families, when needed. Give a listening ear to those who have personal problems. And when it is beyond your means to, connect them with suitable people or resources. Care about their lives as much as you do their work.
Seek to be genuine
Nothing beats being genuine. You can do all the above but if you do it without a heart, people can sense it and it would backfire. If you can’t be genuine, forget about doing all the caring and sharing stuff and stick to the usual pyramid with you on top – that will bring you further than being fake.
Seek to foster friendship
I’m not referring to you being friends with your staff. While it is possible, it is probably a difficult and long journey. What I’m referring to here is to foster friendship among your staff. While you cannot control and force them to be friends, you can, however, create a non threatening environment for that to happen.
Be objective and fair to all your staff. Do not show favouritism or do not appear to favouritise (it is natural to gravitate towards staff you have “chemistry” with but you should avoid that to avoid misperceptions). Bias-ness or perceived bias-ness can cause staff to distrust one another and hence, prevents friendships from blossoming.
Why am I promoting the fostering of friendship? Because when the work gets rough and tough, it is friendship that carries them further since true friends help one another.
Seek to have your personal life in order
Respect and love your spouse. Discipline your children and love them to bits. Spend time with your parents, if they are still around.
If you are single, make effort to understand the challenges of those who are married with kids and those whose families differ from yours. And make sure you spend your spare time wisely and meaningfully. Spending all your time on only work is not going to help staff see you as someone who is capable of understanding lives and people.
Seek to trust and respect others
Everyone’s life is different… different upbringing, different socio-economic status, different intellect, different aspirations, different priorities, different views, different challenges and more. You should respect those differences and understand why staff handle their life or work in a certain way. Harness their strengths and weaknesses… yes.. harness even their weaknesses to see how it could benefit themselves and the company. For example, a chatty staff may not be suitable for a desk bound job, seated with colleagues who need to concentrate individually on their work. If a change in job is not possible or location is not possible, maybe an added duty (e.g. orientating newcomers or visitors) might help put all that energy to good use.
Or maybe a complainer should do ombudsman duties (but must be taught to maintain confidentiality).
Do not judge or label them. It stereotypes and confines them and potentials could be lost as such.
Trust that anyone can be a useful person, if guided and placed well.
Seek to be respected
And as you seek all of the above, you seek to be respected. You might not be well liked by all… because you do not blindly promote the one who is buttering you for power… because you make decisions for the good of everyone’s long term future and not just an individual’s… because you make decisions based on the information you have at an instant and are not a know-all God… and because you are simply not perfect and are bound to falter from time to time.
But… you will be respected for genuinely trying.