Do you have employees that under perform or spread gloom in the workplace? Then chances are that you are the problem! No worries though, you can turn this around with just a few "easy" tricks that will not only have your employees perform better, but also become beacons on positive energy.
Under performing employees that are unhappy in the workplace have, in most cases, a good reason for being so. I have found that in almost all cases where I have had people being unhappy at work, it is because there is a lack of leadership.
There have been some times where it has been related to personal issues, but most of the time it has been due to leadership issues. As I wrote in my previous article leadership is a key ingredient for a great company and when that fails you will soon see discontent spread within the workforce.
It is not hard to spot either as people will leave early, come in late, spend time on things not related to work and discussions with colleagues will be around topics on how poorly things work. Or they will be mostly silent. Sick days will increase and there will be a silence that is not due to focused work, but due to the lack of laughter and casual communication.
So what can you do when the workforce start to go silent and dark? Quite a bit actually and not everything require a whole lot of effort. Here are my top 10 ways to break a dark streak.
1. Make time for your people.
A lot of the time distance between you as a leader and the people you lead is enough to make people unhappy. Remember that people follow people and as the leader of a group, absence is cause for unhappiness. People need to feel connected or they will start to feel abandoned and lost. You are a leader for a reason after all.
By making yourself available and connecting to the people you lead, you strengthen the bond between yourself and the people you lead. Monthly meetings is not nearly enough, so take time to talk to the people. Get to know them and make them feel that you are there for them if they need you.
2. Get to know the people you lead.
Take a look around you and observe the people you lead. How many of them do you know what they do outside of work? By connecting to the people you lead on a more personal level, both by learning more about them, but also share about yourself, the better your connection with them will be.
Who own a dog and who has a passion for steam engines? Who likes climbing and who used to play professional hockey before joining the company? Do you have people that share the same hobbies or passions like you do? Chances are that the people around you share more things in common with you than you know.
Once you start to know the people around you you can begin to see who need you even without them asking for your attention. This allow you to spot potential problems and when people are in need of a positive energy boost.
3. Share your vision
If the people you lead don't know where you are going, how can they follow you? No one will blindly follow someone for very long, so make sure you share your vision even if you do not have an actual plan.
Make sure you have a short term and long term plan that you can share. This makes people feel involved and hopefully also inspired. If you do not have a plan, then at least have a vision that you can share to give some sense of direction to the people you lead.
4. Give them room to evolve
Training and events are expensive, but sometimes they can do wonders for the morale and infuse much needed positive energy. These are not the only things however to inspire and wake that passion inside the people you lead. Sometimes all you need to do is to let them present ideas and listen.
Something as easy as having a quick talk session with people talking about things they have learned or know well is all it takes. 2 hours after work where all you need to do is to buy some snacks or food and morale will soar.
Presentations of a popular topic is another easy way to let people share their knowledge and form stronger bond together. It elevate the people making the presentations, it increases the overall knowledge of the people you lead and it releases tension while break the regular work for something to look forward to.
Encourage initiatives like game nights, sport activities, suggestions for improving things such as work processes and organizing events. This allow people to engage and involve themselves in activities they feel passionate about which increase the well being of everyone in the office.
5. Listen, respect and decide
Make it a habit to not only listen, but encourage people to speak up. If you can build an environment where it is not just ok to speak up, but appreciated, then you will have a much better chance to avoid people starting to brood.
Find a common forum as well as individual forums to allow people to talk to you about anything. Have group meetings that are not just planned, but that takes place when they are needed. This way people see that their opinions matter and that expressing themselves is important.
There are always people that are uncomfortable to speak in groups. For them find a way to speak to them in the way they prefer. It can be a quick chat at the coffee machine, that you drop by their place of work for a casual chat or taking them out for lunch now and then. Also respect if people do not want to talk directly as not everyone feel comfortable in that situation.
Listening to what the people you lead want to share does not mean they dictate things, but they should be allowed to influence. At the end of the day you need to take the decisions and as long as you listen and explain your decision people will respect it. They may not like it, but they will respect it because you gave them the opportunity to voice their point of view.
6. People that do not share your vision will never be content
There will always be people that you can not bring into the fold, regardless of what you do. These are people that either have issues outside of work where your support in the work place will not help. Or the most common issue is with people that simply have a different vision than you.
If your vision does not match that of a certain employee, then that person will never feel secure and comfortable at work. The person can be great in every way, but if there is a mismatch between your vision and theirs, then it will never work.
It can be that your vision is a fast paced sales focused organization and the employee want a slower paced customer focused organization. If these two visions clash that person will not be happy and discontent will start to spread and affect others within the organization.
For people that end up in this situation you should talk about the situation as soon as possible and together decide on a way forward. It can be to move the employee to another part of the company where their vision is a better fit. It can also be that it is best for everyone if the employee find another workplace where he or she can feel more at home.
7. Use positive reinforcement
As with children it is not a good idea to only focus on things that go wrong, but put more effort into things that go right. A leader that only show up when things go bad will not create a positive atmosphere.
Make it a habit to give positive feedback when it is warranted. A simple "good work" or "I appreciate the hard work you do" will go along way. Letting your team know that you are proud of their accomplishments will do wonders for morale as long as it come from your heart. Small things like this will have great effect and it does not cost a thing.
If the people you lead look up and greet you with a smile when you enter their workspace then you are in a good place. If they look up but do not smile or are silent then you have some work to do.
8. Never discipline people publicly
When the time comes to discipline someone, never do so publicly. Always take the person aside to give them the opportunity to respond without an audience. Having people stand in front of others to answer for a potential mistake is not only unfair, but highly disrespectful.
Not only will the person you discipline loose all respect for you, but you will also foster an atmosphere where people will be afraid to make mistakes. When people start fearing mistakes, then you are on a downward spiral towards a stale organization where people will not take actions unless they have to.
When you need to adress issues that the whole group are responsible for, then that can be taken openly. Just make sure the focus is to solve or change the things that cause problems, not just to complain.
9. Trust the people you lead
Leaders by definition have an urge to control things. This is how they ensure that the people they lead are safe. One of the most difficult aspects of being a leader is to know when to step in and control things and when to let the people you lead manage on their own.
If you are to controlling they will feel that you do not trust them. If you are letting them roam free to much they will feel abandoned. Know when to lead and when to let them take lead. There will always be those within the work group that are ready to step up if you let them and the most amazing moment as a leader is when you have made your presence obsolete.
10. Your job is to protect the people you lead.
The very definition of being leader is to protect the people you lead. You do that in many ways in a workplace. In any situation of us vs them, regardless if it is in regards to the client, management higher up or other companies, you are always on their side. Period.
You also need to identify things that threaten the people you lead. This can be anything from disruptions from clients or the workplace itself, lack of tools or processes or or even conflicts in the workforce. Once identified you are the one to solve or show how to solve these items.
When the people you lead trust you they will naturally work to protect you as well. People will work harder towards the common goals you share and they will feel connected and engaged in the visions you share.
Easy steps to create a work force that is motivated and happy
These are not difficult things to accomplish. It's not like any of these things are new or rocket science. As a leader it should make sense to show the path forward, protect the people you lead and solve any potential problems they face.
However, in a stressful work environment where the struggles of being a leader are toppled with other responsibilities beside being a leader it is not always so easy. I have seen plenty of good leaders crumble under the burden or economy, sales and things like that.
How can you lead people if you spend more time writing economic reports or enduring endless sales meetings than you do taking care of the people you lead? How can you solve problems that the people you lead are facing if you don't know about them?
A good leader understand the burden of sales and economy and will let their leaders know if that burden becomes a problem for them to lead. While any good leader will be the first person setting boots on the battle ground and the last one stepping off, it will not really matter if they are fighting alone...
If your time is not spend leading, then free your time to get back to that. Hire a salesperson or an accountant to support those activities because as a leader your job is to protect the people you lead. This includes removing risks and you not being there for the people you lead is the biggest risk of all.
Be the leader the people you lead deserve and they will gladly follow you through anything!