Do People Really Matter?

I had an advisory conversation with a young graduate student, Vanessa (not her real name), about her career aspirations. She’s an intelligent person who knows what she wants, and frankly, has little interest in the opinion of others as she establishes and achieves her professional goals.

Her behavioral style is direct to the point of bluntness, factual with little feeling, and ambitious with inconsequential concern for others. Vanessa could benefit from enhancing her emotional intelligence, especially given the brusqueness of her communication style.

Vanessa feels that none of this is important. If she gets a job where her drive for results is rewarded, how she goes about it doesn’t matter. She views revealing her personality on the job as a liability to avoid. Just the facts, ma’am.

Roles and Responsibilities

Do your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities? If you gave them a job description once upon a time, now it may be a historical document. If you haven’t given them anything, it’s likely that their understanding of the job is vague.

I recommend identifying some combination of roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators (KPIs). When you articulate these factors (and your expectations), you’re much more likely to see a higher level of performance and productivity.

Here are some scenarios that clients have shared with me recently. They are great examples of what can happen when you’re not specific.

– Partners in a professional practice tasked a small group of senior people to up their leadership game by raising the morale of the staff. With the best of intentions, this group unexpectedly elicited a complaint session that unleashed an angry mob of employees.

Go Team!

Have you ever held a team meeting with a stated, “official” purpose but really had an ulterior motive? Most leaders do this at least once during their careers, and more often than not, this tactic is rarely successful.

Your employees are smart enough to know when the official reason isn’t the real reason, but may not always figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. When that happens, everything ranging from gossip to distrust emerges.

And then, you’ve lost them.

Reframe With Humor

What would we do without humor? A daily dose of humor diffuses stress, anxiety, and other nasty things that cause our bodies and minds to go off kilter.

I look for the humor in everyday, routine activities and generally find that when I share something amusing, people appreciate it. Think about it: when people laugh together, they are aligned at that very moment. It’s a tiny break from the humdrum of the day that can spark everything from fresh perspective to hope to optimism.

Laughter does indeed have proven physiological benefits. It boosts the immune system. It decreases stress hormones, including cortisol. I even learned about laughter yoga from my friend, Margie. It’s a form of yoga which involves prolonged voluntary laughter, which in effect creates the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of laughter.

Big Value from Small Ideas

Do your employees offer ideas for improving the way their jobs are done? Are they even comfortable with the idea of making suggestions?

Your organizational culture influences how your employees will actually participate. If you welcome input, you’ll receive it. If you say you welcome it, but poke holes in their ideas, people will retreat to their cubicles. If you say you welcome it and do nothing with the ideas, they won’t take you seriously.

But if you welcome input and actually do something with it, you’ll awaken much more from your staff.

Your people have many good ideas that they don’t even realize could be valuable to their co-workers. As a leader, your willingness to solicit and try out these ideas could be a game changer.