If you’re the CEO or President of a company or organization of any size, you’ve probably spent some time reading about how you can improve both your leadership and your organization. In my work as a leadership consultant, however, I’m often surprised that many leaders fail to understand the “little” things (that are actually big things) when it comes to moving their organizations forward. With that, here are 9 unconventional — or at least uncommon — tips for leaders:
Don’t Assume Everyone Sees the Same Things You do
As a leader, you have a vision for your company. You have communicated this vision to your leadership team and your employees — multiple times. But each individual perceives things differently. Your vision might not always translate to middle and lower management, where it is ultimately executed. To ensure your vision is both understood and executed, you must consistently communicate with your employees — and be specific about it. All-encompassing statements like “we take care of our clients” are open to misinterpretation. Tell your employees exactly what you want, and you’ll have a better chance of getting it.
Invest in Management Training at Lowers Levels
Training is expensive. Most CEOs prefer to pay for training only for high-level management teams, ignoring lower-level managers or employees. This is a mistake. Don’t just invest in high-level management, invest in high-level performers. Even green employees can be crucial to your organization, especially those who show the leadership skills that have them on the fast track to upper management. Groom your best performers early. You’ll reap the rewards later.
Listen to the Influencers
The biggest influencers in your company might not be the ones with the fanciest titles. They’re just the people that others respect and listen to. They’re the hard workers with an opinion, and they can play a big part in how other employees see the company. Reach out to these people and keep them on your side. Learn from them what the issues are and have them help you resolve those issues. Your management team might not be as honest with you as those at lower levels with less to lose. Find these people and develop a relationship with them.
Be Generous — But Don’t Assume What Your Employees Want
A big holiday party or team building spa day might seem great to you. But your employees would likely rather have time off or more flexible work schedules as a reward. In fact, studies have shown that time off and flexibility are even more important than money to employees. Talk to your employees before you plan a rewards party. Find out what they really want and give it to them.
Catch an Employee Doing Something Good
Too often, good deeds go unnoticed. Make sure to look for small employee victories — a positive encounter with a customer, etc. — and reward them, even simply with kind and encouraging words. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they do. Recognizing good behaviors will help those behaviors reoccur.
Encourage Employees to Suggest Change
No CEO is deeply involved with every part of the business. The people who are — the employees — are most in tune to the issues that plague the organization. Acknowledge their perspective and listen to it. You know what you want out of your business, but your employees might not see it the same way. Encourage your employees to talk to you without fear. You might just find the solution to the problems with your business.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Title
Titles might just be words — especially if they don’t come with a raise — but they are incredibly important to most people. Though many are afraid to admit it, titles mean something. They mean status. Recognition. Validation. Acknowledge people through titles. Titles can make happier and more productive employees.
Don’t Create Prince Charles
With all due respect to the Prince of Wales, responsibility without authority is a recipe for disaster. Toothless leadership can be frustrating to those leaders and the employees who work under them. Empower your management team to make decisions on their own and take responsibility for those decisions.
Stoke the Human Side of Change
Successfully making a change in your organization takes more than directives and a plan — it takes emotional intelligence at all levels of the organization. Soft skills are anything but soft — they are necessary for an organization to grow and change. Providing support and training that helps your team develop emotional intelligence skills will solidify your culture, make any change or transition run more smoothly and ultimately, boost your bottom line.