As we enter the 2nd half of 2022, many of us reflect on the past two years and wonder…..how can we come out of this experience and make the most of it?
Let’s face it, the pandemic continues to loom over us, inflation is on the rise, and yes…..there is a recession hanging in the wind. YET – we all have jobs to do, companies to run, teams to lead, and lives to live.
So, today, I wanted to offer 3 thoughts (and approaches) that are giving me direction on how to make the most of the next 6 months, get the most from my team members, and LEAD in a manner that builds success – for my career and the others with whom I work.
Here we go:
- What I have learned from my clients, especially over the past few years, is that MOST folks simply do not feel valued at work.
Many feel that they are taken for granted and grossly underappreciated for the work they do. There was a startling poll this past year that stated almost 50% of American workers QUIT their jobs solely because they felt undervalued. And still another poll states that only 61% of employees feel any appreciation for their work. So – the question is – does this really matter? I actually had one client say to me “Kristin, everyone is hanging on by a thread and people need to just ‘grow up’ and do their work”. Well….yes and no.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to recognize and show sincere appreciation to our people. There is a specific correlation between employee engagement and increased productivity due to showing gratitude for the work someone does. In fact, there is an 18x INCREASE in productivity when people are recognized for the good work they do. So yes, it definitely impacts the bottom line AND it also helps to attract AND retain strong employees. So – how can we genuinely show our employees and teams that they ARE appreciated? A few ideas:
- Solicit their input. Ask for their ideas. Encourage all team members to seek advice from subject matter experts. Everyone likes to feel that their opinion and insights are valued. So ASK – early and often.
- Give specific and direct feedback when a job is well done. I am continually amazed when a leader comments that they expect people to do their jobs….and it should not be regarded as the exception when it is the rule. What a fallacy. When an employee’s behavior is rewarded this fosters more of the same. This can surely be results-oriented (revenue, metrics, etc.) – yet, that is not the only thing. When a leader points out an employee’s ‘can-do’ attitude, helpful teamwork, or putting in extra long hours – THAT will breed more of the same. We ALL like to be seen for the value that we bring – and this is not always just metrics-oriented.
- See them for who and what they truly are. There is a lot of attention being given to the concept of ‘belonging’. In fact, I was discussing this very concept at dinner the other night and how vital it is for ALL people to feel integral to a team. We are all different. We all bring diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills, and experiences to the table. When we are truly SEEN and VALUED for the ‘sum of the parts’ – that is when the magic happens. How many times have we each been in an organization or volunteer capacity or job where we are simply MISUNDERSTOOD? And what’s worse – is that no one took the time to peel back the layers to really ‘get us’? Well….when a leader takes the time to learn, appreciate, and LEVERAGE the authenticity of each team member – that is when a marginal team becomes a high-performing team.
- Encourage and celebrate your people. This is not just relative to the ‘job’ – this is celebrating the person – the whole enchilada. Think: birthdays, outside achievements, unique contributions to the company/community/non-profits, published articles, etc. And never underestimate the power of the proverbial B12 shot! Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – needs encouragement, especially right now. It can be as simple as a handwritten thank you note – or as thoughtful as an ‘experiential’ gift (dinner, boat cruise, golf day, etc.). This does not have to cost a lot of money; I can assure you that some of the most valued ‘B12s’ I have received in my life most often came from a handwritten note and/or a thoughtful introduction to someone I have admired from afar.
2. We can shift the entire experience for ourselves and our employees by simply embracing what I am going to call the ‘3 C’s’…..staying Curious, and being Creative so that we can build a healthy Culture.
Here is what I mean. When I say ‘Stay Curious‘, I simply mean – to make no assumptions. (Remember one of my favorite books? The Four Agreements. Well, this is one of the 4 agreements!) Stay curious about what makes people tick. Why do they do what they do? (Aka: Simon Sinek) Once we ASK and stay interested in others – then we know how to lead them. We understand what they need. We have a better grasp of what they want. Then, we can help them ‘get there’. I would guess that what made them tick 2-3 years ago has changed dramatically. Hasn’t it changed for you?
Relative to ‘Being Creative’, well…..we all know the world (and business) is not as it once was. And frankly, it never will be. So – the key for strong leaders is to be CREATIVE in how we respond to the new reality. There are simply few ‘hard lines’ anymore. We need to empower our peeps to ‘color outside the lines’ and ‘stretch and grow’ in the new world order. I can give one salient example, which inspired me earlier this month. I have a client who not only is embracing the ‘hybrid necessity’ (aka: working from home via zoom, virtual meetings, etc.) they are ALSO allowing their employees to choose how and when to work. This means: defining their own hours, their shifts, and their actual ‘jobs’. Sure, the bottom line is still the bottom line – yet HOW we get there can and will shift. As leaders, we have the opportunity to remind and ENCOURAGE our people to choose how they want to approach their jobs and their responsibilities. And no – it does NOT have to be done the way it has always been done. The old adage has never been more true: out of necessity comes invention. We, as leaders, need to ENCOURAGE this – with open arms, courage, and optimism that a ‘better way’ is indeed possible.
The 3rd C is CULTURE. To me, culture has always been THE differentiator. Culture is way more than a set of values on a placard in the entry hall of your business. It is the DNA of the organization. It is how we act in the dark, as well as in the light. It is how we respond to challenges and adversity. It is who we are. It is REVEALED when the going gets tough. And it is pervasive from the CEO’s behavior down to the individual contributor. And yes…the CEO and the leaders set the tone, the pace, and the standard. When we get it right – despite a pandemic, inflation, and a recession – it becomes the very fabric of how we work, AND our clients, customers, employees, and partners SEE it, EXPERIENCE it, and VALUE it. THAT is what will keep our businesses going despite the challenges.
3. The final thought, which is something I say to myself every single morning, is this: we are responsible and accountable for how we respond to our reality.
In the spirit of full transparency, the past 4 years have been the hardest of my life. Starting with the untimely and tragic death of my daddy, then his twin brother, then my momma, then the tornado that destroyed our lakehouse, followed by COVID, the death of my only child (Lulu), the direct pandemic hit to my business, and now we are facing a recession. Yet, what I know for sure (and I learned this from my mom and dad’s tremendous example) is that ALL I can control are my ABCs (my attitude, my behavior, and my choices). So – yes, we need and want to hold not only ourselves accountable – we also want to hold others accountable. And what I will say to that is this: we cannot ‘bully’ accountability. No one wants to be bullied into doing their jobs. We must model the behavior we wish to see.
What I have observed is that many executive leaders presume by their position, that their job is to cast aspersions, delegate zealously, and frankly avoid any direct ownership themselves. This is a fatal error for any leader who aspires for excellence. People in leadership roles must hold themselves accountable to the same standards of excellence we expect and drive from our constituents. Whether these be executives in our company, students and teachers in a school, or volunteers on a common project; we must act as we wish them to act. We must hold ourselves accountable for the results of our own choices AND actions in our organizations. And, by the way, this takes a lot of courage. As leaders, by default, we are being watched with a more critical eye. This means when we stumble, which we undoubtedly will, we must have the courage to admit it, hold ourselves accountable, and fix it. Humility, courage, and requests for help from our team become our best friends as leaders.
As leaders, we own it. Period. As leaders, the ultimate responsibility is ours. We are to lead. This does not mean mandating change or enforcing punitive enforcement. This means leading. We must acknowledge that we can’t mandate accountability – we need to live and demonstrate it for the entire organization. Not just what we presume to be our ‘to do’ list for our specific job description. No, as leaders, we own it for the entire organization. We communicate openly with our teams and explain the rationale for setting the bar where we set it. We call out – and encourage our team to call out – when anyone on the team is not holding up their end. We hold ourselves ruthlessly to the standards of excellence we expect from others. If we are not congruent in holding ourselves accountable to the same expectations from our team – we are phony and our perceived leadership strength is hollow. Positional authority simply falls away in importance. We achieve respected leadership authority by walking the talk and proving through our actions our commitment to being responsible, personally and collectively.
In closing on this third thought, when we were children growing up, we all at one point or another used expressions such as these: “It’s not my fault. . . They made me do it. . . I forgot.” As adults, there are common expressions that resemble our childhood excuses: “It’s not my job. . . No one told me. . . It couldn’t be helped…It is because of COVID.”
Well, as leaders these are just child’s talk. Each person owns their choices, their behaviors, and their actions. Despite the pandemic, the recession, and increasing inflation, we are accountable for our response. And true success, by any metric, begins and ends with personal responsibility and accountability.
So, as we enter the last 6 months of this year – I, for one, want to make the VERY MOST of the second half. And because of that decision, my muscles, my mindset, and my resolve will be tested AND strengthened. AND these next 6 months will be THE BEST of the year.
Let’s make it so.