If you’re a leader, I’m sure you can think of a few mistakes you have made, or make, regularly. Similarly, if you have supervisors, what mistakes do you see them make?
I have an entire presentation on the six common mistakes leaders make. They include:
Not celebrating people.
Going it alone; being disconnected.
Not having growth plans.
Poor time management.
Going to extremes in leadership.
Letting bad attitudes prevail.
I’m here to share what I believe are the top two mistakes from this list: not celebrating people and letting bad attitudes prevail.
To help you, I’ve included several ways to avoid each mistake and increase team health and unity.
Celebrating your team
We have a tendency to lean toward the negative aspects of a job due to stress. So, left without a leadership cheerleader, team morale naturally takes a downward turn.
Your people are responsible for their own motivation, but I believe it’s a leader’s job to keep stoking their fire, with his or her affirmation and recognition.
Here are ways to celebrate your people and bring out the best in them:
Be a positive climate-creator. Organizations become shadows of their leaders. Leaders set the relational temperature in every group they lead. One of my favorite quotes is by author and former U.S. Navy Seal Jocko Willink, “Every problem is a leadership problem.”
A cheerful hello plants a positive seed in each employee’s psyche.
Do not crush people who make mistakes. Instead praise their risk-taking and try to help them identify what they learned from it. Nurture the intrapreneur spirit.
Displaying a great sense of humor. Humor builds bridges between people. When visiting organizations, I notice that positive banter in the hallways is sometimes a sign of a closely-knit team.
Affirm your people. At work, people need more affirmation, inspiration and recognition. I add these to the calendar and try to do them on the spot.
Send kudos and encouraging emails.
Hand write personal encouraging notes or leave positive voicemails.
Offer public praise in meetings and in team or organization publications. Doing it in front of others doubles the effect.
Praise them when introducing them to others.
Letters of commendation – to be included in their file and for their direct supervisors to read.
Meet one-on-one with staff at least monthly. They get your full attention.
Give gifts or awards customized to the performer. It shows you have noticed their contribution.
Simply say, “Thank you.” They are the two most important words.
Throw parties for achievements. Take any chance you get to celebrate. Administrative Professionals Day, Support Staff Day and Boss’s Day are all good opportunities to do something special. How about when a big project is accomplished, or a goal was reached? Celebrating makes people feel like winners and creates an atmosphere of positive energy. Celebrate people so they feel like a winner, not a number.
Listen well. It’s validating. Make a point to listen to understand rather than listening to respond.
Banish bad attitudes
Leaders may avoid dealing with poor attitudes out of fear or laziness. After all, it takes a lot of energy. But if not handled, everyone suffers. The culture goes negative.
Customers eventually notice and lose confidence. Focus is lost.
Consider these ideas:
Manage your own sour attitude. Take time off to refocus if necessary. You don’t have the right to bring a bad attitude to work when in a leadership position as it casts a shadow over the team.
Deal with the poor attitudes of team members. Taking no action is an action. If tolerated, it can become part of the culture or norm. The broken windows theory of criminology suggests that visible signs of disorder and neglect, such as broken windows or graffiti, can encourage further crime and anti-social behavior as they signal lack of order and law enforcement. This same idea can be applied in an organization facing poor attitudes and low morale.
When working to regain a positive work environment, I usually approach softly – seeking to understand – and gradually move toward probation and performance improvement plans if there is no change.
Be willing to give candid, rigorous performance reviews and real-time feedback in between.
On the flip side, reward those who are exemplifying your staff values, who are adding value to the team. What gets rewarded, gets done.
Remember, improving the work environment is an ongoing process that requires commitment and adaptability.
By focusing on correcting these two common leadership mistakes you can create a more positive and productive workplace.
Paul D. Casey lives in the Tri-Cities and is the owner of Growing Forward Services, which aims to equip and coach leaders and teams to spark breakthrough success. He also is the executive director of Leadership Tri-Cities.