By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University
Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “If you think you are leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.” The pure, traditional definition of leadership requires having at least one person to follow you. If not, you are just a person assigned the role of leader; there is a difference.
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Organizations owe it to their employees to place them in the right position and set them up for success. However, we still have the wrong people sitting in the wrong seats on the bus. Unfortunately, this practice still persists at a number of organizations, so I want to speak to those individuals who are in the crucial role of leaders.
If you are a parent, you know the responsibilities you have to raise your children. If you are a leader in your organization, you must understand how to motivate your staff to support the vision of the organization.
How well are you doing the following?
- Communicating the vision on a regular basis
- Positioning each team member for growth
- Spending time with each person to find out their dreams, desires and ambitions
Employees treat me the way that I treat them. They respect me as a leader, but they will give their all when I show genuine interest in their concerns. Part of that effort is periodically letting them know how much I appreciate them.
How to Develop Better Work Relationships with Your Employees
Maxwell created a list of five things to do to stay connected to the people you lead:
- Recognize the landmine. Take time to develop checkpoints when you meet with your employees and make sure everything is okay. Avoid mindsets such as “I don’t need to see my people.” or “I don’t want to see my people.”
They are your people. Just like a family, they need you to spend some quality time with them. Determine what works for everyone and stick to the schedule.
- Value people. Companies want to make money and they are able to secure the latest materials and technologies. However, the people who work for the organization are its greatest asset.
Tasks cannot be performed if you don’t have a viable workforce. Make sure you know what motivates your workers.
- Avoid positional thinking. Being a leader is not always about you. Rather, it is about influencing people to follow your vision.
Too often, leaders focus on (1) what makes them look good and (2) how to position themselves for the next promotion. You can’t get from A to C without taking the steps needed to reach B. Know how to influence those who have been assigned to you.
- Love the people you lead. There is leadership and there is staff management. If you want to be promoted but you cringe at the thought of having direct reports, consider sticking to staff management positions.
People need attention and development. If you are interested in being a leader, one of your loves should be coaching your staff.
- Understand the law of significance. You can’t do it by yourself, so develop a team that can support the vision of your department. Each person should have a role and responsibility.
Continuously remind them how important their contributions are in making the departmental initiatives a success. Be genuine with your feedback!
Strong Leadership Means Strong Teams and High Performance
I have always had strong teams. I either inherited people with vast experience in the organization; they have been of great value in providing history for our department. I have also started from scratch and hired new members for my department.
Both experiences are gratifying and ended with the same result – a high-performing team with strong, confident contributors to the departmental and organizational vision and goals.
Although I have complete confidence in their expertise, I still find it necessary to take time out to:
- Hear what is going on in their lives.
- Make myself available to discuss whatever they wish.
- Keep a pulse on how they feel about their job and the organization.
In a nutshell, it’s important to take time out and show genuine concern for what concerns your employees. This practice can make a significant difference as you seek to attract and retain top talent.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.