As a leader it’s up to you how criticism and praise are filtered through the organization and the culture that follows. You have the power to encourage or discourage. You have the power to motivate or demotivate. You have the power to develop your people or hold them back. All this power is an awesome responsibility that you shouldn’t take lightly, especially in times of high-stress and uncertainty.
With the cards you are currently dealt, how can you bring out the best in your people? There is always an opportunity to leverage their talents, experiences and abilities. Remember, most people want to do a good job and to be recognized for their contributions (even more so when things are tumultuous) as long as there is solid trust in the organization and its leadership. They want to feel good about what they’re doing, want to know they’re making a difference, and want the ways they’ve been flexible and resilient during this time to be acknowledged. If you can create a culture in which all this is possible, you will reap the rewards of a better workplace, better results, better you and quicker recovery.
Here are three steps to bringing out the best in your people:
Challenge them. In a sense, caring for your employees is not unlike caring for children. Employees feel the most valued when they’ve been empowered to understand their strengths and talents, develop those innate and acquired abilities, and eventually excel at them. Plus, people are simply wired to expect and look forward to challenges.
When they’re not put to the test, problems surface: Your staff members not only get bored or restless, but they eventually feel unappreciated, undervalued or simply ignored. This leads to low job satisfaction and eventually turnover.
When you’re properly leading your people and focused on their professional development, it’s in your best interest to cultivate ways to challenge your staff members effectively. Pay careful attention to the fact that people enjoy being challenged in different ways and that what worked in the past to achieve this may be different than what it is now. A person who thrived on getting involved in a group projects at the office might appreciate setting lofty individual performance goals or the opportunity to learn a new skill working remotely.
Recognize them. The #1 reason people leave a workplace is because of lack of recognition. Someone could have the best benefits in the world, but if they’re not being effectively thanked and spotlighted for how well they’re doing, particularly for specific vs. general achievements, it’s simply not enough.
Research shows some interesting insights on the type of recognition that’s effective. Regular peer-to-peer recognition — specifically, a dedicated, implemented program for support — does more overall good than occasional, generic kudos from the top (although the latter helps, too).
Recognition that encourages everyone to spot good deeds and appreciate success creates a culture that’s rich with oxytocin, the “love hormone.” The more of this hormone that’s flowing from one individual to the next (e.g., kind gestures that acknowledge good work), the more everyone feels good, connected and attached both to others and the company that’s supporting this culture. And the good news? This can certainly be implemented virtually.
Reward them. Money may “talk,” but there are other types of rewards that seemingly “shout” that you understand and truly value an individual. Some people really want and need extra time off. Many companies have offered additional time off during COVID-19 for parents who are left without daycare options or in-person learning. Some might jump at the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities at work — a prestigious project of some sort, for example. Meanwhile, others might relish a gift certificate or charitable donation in their name. Ask questions to find out who they really are and what they value in terms of reward. In addition to the recognition you provide, a customized approach to rewarding your people will go a long way in terms of reinforcing a job well done and boosting retention.