5 Ways Great Leaders Make Work Meaningful For Employees

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

According to Harvard Business Review, “amazing bosses try to make work meaningful and enjoyable for employees. They’re most successful when they adhere to a few best practices.”

I agree with these best practices and would like to take each one step further and offer a tool that will help you leverage each rule.

Five “Rules” Best Bosses Follow

1. “Manage individuals, not just teams. When you’re under pressure, you can forget that employees have varying interests, abilities, goals, and styles of learning. But it’s important to understand what makes each person tick so that you can customize your interactions with them.”

Most of us react in predictable ways, have predictable patterns of behavior, and have predictable speech patterns. No wonder it’s so easy for people to peg us… and no wonder it can seem virtually impossible to get through to certain people.

Yet as a predictable leader, you compromise your ability to influence and to shift another’s behavior, which is often crucial to accelerate results, boost revenue, ensure sustainable growth. While a large part of influencing is about making people feel a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering, sometimes we need to bluntly lay out the facts. Being able to switch from one stance to the other is an immensely valuable leadership skill. (To discover what stance you default to, read this.)

2. “Go big on meaning. Inspire people with a vision, set challenging goals, and articulate a clear purpose. Don’t rely on incentives like bonuses, stock options, or raises.”

We’ve all done it. We’ve sat everybody down and explained. And wonder of wonders, almost nobody understood or acted upon our very informative explanation. “Why don’t they just listen?” we ask ourselves. “Why are they still doing X when clearly we have to learn to Y if we’re going to succeed?” And on it goes.

The fault is not in the strategy. And it’s not in the intelligence of your team. The problem is that they didn’t think of it themselves — they haven’t had that “aha” moment that would help them contribute their piece of the puzzle.

When people solve a problem for themselves they get a rush of neurotransmitters. They understand the “why.” And they get that by solving the puzzle themselves. (For more, read “The Evolution Of Employee Motivation Methods: Carrots, Sticks And Being Nice Aren’t Sustainable.”)

3. “Focus on feedback. Use regular (at least weekly) one-on-one conversations for coaching. Make the feedback clear, honest, and constructive.”

A well-orchestrated team depends on everyone doing their job, at the time they are supposed to do it, yielding the results they are supposed to yield. This is why we need consequences–they remind us that not keeping our commitments will carry repercussions.

4. “Don’t just talk — listen. Pose problems and challenges, and then ask questions to enlist the entire team in generating solutions.”

How is your company’s communication? Is it tight and efficient, aimed at driving results and increasing connection? Or does everyone talk a lot without saying anything that moves the needle?

The result? Meetings that are efficient, effective, and keep your team happy and executing with high accountability. Further, it’ll reduce B.S., frustration, and disengaged team members.

5. “Be consistent. Be open to new ideas in your management style, vision, expectations, and feedback. If change becomes necessary, acknowledge it quickly.”

Asking for feedback is a very powerful tool. One that can be successfully used to maximize engagement and growth. Just make sure you also plan and invest resources in the follow up.

The damage happens when a leader asks for feedback and then either does nothing to improve him or herself or attempts to identify the source of criticism and punish it. Persecuting someone who took a risk to respond to your request is an obvious trust breaker, but why is doing nothing so bad?

The Result?

You will have a culture where even in the face of change and growth, your team is focused and communicate clearly and directly. Your tribe will be unusually accountable to their promises and powerfully influential. And each member will have the energy and enthusiasm to do what needs to be done – consistently.

3 replies
  1. Joseph Lalonde
    Joseph Lalonde says:

    These are all great suggestions and work well to give employees meaning in their worklife. Your point about listening could help a lot of leaders go the distance.

    Leaders can get distanced from the action. They no longer realize what is going on. By listening, we can hear from the frontline and get better feedback on what is truly happening.


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  1. […] To avoid this mistake: Top companies and CEOs have designed systems that support innovation and for employees and key execs to have the experience of their input actually impacting the company (and possibly strategic decisions). A top CEO can avoid a stagnant company by fostering innovation from every person at the company and openly rewarding those that contribute. […]

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