Have you ever worked for a manager that left such a favorable impression on you that years later, you still brag about him or her? Chances are, you felt like a valued human being under that person’s leadership.
The late civil rights activist Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Leadership is a matter of the heart, indeed. While driving for results is certainly crucial for running a business, the best leaders balance results with relationships–great relationships.
One key question to ask
To assess where you stand in your leadership journey requires some honest self-analysis because the bar of good leadership is set pretty high. One question anyone in a leadership role should ask is: do people at work feel safe and connected?
Research on psychological safety by Amy Edmondson is quite telling. When leaders foster a culture of safety, where workers are free to speak up, experiment, give feedback, and ask for help, it leads to better performance outcomes.
On the flip side, when psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company’s full potential. We just can’t be engaged or innovative when we are afraid.
How do you create more psychological safety in the workplace?
1. Help your employees feel connected
Working out of your devices has created a loneliness epidemic. It isn’t just that people feel isolated these days, but also that many companies simply lack strong connections and community within their workforces.
To help make sense of what is increasingly becoming a connection crisis, BetterUp Labs conducted four surveys over the last three years spanning 3,000+ US workers, evaluated data from over 150,000 BetterUp members, and conducted an independent analysis of 78 top companies on Glassdoor.
The research found a disconnect between organizations and their employees’ feedback on the state of culture and connection. While 96% of leaders say they recognize the importance of relational skills for employees, BetterUp’s independent analysis of 78 top companies on Glassdoor revealed that workers still struggle to reforge connection and 3 in 5 say their employers are not doing a good job of supporting social connection.
Without leadership or organizational investment, 36% of employees say they’re not working hard to create quality relationships with their team, and don’t know their teammates. Further, this latest data shows that 44% don’t have a true friend at work; 43% don’t feel a sense of connection to co-workers; 38% don’t trust their co-workers and 22% don’t have even one friend at work.
2. Recognize your employees
In this era of record turnover, employees are burned out, unengaged, and eager to explore new opportunities. So, how can business leaders keep their team engaged and retained amid the Great Reshuffle?
To answer this question, Achievers Workforce Institute surveyed more than 4,200 employees and 1,600 HR leaders across the globe. Behavioral scientists found the key came down to two words: employee recognition.
According to the survey results published in Achievers’ 2022 State of Recognition Report, employees who are regularly recognized have a higher level of job commitment, with two-thirds (65 percent) admitting that feeling recognized would reduce their desire to job hunt.
“While recognition comes in many forms, a simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done does not elicit a meaningful reaction from employees,” says Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers and director of the Achievers Workforce Institute. “Employees want to hear how they specifically moved the needle on a project or why they powerfully made a difference in a co-worker’s life. While a warm ‘nice work’ is always welcomed, employees really want to hear personal and impact-oriented words of praise.”
When employees were asked if they’d like more frequent or more meaningful recognition, over half (64 percent) claimed they prefer to be meaningfully recognized. So, next time your team member runs a meeting with contagious energy or dazzles a PowerPoint with a mimic-worthy creative flair, an appreciative email — with explicit details — will go a long way.
3. Communicate clearly and consistently
To keep employees feeling safe, good leaders keep people in the loop regarding upcoming plans and projects, deadlines, and any changes taking place, good or bad; they give their employees a sense of security by ensuring that their work and status as employees are on solid ground.
When tough problems arise, they don’t leave anyone hanging by going radio silent; they address the issue right away by meeting with the team in person (if physically possible), or sending an email without delay to set people’s expectations.
In closing, always pull on the side of hope, strength, perseverance, and compassion. Your job as a leader is to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of your people–showing that you value them not only as workers but also as human beings.