By Dr. Ray Benedetto, DM, LFACHE, Colonel, USAF, MSC (Ret), Co-founder of GuideStar, Inc. and Co-author of It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement for Remarkable Results

The last two blogposts focused on four actions of an exemplary leader for gaining the trust: Model the way, Inspire a shared vision, Challenge the process, and Enable others to act. This post examines the fifth and most critical practice for today’s environment: Encourage the Heart.

Very simply, if you want exceptional results, you must first set the standard by performing in an exceptional way yourself, which goes back to Character, Shared Core Values, and Modeling the Way.  By now, you’re probably seeing a pattern here: these practices must be woven and executed as a tapestry versus a patchwork quilt.  Leadership IS challenging because every day presents itself differently, but how we engage with our staff on a routine basis either makes or breaks success.  In short, truly exemplary leadership stems from our mental attitude, approach toward others, and consistent practice of “Doing what’s right.”  If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business, which is best done by “encouraging the heart” in the following ways.

  1. Lead by Walking Around (LBWA for short). You cannot lead effectively from behind a desk because that’s not where the action is. You must be “present, both physically and mentally” where employees face their challenges. This doesn’t mean getting into details or doing their work.  It means having a routine whereby you visit everyone in their workplace on a regular basis, you ask questions about what’s working, what’s not, and what they like about their work, and you listen to their ideas without filters from others.  This is also your best opportunity to learn and get new ideas for improving business from those who are closest to delivering results.

LBWA gives you the opportunity to (a) Get close to people, (b) Be clear about goals and rules because of what you learn and see what’s working and what’s not, (c) Show others you believe in them and their efforts, and (c)  Say “Thank You” for their dedication to their work and their ideas for making things better.  These practices build trust. When you are routinely present, employees feel comfortable with your presence and expect it for the opportunity it presents to communicate on a personal level and cooperate in something bigger than themselves.

  1. Recognize the contributions of every employee. LBWA gives you opportunities to see Company Values in Action, from which you can learn and tell stories to others about successes within your business. Telling stories supports your need to Communicate and Reinforce Values and Purpose. Most leaders fail to communicate by a factor of 10, so this is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other leaders. While practicing LBWA, keep a notebook where you can note key points about the stories you gain along the way, because you’ll need those notes later when you celebrate success stories.
  2. Celebrate Company Values, Victories, and Community. Celebrations need to be part of company life. Why? Your people spend better than a third of their lives working. They need to know their efforts have a positive effect; they need to see the meaningfulness of their work. The best ways to do this are through both large and small celebrations. When you land a new contract, client, or customer, that’s cause for celebration.  Milestones like anniversaries with the company, birthdays, and significant dates in company history can be acknowledged in a monthly gathering with cake, balloons, and time to gather to reflect on the meaning of these events in company life. These gatherings also give senior leaders opportunities to share stories about Company Values in Action that they collected through LBWA.

Just Creasing the Surface. You now have more ideas for building trust, but these practices require attention and effort to make them part of your daily routine. Exceptional leadership takes time to develop and requires personal daily reflection.  In our next blogpost, we’ll talk more about how you can do this effectively.

Questions for the Week:  How do you need to reallocate your daily and weekly schedules to allow more time for LBWA?  Who do you need to engage within your company to plan and execute more company-wide celebrations?  From your personal knowledge, what success stories of others already exist but have yet to be told? Who within your company has best exemplified company values and what has this meant to building your company culture?

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