Instead of Flexing Authority, Leaders Should Influence Employees
When it comes to managing employees, most employers tend to take one of two key leadership approaches. There’s the “power/authority” approach, where it’s their way or the highway, or the “influence” approach, where the goal is to get employees on the same page and empower them to make decisions that will have a positive impact on the organization.
In today’s work world, employees want to feel like they are a part of the decision-making process. Millennials, especially, want managers who give them the freedom to do their jobs and trust they will deliver.
In fact, in a 2014 survey of 16,637 millennials worldwide titled Millennials: Understanding a Misunderstood Generation, nearly half of people in this age group from North America want a manager who “empowers their employees” above all else.
Clearly, for those who manage the fastest growing part of today’s workforce, it’s time to take the focus off of the power/authority approach and on to the influence approach. Here are three areas where the influence approach is especially useful in the office:
1. Employee communication
In May, Interact released the results of a Harris Poll survey of nearly 1,000 U.S. workers that suggest taking just a little time to recognize and connect with employees can have a huge impact on productivity and the bottom line. Ninety-one percent of respondents agreed poor communication was dragging managers down.
Employees cited failure to recognize employee achievements (63 percent), not having time to meet with employees (52 percent), refusing to speak with subordinates (51 percent) and not asking about employees’ lives outside of work (23 percent) as some of the main issues that are keeping managers from getting the most out of their workforce.
Since the key focus of the influence approach is building relationships based on trust, recognition, inclusion and feedback, this approach solves these adverse communication issues. It encourages managers to interact with their employees on equal footing and recognize the impact they have on the organization.
To start practicing the influence approach, make time every day to share personal stories, thank employees, ask them about their lives and elicit feedback. Doing so will engage employees and build a rapport that can increase productivity and help the bottom line.
2. Goal setting
Every employer has to set goals for their team members. Successful employers understand that setting goals is not just a way to boost the bottom line, but a way to engage employees with milestones that are accessible and motivational. That’s where the influence approach comes in.
Focus on building relationships with employees and eliciting as much feedback as possible before goals are set for the new pay period, quarter or year. Show employees that the company cares about their opinions, then craft goals that will help them feel like they’re contributing.
For example, revenue goals are helpful at the upper levels of an organization, but lower and mid-level employees may have a difficult time realizing how their work contributes to those goals. If a manager has built strong relationships with employees using the influence approach, they will understand this and set goals that employees can contribute to, such as increasing the number of subscribers or improving customer satisfaction.
3. Performance reviews
Annual reviews. No one really likes them and, according to Taskworld’s 2015 Annual Review Survey of 500 employed adults nationwide, 55 percent of employees think time spent reviewing performance should be spent on other things. Why?
It could be that managers often take a power/authority approach to annual reviews. Instead of offering constructive feedback -- 50 percent of respondents say they’re not getting any -- managers look at the annual review as a way to establish authority.
In other words, many managers take a “I’m the boss, here’s what needs to get done over the next year,” approach instead of a “Let’s talk about overall progress and what we can do to improve moving forward” approach. The former alienates employees and makes them feel undervalued.
Instead, focus on providing constructive feedback on employees' strengths and weaknesses. Ask about their expectations for the coming year and how they see their careers progressing. Then, share the organization’s expectations and discuss how to meet those expectations together. The influence approach builds trust and an employer-employee “contract” that shows the organization cares about its employees.
Employers that focus on influencing employees through trust and collaboration instead of power and authority have a better chance of engaging employees and keeping their best talent happy.
What leadership style do you think works best? What are some situations when the power/authority approach might be necessary? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.