10 CEOs Share Their Best Tips For Effective Workplace Leadership
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According to a survey of 189,000 people conducted by McKinsey, four very specific kinds of behavior account for 89% of leadership effectiveness at the workplace:
- Acting supportive
- Effective problem-solving
- Operation with strong results
- Seeking different perspectives
The question is, however, how do you foster this kind of behavior within your key management and ultimately the entire team?
While certainly there are the so-called “born leaders," scientists tend to agree that leadership can be cultivated and shaped through strategic education, training, and experience. Here are the first baby steps you can start taking today to inspire, motivate and build better relationships with your team, as shared by 10 CEOs.
1. Always aim to determine the root cause
“Untangling the layering “whys” of a certain problem will help you solve it faster and more effectively than sticking a temporary “bandage” to cure the symptoms. That’s exactly where the 5 Whys technique comes essential, which was formally developed in the 50s by Sakichi Toyoda for Toyota to enhance their product development operations. Yet, it can be successfully applied today to any type of problem. Let me illustrate this with a quick example.
Problem statement: Our free trial conversion rates have decreased by 35% this month.
- Why fewer customers are converting to paid users? Because we have tweaked our sales funnel and stopped sending that many emails.
- Why did we stop sending those emails? Because the open rate was quite low anyways.
- Why was the open rate so low? Because those emails were kind of boring in the first place.
- So why didn't you hire a better copywriter to update those? Because the CMO says we don’t have budgets for that.
- And why did he tell you so? Apparently, because you've asked him to cut down the spendings.
You get the picture. Acting like an inquisitive five-year-old during the meetings will help you better understand the actual problems your team and your business is having as opposed to the perceived ones. It will also help you identify and assign the responsible people to solve the problem faster.” – Dean Kaplan, CEO of Kaplan Collection.
2. Practice compassion
“Even A-star performers have tough days. If your best players suddenly screwed up e.g. missed a deadline or did something wrong, don't rush into discarding them all together. As a leader, you should use empathy and your compassion to understand what exactly went wrong. Yes, you can hold people accountable. But no, there’s no point in drawing fast conclusions before understanding the root of the problem.” - Moe Davis Hamade, CEO of BlackNote.
3. Foster reciprocal trust
“Innovative leaders initiate collaborative relationships with people who work for them. Make yourself highly accessible and approachable. Your employees should know that you can be entrusted with any bold ideas. After all, the best ideas often bubble up from underneath.
Yet at the same time, their leader will watch their back and not throw them under the bus if anything goes wrong. Don't punish people for honest mistakes or innovations will never happen at your company.” – James Morris, CEO of Stay In Cornwall.
4. Share the good times and the bad times
“Transparency has become another industry buzzword you hear everywhere. Yet, there are just a few companies and their leaders that actually practice transparency. The lack of transparency results in a global epidemic of mistrust. According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer study, nearly one in three employees don’t trust their employers. Lack of trust leads to poor engagement, lower productivity and higher employee turnover rates.
So, how do you foster transparency at your company? Share the good, the bad and the ugly. And don't keep that information until the annual company anniversary or another event where you are forced to make a speech. You can host bi-weekly team lunches, publicly share your revenues and other financial data, send a weekly/monthly corporate newsletter to your team informing of the wins and odds, or even keep all employee salaries on public display like SumAll does. The key here is to make sure that transparency applies to everyone – from the interns to the CEO.” - Ariel Chiu, CEO of Wonderstruck Events.
5. Rein your toxic emotions
“Business and emotions should not exist within the same plane. However, no one is 100% prone to occasional emotional outbursts. Failing to control those can have a dreadful impact on your personal image. Never make a business decision when you are overwhelmed with emotions. Step back, breathe and 'cool down' before addressing the issue again.” - Dr. Kevin Kitt, CEO of Winnipeg Chiropractor.
6. Don’t forget to set your boundaries
“There is a fine line between being approachable and letting employees invade your personal space. And your team should be aware of those limits. Everyone in the office should clearly understand what kind of behavior and communication is tolerable. Having effective boundaries in place will save everyone from unneeded frustration and faux pas.” - Terri Robbins, CEO of Assisting Hands.
7. Distinguish the skill and will limitations
“Underperformance happens primarily for two reasons – lack of expertise and lack of will force. While the skill gap can be easily closed with additional mentoring and professional training, the will gap is harder to recognize and fix. You will need to look into the employee’s motivation. Why don’t they work up to the full capacity? Do they feel pressured by their direct manager? Or lack motivation due to lack of career advancement or just exhausted their mental potential within this department, but can feel re-inspired after a transfer? Your job as a leader is to find the exact causes and solve them effectively.” - Donald Downey, CEO of ACManHouston.
8. Stay humble
“Approachable and humble executives are the kind of leaders most employees want to see at their workplace. According to a recent study conducted by James Collins, the more humble CEOs acted, the better results top and mid management tend to show. That includes higher job satisfaction rates, engagement, motivation and higher rates of autonomy and effective decision-making. The mid-management personnel also reported being more collaborative and committed to doing their jobs better.” - Richard Li, CEO of 4k.com.
9. Recognize individual accomplishments, not just great team work
“Receiving praise as part of the team feels good. But getting a personalized note from your manager or even the company CEO is a totally different type of employee motivation booster. In fact, 58% of employees agreed that “getting recognition” is one of the best engagement boosting techniques from company leaders. Whether you choose to send quick "thank you notes" or create a gamified recognition experience at your company, it has to be in place.” - Harry Crawford, CEO of My Tree Service.
10. Never stop improving
“Great leaders don’t settle for the achieved positive results. They continuously invest in self-education and training, work on fixing personal issues and investigating their team’s performance. There’s always another skill you can master or technique to try. Always stay open to new ideas heading your way.” - Derek Iwasiuk, CEO of Assisted Living Near Me.
Related: How To Be A Better Boss