Monday, April 23, 2012

The benevolent leader

In my years of leading manufacturing organizations, I have found a contented employee generally contributes to a cheerful home environment; and when everything is good at home, the employee stands a much better chance of success at work.

Since the average working American spends more waking hours at work than with his or her family, it stands to reason the leader or the environment provided by the manager has a significant influence on an employee’s well-being.

So what does a benevolent business leader look like?

Relationships: Leaders know their people. They understand personalities, how different personality types react to situations, how to motivate each personality, and how to uncover the root of behavioral issues. They know their employees’ spouses’ names, kids, personal interests, and what is currently happening outside of work. The leader is acutely aware of employees’ mood or demeanor and can recognize when something is wrong. Keeping team building applicable to work situations ensures relationships stay at a professional level.

Rewards and Recognition: A lost practice in today’s workplace is real-time praising, rewarding, and celebrating success. In a recently published Gallup poll it was stated that 19 percent of workers in America are actively disengaged. Contrary to popular belief, compensation usually ranks number four or lower as the primary reason employees leave companies. One of the main reasons to praise or celebrate is to encourage repeated desired performance. Identifying the positive behavior immediately, communicating what the employee or team did, and detailing the benefit to the company is a colossal morale boost. A benevolent servant leader is always looking for the opportunity to praise.

Communication: A benevolent leader ensures team members are clear on the leader’s business expectations and objectives. Off-site summits or team meetings are great opportunities to clearly review business strategies, team roles, targets, goals, policies, procedures, etc. In the past, I have held full-day “Leadership Summits” where all expectations were reviewed in detail and question/answer sessions followed. One of the greatest gifts you can provide an employee is clear direction and feedback. No one likes to walk around in a cloud.

Meet Needs: Benevolent leaders meet needs and not wants. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure employees have the tools they need to successfully complete their tasks.

Correcting for Success: The leader is doing an injustice to the employee if he or she is not giving routine feedback. Seek first to understand an issue. Without understanding, the issue being addressed can be misunderstood or buried and the opportunity to correct the issue is lost. Understanding the employee’s viewpoint eliminates incorrect judgment against the employee and can save the leader embarrassment. The goal is to correct the problem and both parties move forward together to achieve a common goal.

One of my favorite interview questions I ask candidates is, “Tell me about your favorite manager.” I typically hear answers regarding trust, loyalty, compassion, fairness, honesty, etc. Benevolent servant leaders have an opportunity to not only succeed in business but change lives for the better.

Article by J. Tad Bohlen 
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