27 September 2023

Point of difference: What the very best leaders do differently

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Sonia McDonald* lists five things the best leaders do differently that drive their teams to success.

I recently delivered a leadership workshop with 30 participants.

It was a little larger than I would normally work with, but the Human Resources Director really wanted as many senior leaders in the room as possible.

The day encompassed our key themes around leadership being an attitude, action and choice.

We looked at the importance of kindness, courage and inclusiveness in leadership, which we explored at length.

We also looked at what makes a leader and why great and poor leadership can impact us.

During the day I had several emotional people in the room truly get the importance of the actions and attitudes of leadership.

In this article I want to explore other things leaders or ‘bosses’ do differently other than being kind, courageous and inclusive.

When you ask someone who’s unhappy at work what’s causing their dissatisfaction, the answer is often their boss.

The way our bosses interact with us has a massive influence on our work ethic, our mood, and even other aspects of our lives.

Bad bosses and leaders can really impact your business and organisation.

The vast majority of managers don’t set out to intentionally make their staffs’ lives miserable, of course, but that doesn’t excuse it.

Poor leadership is poor leadership, no matter at what end of the scale.

Even if you’re not shouting and being mean, you’re still doing a disservice to your team and yourself if you’re not actively working to be a better leader.

It all comes down to leadership; we know that the ‘best’ bosses get the most out of their staff and make them happier, but how do they do it?

I’m going to share with you five things great bosses do that keep their staff happy and enjoying their work.

Are you a leader? If so, are you doing these five things?

Treat your staff like the individuals they are.

While older styles of leadership look at managing people as a group, this does nothing for keeping employees satisfied.

When you don’t get to know those on your team individually, discovering their learning styles, skills, goals, abilities and interests, you can’t customise the way you interact with them.

This personalisation is the key to helping your team members achieve their goals and feel more valued and respected.

Push the purpose.

If your people don’t know what they’re working towards, or what the end goal is, their enthusiasm is quickly going to wane.

Your organisation should have a clearly defined mission and purpose, and as a manager, it is your job to convey this to your team, and inspire them to achieve it.

A clearly defined purpose, giving their work meaning, is what drives engagement in a workplace.

It also shows your team that you believe it’s capable of achieving the mission, empowering it to do just that.

Regularly give personalised feedback.

When you’re only giving your team members annual performance reviews, you’re not allowing them enough opportunities to actually better themselves.

Feedback doesn’t have to be as formal as the traditional yearly performance review.

Even organising a weekly ‘catch-up’ with each team member will be incredibly valuable to their development.

Regular coaching is crucial to demonstrating to your staff that you’re invested in their growth, making them feel valued.

Feedback should always be constructive and honest, and presented in a way that shows the opportunity rather than the negative.

Encourage collaboration and discussion by listening.

When team members feel that they can’t contribute their thoughts and ideas, they tend to shut down and lose enthusiasm for their role.

As a boss, you need to provide direction — but that doesn’t mean imposing your own ideas and views without allowing for input.

Listening is one of the best ways to make your team feel happy and valued.

Encourage them to discuss and collaborate, and be sure to really listen to what they have to say.

Be consistent in your leadership style.

Would you be happy if your manager was unpredictable in their leadership style? If you didn’t know how they were going to act on any given day?

Probably not: That’s why it’s important that above all, you’re consistent in your leadership.

Change is inevitable, of course, but as long as you quickly embrace it and acknowledge it, you can make it your new normal.

Satisfaction is never guaranteed, but you have the best chance when you do the above.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, a person isn’t the right fit for your organisation, or there may be another reason why they aren’t satisfied in their position.

The things I outlined in this blog are practices that will drive your employees to be happier, more productive and more engaged.

When you break them down, they all come from a base of being attentive to each team member individually.

Be consistent, champion your organisation’s purpose, give regular feedback and really listen to your staff.

None of this is easy, but it’s what the best bosses do.

*Sonia McDonald is the Chief Executive and founder of Brisbane-based LeadershipHQ and McDonald Inc. She can be contacted at soniamcdonald.com.au.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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