4 Ways Leaders Are Creating Success in All the Wrong Ways

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Nov 3, 2017

In 1997 (just three years after the company’s launch), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders:

Our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base, each of whom must think like — and therefore must actually be — an owner.

Today, Amazon is one of the most lucrative companies in the world. Bezos still attributes that to fostering a dynamic workplace culture and employee experience.

But not all leaders are as focused on the team when it comes to success.

When measures of success are vague or unconventional, the employee experience suffers. Each worker will come up with their own idea of how to best satisfy tasks. When that happens, you’ll be left picking up the pieces to a plan that looked great on paper.

Here are four ways good managers go about creating success in all the wrong ways:

1. Creating a show-boat culture.

Rather than creating a culture of competition for competition’s sake, tasks should always be focused on improving team dynamics, customer experience, and company operations.

When the person who can raise their voice the loudest is the one whose ideas are always heard in team brainstorming sessions, it teaches others to either shout louder or keep their good ideas to themselves for fear of being talked over.

Encourage a culture where each and every worker has something to offer and is given an opportunity to share their thoughts. These workers should be comfortable presenting ideas without fear of being “shot down” or otherwise ridiculed.

For example, Southwest Airlines attributes its 50 years of success to stand-out customer service. Managers encourage employees to innovate ideas to “wow” customers. Often, these ideas are later incorporated into standard operating procedures.

Always focus on building a workplace environment based on mutual-respect, where each team member pushes the other to succeed. When employees are expected to fight against each other for accolades, the entire company loses.

2. Focusing only on the bottom line.

Employees don’t want to feel like robots programmed to quickly completely tasks with no feedback or discussion. Fear of discipline or even termination for not directly increasing revenue for the company stalls employee productivity. When that happens, the quality of work suffers, and the company’s bottom line is negatively affected.

Instead, workers want to see the fruits of their labors. They want to know why they’re being asked to perform certain tasks, and how their individual work factors into completion of the entire project.

At Adobe, for instance, employees are encouraged to show personal initiative in approaching project management tasks and problem solving. Company leaders say focusing too much on market share and sales figures inhibits creativity and productivity. Rather than a “boss” persona, managers take the role of a coach aimed at guiding employees. When tasks are completed, employees discuss how their individual ideas factored into the project’s success.

Rather than pushing employees to quickly complete work only to move on to the next task, take the time to demonstrate how the project benefits their own professional growth.

3. Taking credit, but never blame.

Accountability is not only an admirable professional quality, but also it builds respect and understanding among team members. Workers want to know they won’t be thrown under the bus in the event something goes wrong.

When feedback is sparse and workers are left to figure out for themselves how best to complete tasks, the potential for error is increased. If this happens, effective managers should help workers understand the initial direction and quickly get back on track. They should never place blame on an employee for misunderstanding, or otherwise ridicule workers for mistakes.

On the other hand, when an employee presents an idea that will benefit the company, or demonstrates above-and-beyond work, this is a good time for public recognition. Workers will stop giving their best if they know their manager will always take credit for their unique ideas.

4. Throwing employees in head first.

Lack of guidance is detrimental to project work and the smooth operation of a company. Expecting employees to “jump in head first” without any sort of direction wastes time and money. Some managers believe this encourages a “learning by doing” culture, however, unclear direction typically only results in confusion and frustration.

Instead, tasks should always be approached by how the successful outcome will benefit the company and its employees and customers. In the event an endeavor doesn’t pan out as planned, encourage other ideas to ensure success.

Just as rules and best practices are communicated to new hires during the onboarding process, current employees should always be given at least a framework of what’s expected, rather than being pushed to figure things out on their own.

For example, regardless of the skills and experience of current workers, it’s unrealistic to expect them to decipher on their own new company products and processes. In addition, when new roles and responsibilities are added to a current employee’s position, you must ensure they accurately understand the additional duties expected of them, and how their progress and success will be measured.

It’s possible to develop and execute profitable ideas without being caught off guard. This begins with fostering dynamic work teams where employees challenge each other to perform well in a mutually-respectful professional environment. That environment is centered around a driven and focused leader who is approachable, accountable, and focused on more than simply revenue.

How do you encourage employee success? Let us know in the comments!

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