What’s Next in Leadership? ‘Enriching” Employees to Unleash Their Potential

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Sep 25, 2014

There’s no way around it – being a leader is tough. It’s hard and it’s getting harder.

The complexity and pace of business today makes it virtually impossible to keep up, let alone find the time to nurture and encourage your team to its full potential.

So how do you deal with it?

We all have good days and bad days

One of the most beneficial lessons I’ve learned over the years is that people are messy. Not necessarily in the cluttered cubicle, disheveled desks or slovenly stacks of forms sort of way (although there are some who would be guilty as charged), but in the complex, dynamic, multi-faceted, marvelous concoction of traits that makes each of us unique.

We’re distinctive individuals, but we’re also messy because we’re rarely same person every day – sometimes we’re even different before and after lunch!

We have good days and bad days. Some days we’re in a wonderful mood, others we’re introspective, or highly engaged, or in a funk. An off-hand comment from a colleague can make our day or crush our spirits beyond repair.

This is the emotional mine field that you have to navigate each day with your team. But keep in mind—this is also the mine field they have to navigate with you, too.

Now here’s the reality check: the buck stops with you and you can’t delegate leadership. It’s your responsibility, and your responsibility alone, for setting the tone and keeping your team on an even keel. If you can remain calm no matter how the day unfolds and be reasonably predictable, it will go a long way in providing your team with the confidence to bring their best efforts forward.

They don’t expect perfection

Make certain you maintain an open and motivated working environment. You can’t expect people to be creative, innovative or engaged if they don’t have a solid relationship of trust with you. It’s your job to create that relationship. You have to establish that positive and reliable environment if you want them to thrive and you have to reward employees for a job well done.

But there’s good news too: Research reveals that your employees don’t expect you to be perfect or to have all the answers.

What your team wants most is for you to be authentic and to care about them as people. Not as accountants, sales reps, administrative assistants, machinists, or whatever their job title is, but as PEOPLE.

So do it. Address and respect each of them as an individual with great talents – and a few idiosyncrasies – and help them to become the best they can be. If you can do that, I promise the enthusiasm and potential you unleash within your team will amaze you.

The FORUM at Northwestern University calls this “enriching” your employees and asserts that it’s the next evolution of employee engagement. Don’t do it because it’s good for the company, do it because it’s good for the employee. The company will benefit in the long run and you’ll help unleash the hidden gold of a better employee, and, a better person.

Embracing the messiness

Are you up for it? Can you embrace the messiness?

As a leader, what lessons have you learned over the years, and looking back, what would you have done differently? Can you recall some brilliant successes? I want to find out how you became the leader you are today.

I’d love to hear your stories — and feel free to be messy.

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