The working world is changing. Many of these changes are positive, such as the better work-life balance offered by companies that have adopted flexible working or working from home schemes, but there have also been some less than desirable ones, too. Across many industries, there’s been a notable increase in the number of employees struggling with burnout, disengaging from their work, feeling underappreciated, and wanting to move on to pastures new – and, as ‘The Great Resignation’ proved, many of them are more than willing to seek out that greener grass.
With the landscape shifting around them, employees will be looking to their leadership team now more than ever for structure, guidance, and proof their leaders are truly “stepping up” to support them. Empty words and unfulfilled promises that may once have temporarily pacified the workforce are no longer enough; if you want to keep their talents and skills on your side rather than a competitor’s, they need to see positive action and know they are being listened to with genuine, open ears.
Meeting these growing needs may sound daunting and add to the pressures of being a leader, but you’ve already taken the first step towards positive change just by reading this blog. The fact you’re here shows you care about their employees and are willing to make necessary improvements to better support them, which makes you our kind of leader!
To assist you in your journey to becoming an even better leader by supporting your employees wellbeing, we’ve put together a few suggestions below to give you a foundation upon which to build.
Make time to actively listen: one of the many triggers for employees feeing undervalued and disengaging from their work is the perception their words fall upon deaf ears. Conversations are only helpful and productive when you truly listen and pay close attention to what your employees say, as well as what they don’t say. So, whenever you want to engage in a meaningful conversation with an employee, make sure you create an appropriate space and time for them that is free from distraction and allows you to give them your undivided attention. Putting your phone away and asking clarifying questions may not seem like much, but trust us – they’ll notice and appreciate the effort more than you may realise.
Be clear, concise and consistent: if you’ve ever come out of a meeting feeling more unsure than when you went in, you’ll know how disheartening, confusing and frustrating it is when messages aren’t properly delivered. If your team doesn’t know exactly what your expectations are, they’ll be forced to read between the lines and the uncertainty around where they stand could lead to an increase in stress and disengagement. The best way to counter this and give your employees the guidance and support they need, try to adopt a SMART approach:
Specific – what is your goal and what needs to be done to achieve it?
Measurable – what markers will the team be using to track their progress?
Achievable – is what you’re expecting of them actually possible?
Relevant – how does your goal advance or relate to the team?
Time-bound – when do you expect this to be done?
Show empathy, compassion and grace: although you may not be able to completely understand your employee’s situation and feelings, it’s important that you at least try to put yourself in their shoes to better understand what they might be going through and, where appropriate, give them space to process. By validating their experiences and showing them genuine compassion, you will help lower their stress levels during a difficult time and build their trust in you going forward by proving you will have their back if and when they need it.
Accept less than perfection from yourself: being a great leader doesn’t mean you have to get everything right all of the time; making mistakes is part and parcel of being human. Acknowledging when you’re in the wrong and taking steps to fix your errors demonstrates a humility your employees will appreciate and will also set a good example for when they make mistakes themselves. So, instead of expecting ‘perfection’ from yourself and refusing to let anyone see your flaws, reframe them in your mind as opportunities to learn and move forward, knowing that in doing so you will be encouraging your employees to do the same.
We know some of our suggestions above may already be part of your leadership style (if so, give yourself a pat on the back from us), but we hope we’ve given you some good food for thought to take forward on your journey.
If you’d like to find out more about how to support your employees’ wellbeing, why not get in touch with one of our team below or book one of our Mental Health workshops?