Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?
Authored by Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter and Vince Brewerton
In our assessments, surveys, and interviews of over a thousand leaders, many comments stood out, but one in particular was especially powerful and thought-provoking. “Leadership today,” Javier Pladevall, CEO of Volkswagen Audi Retail in Spain, told us, “is about unlearning management and relearning being human.”
What Javier means is, the power of leadership lies in our abilities to form personal and meaningful bonds with the people whom we lead. This is truer now than ever, as millennials are becoming the majority population in most companies. Millennials are not satisfied with only a paycheck, bonus, and benefits. They want meaning, happiness, and connectedness, too.
The problem is about 70% of leaders rate themselves as inspiring and motivating – much in the same way as we all rate ourselves as great drivers. But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A surveypublished by Forbes found that 65% of employees would forego a pay raise if it meant seeing their leader fired, and a 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82% of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In our opinion, these two things are directly related.
There is a vast upside to human leadership. As data from McKinsey & Company shows, when employees are intrinsically motivated, they are 32% more committed and 46% more satisfied with their job and perform 16% better.
As human beings, we are all driven by basic needs for meaning, happiness, human connectedness, and a desire to contribute positively to others. And leaders that truly understands these needs, and lead in a way that enables these intrinsic motivations, have the keys to enable strong loyalty, engagement and performance. As leaders, we must be humans before managers.
Our research showed that a global movement is taking place in the C-suites of thousands of progressive organizations like Accenture, Marriott, Starbucks, Microsoft, and LinkedIn. The leaders of these organizations ask themselves “How can we create more human leadership and people-centered cultures where employees and leaders are more fulfilled and more fully engaged?”
Based on our work in creating more human leaders, here are a few tips:
Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, a global manufacturing company, and author of Everybody Matters, has gone to great lengths to instill truly human leadership within the company. For all decisions being made, that has impact on employees, he asks himself: If my child or parent or good friend worked here, would they appreciate this decision? In this way he makes any managerial decision a personal question. He moves it from a tactical domain to an emotional domain, to make sure he is not blindsided by his status and power. Try the same when making decisions affecting your people. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine they are family members or friends.
Leadership pioneer Peter Drucker said, “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” In a recent article, we shared how one CEO greatly enhanced the engagement and performance of the teams of the bank he leads, by becoming more self-aware. The story exemplifies how leadership starts with understanding and leading yourself. When you understand yourself, you are better able to understand and empathize with the people you lead, and in turn lead for their intrinsic motivation. Good leadership starts with self-awareness, and self-awareness can be greatly enhanced through the practice of mindfulness.
Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company, says that selflessness is the foundation of good leadership. Leadership is not about you, but about the people and the organization you lead. With selflessness, you take yourself out of the equation and consider the long-term benefits of others. Selflessness does not mean you become a doormat for others and refuse stand up for yourself. Selflessness comes out of self-confidence and self-care. Here is a simple way of checking whether you are selfless in your leadership: When you make decisions, check your motivation; are you doing it for personal gain, or for the benefits of others?
Compassion is the intention to bring happiness to others. If you have ever had a leader that was compassionate, you will know what it feels like. The person has your back. The person has your interest in mind. And, as a result, you feel safe, trusted, loyal, and committed. When it comes to leadership, nothing beats compassion. It is a universal language that is understood by anyone, anywhere. If you want to bring more compassion into your leadership, make a habit of asking one simple question whenever you engage with anyone: How can I help this person have a better day?
Authored By Marcel Schwantes
Do you work in a toxic workplace? I’ll share what that looks like in a minute. But if you do, there comes a time when we all need to evaluate our work environment and the people we work with to determine if it’s hurting our career path or, much worse, our health and well-being.
If you decide to take the higher road and stick around, safeguarding against a toxic workplace falls squarely on the shoulders of every employee. Whatever your level or function, everyone needs to be watching out for one another by weeding out the few bad apples that may be taking morale down.
In his book, Eye of the Storm: How Mindful Leaders Can Transform Chaotic Workplaces, executive coach Ray Williams describes the characteristics of toxic workplaces, and the part that dysfunctional leaders play in creating them. As he writes in Psychology Today, toxic workplaces will manifest in the following seven ways:
1. All sticks and no carrots
Management focuses solely on what employees are doing wrong or correcting problems, and rarely give positive feedback for what is going right. Or mostly carrots for the best performers, sticks for the rest.
2. The creeping bureaucracy
There are too many levels of approval and management to get things done and a singular focus on micromanaging employees.
3. The gigantic bottom line
Profits, beating the competition, and cost cutting are solely focused on without consideration of other bottom lines.
4. Bullies rule the roost
Management bullies employees, or tolerates bullying when it occurs among employees.
5. Loss of the human touch
People are considered to be objects or expenses rather than assets, and there is little concern for their happiness or well-being. There’s also little evidence of leaders’ compassion and empathy for employees. As a result, you’ll encounter high levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism, and burnout.
6. Internal competition
Employees must compete internally, which is enforced by a performance assessment system that focuses on individual performance rather than team performance.
7. Little or no concern for work-life balance
People’s personal or family lives must be sacrificed for the job; overwork or workaholism is commonly evidenced by 50-hour-plus workweeks, little or no vacation time, and 24/7 availability for work communication. There is little or no commitment to making contributions to the community, worthy causes, or making the world a better place.
How do you stop it?
A good starting point is to make sure that all employees are keeping a finger on the pulse of the organization to make sure people are being cared for to do their best work, and that fear is being pumped out of the workplace regularly.
When toxic behaviors persist, here are some strategies to consider:
- Conduct a culture or employee engagement survey that reflects on the work environment and management’s performance or leadership. If they’re the problem, HR needs to step in and play a role in assessing organizational health.
- Have HR and well-meaning managers conduct stay interviews to keep good people from leaving.
- To weed out toxic employees, include behaviors like “respect,” “teamwork,” and “encouragement” in your performance planning and then measure them.
- Invest in coaching for managers and staff.
- When dealing with a toxic co-worker who is apt to turn a discussion into a he-said, she-said mud-sling, bring in a third party to document meetings to protect yourself from drama.
- Every employee needs to learn the value of setting boundaries. Define what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t–then communicate assertively with appropriate boundaries.
- Expose the problem by promoting a healthy culture and living out shared values to squeeze out unwanted things like gossip, bullying, sabotage, disrespect, and insubordination. The larger the group campaigning against toxic behaviors, the better they’ll be rooted out.