Matt Tenney, Contributor
In a recent study, 82% of US workers said they would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager, a clear indication of the critical role good leadership plays in the daily life of the American worker.
With many workers opting to leave their jobs due to poor leadership, the toxic work conditions that develop under such leadership, and declining engagement, many leaders are wondering what they need to do differently to stop the rampant turnover and get those engagement numbers moving in a positive direction.
While managers may utilize a variety of leadership styles and engagement and retention strategies to retain employees, the best thing they can do to ensure they aren’t losing talented workers is to follow these important leadership principles.
These principles are defined by actions, beliefs, and behaviors that help leaders build authentic connections with their team members and motivate them to perform well.
There are seven leadership principles that should guide every leader: fostering a culture of accountability, cultivating an improvement mindset, maintaining good communication, making inclusion a priority, encouraging collaboration, demonstrating adaptability, and creating the ideal conditions for innovation.
In this article, I’ll explain how each of these leadership principles help to build trust with teams and inspire them to do their best work.
Foster a Culture of Accountability
According to the Partners In Leadership Workplace Accountability Study, 85% of the professionals surveyed aren’t clear on their organization’s expected results. The study also found that 93% of respondents weren’t able to align their work with expected results or take accountability for them, and 84% faulted leaders’ behavior as the biggest factor impacting responsibility in their organizations.
In my recent interview with Shanda Miller, author of From Supervisor to Super Leader, we discussed how most feedback is missing a critical component—expectations.
You can’t expect employees to take accountability for results if they aren’t being given the clarity they need to take ownership and do great work. When leaders provide this clarity through frequent feedback, they are demonstrating their own accountability for expectation-setting and inspiring their employees to hold themselves accountable for meeting expectations.
Rather than punishing employees for not achieving expected results, focus on ensuring there is clarity in job expectations, clearly communicate the organization’s goals and the role employees play in achieving those goals, and don’t just react when teams fall short of expectations—make sure you are giving employees recognition when they do achieve the expected results.
Cultivate an Improvement Mindset
Leaders should never stop growing. No matter how well a leader thinks they are leading, they should always strive to do better. They should also learn to view mistakes as opportunities for growth and encourage employees to do the same.
When leaders treat mistakes as learning opportunities, they are demonstrating their capacity for growth and helping their employees develop an improvement mindset that keeps them always moving forward.
Cultivating an improvement mindset not only helps leaders hone their leadership skills, but also inspires their team members to continuously develop their skills when they model this principle. Leaders can also help their teams continually improve by providing regular constructive feedback and coaching and mentoring employees.
Maintain Good Communication
Communication can make the difference between a highly engaged team and a highly disengaged team.
A leader’s ability to clearly articulate expectations, consistently communicate culture, and regularly exchange meaningful feedback with their team members will determine how well they are able to motivate employees.
And remember, listening is the most important part of this. Leaders who engage in active listening are able to build real connections with employees and develop an understanding of what they need to succeed.
Make Inclusion a Priority
Fostering a sense of belonging is key to engaging employees and building camaraderie among team members. Leaders set the tone for this.
The actions and behaviors of leaders makes a 70% difference as to whether an employee feels included. When they feel included, they are more likely to give helpful feedback, go above and beyond to get the job done, and engage in collaborative efforts.
Inclusive environments that champion diversity are good for improving engagement, but they are also great for creative and innovative idea generation. Organizations can benefit immensely from diverse points of view because they can spur innovation, lead to creative solutions, and create unique opportunities for collaboration with team members and clients.
When you have an inclusive team of highly engaged employees, it can achieve great things through collaborative efforts, but it’s important for leaders to create a harmonious work environment where team members work well together for this to happen.
Leaders who encourage collaboration and give their teams the tools they need to work together successfully are helping their employees learn the true meaning of teamwork. This means ensuring there’s no place for toxic behaviors within the organization.
Encouraging employees to work together keeps engagement and trust high and can lead to work environments where high performance is the norm. It can also keep employees from working in silos.
Great leaders help their teams thrive, even during difficult times, and even during times of change. As constant change is the only thing any of us can be sure of in the business world, adaptability plays a significant role in determining how successful an organization will be in the future.
Agility in adapting helps us not only survive, but flourish in times of change. Leaders are better able to do this and help their teams do this when they bring employees into the process because it provides them with a variety of viewpoints and approaches to adapting.
When leaders embrace change and demonstrate an ability to adapt quickly, but also in an intentional way that doesn’t lose sight of long-term goals, it can help employees feel a much needed sense of stability in potentially challenging times and can help them adapt more easily.
Create the Ideal Conditions for Innovation
Leaders who foster work environments where innovative thinking and creative problem solving are a way of life are ensuring the long-term success of their organizations. How do leaders do this? By creating the ideal conditions for innovation to occur.
Karin Hurt explains:
Most leaders know that a fearful environment is detrimental to innovation. Leaders who truly care about employees devote a good deal of time to creating and sustaining an environment that is free of fear, with team members who are not afraid to take risks and are empowered to make decisions.
When leaders truly care about employees and build healthy, trusting relationships with employees, the element of fear is removed, and one of the biggest obstacles to innovation is thereby removed as well.
Matt Tenney is an active CEO who aspires to create the best workplace culture in the world. Matt is also the author of Serve To Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom, and The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence. Matt is frequently invited to present keynote speeches at leadership conferences and meetings. His TEDx Talk has been viewed over 1,000,000 times since January, 2020.