As 2020 fast approaches, it will soon be time to pause, reflect and reset for the year ahead. The start of a year, like many beginnings, is when we become more intentional, not only about what we want to achieve, but how we go about it.
Think about how you show up differently for a new beginning at work, when someone new joins your team, or when you start a new business partnership. In those moments our behaviour becomes more deliberate, as we look to make a positive first impression.
By bringing that same intention to everyday interactions, it is possible to bring greater humanity to leadership. It’s an opportunity for more psychologically supportive leadership that helps people to navigate the complexity and uncertainty of organisational life.
This approach can play an important role in bolstering people’s social and emotional wellbeing and is a way of leading that helps to increase performance.
A leader’s behaviour accounts for a variance of up to 70 per cent in employee engagement, according to research. For a leader to successfully embrace more psychologically supportive behaviours he or she needs to start by developing their self-awareness.
This includes building a greater understanding of the impact they have on others and how their belief system influences the work environment they create. Self-awareness helps to balance the task and people requirements that come with being an effective leader.
Sense of Belonging
Belonging means an acceptance by others that can help us deal with the stresses of organisational life. Leaders play a vital role in creating a sense of belonging by being more deliberate in how they communicate with their team.
Leaders often focus on belonging when they are concerned a valued member of the team is thinking of leaving. By connecting with each person in their team more systematically leaders can foster a sense of belonging. Formal and informal interactions reinforce for a team member that ‘my manager values the work I do’.
Intentional leaders take the time to validate people’s internal experiences, by listening to understand their challenges, to create the basis on which to offer direction and support.
In team discussions, leaders who foster a sense of belonging value differences, and encourage diverse perspectives. These leaders facilitate involvement from everyone in the team and are more conscious to recognise people for their contribution, instead of focusing solely on the quality of their ideas.
Respect for Others
When it comes to fostering commitment, engagement and the wellbeing of employees, one of the most powerful drivers is when a leader shows respect.
Respect starts with the small habits that a leader develops, such as being on time to meetings, giving people their full attention and treating everyone equally regardless of status or role.
A lack of respect often stems from a leader’s lack of self-awareness. More often than not, they don’t recognise their impact on others.
When a leader delivers performance feedback in a respectful way, they understand how development feedback, when given poorly, can trigger a flight or fight response. A lack of respect often stems from a lack of preparation for a feedback conversation.
Respect also demands that a leader believes in the resourcefulness of their teams’ ability to get the job done. These are leaders who look for ways to give people more autonomy in the time they dedicate, and the order in which they complete tasks to help reduce stress and burnout.
People need a reason to care about achieving organisational goals; especially Millennials who are entering the workforce in higher numbers, and are looking for safety, belonging, and a sense of meaning in their work.
Although extrinsic rewards like incentives play a part, we also need the intrinsic reward that comes with leaders giving people a deeper meaning to achieve goals.
We know from research that when people have a clear sense of purpose, it contributes to increased task persistence and encourages them to learn faster.
When people are learning on the job and working towards meaningful goals, it supports their wellbeing, as they are more likely to feel like they are thriving in their role.
A team purpose doesn’t need to be altruistic, instead it should be credible and relevant, so each person understands how they are making a difference.
Leaders who seek to provide deeper meaning make the team purpose a part of daily interactions, with regular updates on each person’s contribution to achieving the shared goals. When the feedback is fair and consistent with other team members, it positively influences people’s wellbeing and performance.
Socially and emotionally supportive leadership is not about taking a soft approach. It is leadership that recognises what it is to be human in dealing with the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that comes with working in organisations today. To be successful we need leaders who bring self-awareness of their humanity to lead others with authenticity, and a desire to help their team thrive.