3 Things Great Leaders Are Always Doing


As the world changes more quickly and gets more competitive, and organizations restructure and retool, we work harder just to stay ahead. We get anxious and hurry, searching for the latest insights, struggling to stay relevant, fighting to protect our joy.

As leaders, we feel this intense push and pull every day. And, so do our team members.

sad guy against wall

Our firm’s recent quarterly survey of Minnesota business leaders bears this out, with an interesting trend emerging. While the results show that people are mostly clear and confident in the direction of their organization, a significant number of leaders at all levels said they don’t feel sufficiently supported or valued by others. Moreover, when asked what developmental topics are of greatest interest for their teams, “employee engagement” surfaced as a long shot winner. The distant but still significant second was “change management.”

If you link this study to two other recent studies, the trend becomes even clearer: In one, Dale Carnegie, together with a consumer insights firm, found that the emotional drivers behind “employee engagement” are feeling “valued,” which leads to feeling “confident.” In the other, conducted with an executive development firm, the results showed that “confidence” is one of the key accelerants for leadership development in today’s environment of rapid change.

The combination of these findings, along with the ample evidence for the importance of employee engagement and leadership development, tells us that now more than ever, leaders need to help people feel valued—valuable as a person and relevant as a contributor.

Here are three ways you can start doing that this week:

1. Make a crystal clear connection between contribution and organizational results. In a recent training I conducted for scientists and researchers at a large company, several admitted they would have little idea how to explain the connection between their work and strategic organizational value. Why aren’t their leaders reminding them constantly of why they matter?

2. Communicate often, and be real about it. Are you a scripted version of yourself, or are you really making a connection? Though it sounds cliché, transparent communication equals connection, and when people feel connected, they feel belonging. Few have written more compelling cases for this than Patrick Lencioni, who notes that honest, transparent, clear and frequent communication is the most important yet under-applied leadership behavior.

3. Prioritize people over productivity. Most of us want to make people around us feel valued. We want to help people feel relevant and connected. It’s our schedules that get in the way. As Charles Hummel famously said, “We are tyrannized by the urgent.”

Intention isn’t enough. We need to make structural adjustments to prioritize people over productivity: Proactively schedule the time for one-to-one, small group and large group connection. Plan when you’ll walk the floor, call remote team members and just…be available. Schedule the time and protect it.

While the world spins faster, sometimes we need to spin slower so we can get the most from ourselves and our team. What will you do this week to help yourself and others feel relevant?

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