Poor performance in the workplace is a problem for 96 per cent of UK organisations
An article composed some time ago by Doug Crawford for People Management Magazine still holds true today and is well worth reading…
Inspiring people is not easy – for most of us it takes time, effort and persistence. Few of us have the outstanding qualities of inspirational figures such as Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, we all have the ability to inspire employees in small yet meaningful ways. And when people are inspired, they become more enthusiastic, motivated and engaged, which invariably improves their performance.
This is a key issue for most organisations – recent research conducted by Chiumento found that poor performance in the workplace was a problem for 96 per cent of UK organisations.
But inspiration is not a management tool that can be readily manipulated. It results from the creation of a positive psychological and emotional connection with an individual – it is about winning hearts as well as minds.
Managers therefore need to act in an authentic manner that earns them the trust and respect of employees. Of course, people have different personalities, needs and aspirations and what will inspire and engage one person may have the opposite effect on someone else. So what practical steps can you take to become an inspirational manager?
Learn to let go
Good management means learning to let go. It might be hard to do so initially, but you need to trust people to use their own judgment. Demonstrate that you have confidence in their abilities by empowering them and giving them a level of autonomy that is appropriate for their role, motivation and level of expertise.
Most people respond positively to being given responsibility as long as they feel supported and not dumped on, but ensure that you do it consistently – delegating responsibility and then removing it without good reason can be incredibly demotivating.
Help staff see where they fit in
Create a sense of meaning that helps people feel they are making a contribution to something that is important and purposeful. Most people feel good about themselves when they are able to understand how their contribution helps the overall success of the organisation.
Employees who are emotionally committed to an organisation’s purpose invariably exhibit greater loyalty and deliver superior levels of performance, so help people to feel that they are part of a community that is collectively engaged in something worthwhile.
Say thank you
It can be easy to forget to say thank you in the middle of a busy day, but it is important to try to provide regular praise and recognition where it is merited.
A thank you that is heartfelt and spontaneous reinforces the fact that each employee matters and that the organisation recognises and values their contribution. For most people, genuine praise is more valuable and appreciated than financial rewards.
Recognise people’s strengths
Strive to play to employees’ strengths and seek to make the most of individual capabilities and talents wherever possible. Most organisations have a wealth of potential talent that remains untapped, and it often resides in highly capable individuals who want to give more but are frustrated by unimaginative leadership and constraining organisational practices. Seek to unlock this latent potential, even if it means challenging organisational protocol.
Practise what you preach
Act with integrity, honesty and humility at all times – people respect managers and leaders who act in line with their values, who behave consistently, who don’t avoid confronting difficult issues and who provide open and honest explanations – even when it comes to admitting their own mistakes.
Exemplify the behaviours that you wish to see in others and don’t underestimate the power of your words and actions on your team and on your peers. Remember that you cannot build an inspired workforce if you are not inspired yourself, so make sure that the conditions you seek to create for others exist for you as well.
Give constructive feedback
This will help employees to understand how they are doing and how they could improve. Most people seek clarity about the progress they are making, but few welcome criticism. So make sure that feedback is balanced, that employees take ownership of the resulting actions, and that appropriate coaching and support is put in place to help individuals learn and develop.
Discuss career paths
Take development and personal growth seriously and spend time understanding your employees’ needs and aspirations. Not everyone is seeking a structured career development path, but taking time to discuss a person’s future and helping them to take the steps necessary to realise their dreams and ambitions is an important consideration for many employees.
Promote work-life balance
Remember that employees are individuals and have lives outside the workplace – you employ the whole person. So, as far as possible, shape an employment deal that balances the needs of the organisation with those of the individual. Take time to understand what an engaging employment deal would look like for different employees, and strive to achieve a meaningful and realistic work-life balance proposition for each person. Your employees will appreciate this demonstration of flexibility and the fact they are not taken for granted.
Practise open and honest communication and involve people in decision-making wherever possible. Openness and transparency help to reinforce trust and serve to stimulate creativity, ideas and a sense of connectivity. Cultivating a sense of inclusion and participation shows that you genuinely value people’s input and opinions and helps to release the latent potential within the workforce.
People work best when they do not feel under constant pressure and when they can engage in social interaction. So create the time and space for relaxation and enjoyment, and don’t underestimate the benefits of humour in containing stress and anxiety – higher levels of performance and productivity will inevitably result.
Lighting the spark
• Learn to let go – trust people to use their judgment.
• Give regular praise – genuine praise is often more valued than financial rewards.
• Demonstrate commitment to your staff – take training and development seriously.
• Practice what you preach – employees respect those who behave honestly, with integrity and humility.
• Recognise uniqueness – treat people as individuals and foster their self-esteem.
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