It’s a common adage: people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Last month, an Accountemps survey found that 34% of workers have quit a job because of a “strained relationship with a supervisor.” But poor leadership can negatively impact a workplace beyond employee retention – it can reduce engagement and send productivity into a downspin.
To get the lowdown on what makes a great leader, we spoke with executive coach and seasoned entrepreneur Mikael Meir. In addition to teaching at York University’s Schulich School of Business, Meir is a keynote speaker and a partner at management consultancy Strateco. Meir offers 7 leadership tips for becoming – and staying – a great boss.
Tip #1: Be caring
“It’s the most unexpected, and in fact, the most powerful trait,” says Meir. “People want to know that their bosses truly care about them.” While exploiting labour to the greatest possible extent may have been the goal in the industrial age, he says, “the organizations that have the best chance at succeeding are those that understand that culture is a strategic advantage.”
Tip #2: Become self-aware
“If bosses can build up their self-awareness, they’ll improve their levels of social awareness,” says Meir. “With improved social awareness, they’ll be able to pick up on the subtle nuances of disengagement – a look, a way of being, walking, talking, relating.” At the end of every meeting, Meir suggests going around the table to ask each employee to choose one word to describe how they’re feeling in that moment (excited, nervous etc.). “That would give the boss purview into the emotional temperature of the team, and he or she could adjust as necessary,” he says.
Tip #3: Don’t micromanage
“In many cases, bosses feel that if they can control the process, they’re being a good boss,” says Meir. The antidote? Communicate what you want clearly to your staff and coach them toward the communal goals. “Managers can dramatically increase their effectiveness if they work from the outcome and coach to that, rather than trying to micromanage the process.”
Tip #4: Talk to your employees. A lot.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be vulnerable. Be transparent. These are the elements of trust, and trust is the foundation of a strong relationship,” says Meir. “Give feedback often – not just through draconian end-of-year performance evaluations. And get personal – ask your employees where they want to be in their career, and how you can help them.”
Tip #5: Mend relationships by (you guessed it) talking
The first step in improving poor working relationships? “A conversation,” says Meir. “Bring in emotion. Get personal. Ask, ‘How are you feeling? Is there tension between us? I want to work to become a better leader, and I’m truly open to any constructive feedback you have.’”
Tip #6: Be strategic and kind
“The fundamental traits, in my view, that make the greatest leaders, are a blend of virtue and strategic capacity,” says Meir. “If a leader is purposeful and a visionary, and has a developed capacity for systems thinking, while at the same time cultivates the true power of humility and selflessness, he or she cannot go wrong.”
Tip #7: Be yourself – and encourage your staff to do the same
“The issue is so many of us bring our masks to work – the people we think we need to be in order to succeed,” says Meir. “The fact is when we do that, we’re hiding our true authentic power.”
In short: never underestimate the importance of conversations with your staff – and the power of bringing emotions into the workplace.