As the famous saying goes, leadership is a responsibility, not a privilege. Managers are entrusted with the responsibility of looking after employees. To a large degree, that involves being able to inspire and motivate them to perform to their fullest potential and beyond.
Approaching management with a “compliance” mindset is hardly going to produce self-motivated and fully engaged workers. Though it’s much easier to treat management as a means of cultivating “yes-men”, that’s also one of the fastest ways to block your team’s and company’s short term and long-term growth.
The key to being a good manager lies in understanding that it’s less about managing people, and more about leading and coaching them. To that end, here are seven leadership habits of highly motivational managers.
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Here’s the secret ingredient that underpins great leadership: empathy. It’s as simple as that, and yet so many leaders and managers today miss the mark.
Start with understanding your purpose as a manager: to serve your people, not the other way around. Once you realise that, empathising comes naturally; you have to understand and empathise with people’s pain points, frustrations, and needs to serve them well.
The greatest thing you can do for them is to create a working environment where they feel safe enough to take risks, make mistakes, fail, learn, and try again. That’s the prerequisite for high performance: psychological safety.
It’s impossible to do this without first being an empathetic leader. Empathy is how you can create strong, positive, and genuine personal relationships with your employees that form the basis for trust and psychological safety.
Self-efficacy—the extent to which people believe they have the skills to overcome a challenge—is an integral part of self-motivation.
It isn’t just about having confidence in yourself; it’s also about knowing that you’re realistically well-equipped to handle whatever challenge might come your way at work.
To boost your employees’ self-efficacy, you need to ensure that they get trained well. One of the best ways to do this is to identify each person’s particular strengths and help them make full use of it by sending them for training in those specific competencies.
Not only does this strengths-based approach to training increase their self-efficacy, but it’ll also improve employee engagement. That, in turn, will pay off for your bottom line.
Sir Richard Branson said it best: “Train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so that they don’t.”
Adversity is one of the best teachers in life. Too much of it in the workplace, though, can backfire. As a manager, it’s your job to balance between providing enough of a challenge to people to facilitate growth without over-stretching them.
According to psychologist Mihail Csikszentmihalyi, people are at their most productive when they reach a state of “flow.” This is when they’re entirely concentrated (or in the zone) on accomplishing a particular task, so much so that they derive great satisfaction from the process of working through it.
To facilitate this state, you need to give people tasks that are challenging enough to require their full focus. If it’s too easy, it can disengage them, but if it’s too hard, it can demotivate them.
One of the worst management mistakes you can make is to be too controlling. People generally resent micromanagement because it’s suffocating and conveys distrust.
Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author of the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” has written that there are three components of self-motivation. The first is autonomy.
To be self-motivated, people need to have some degree of autonomy at work. Managers who understand this know that there’s a difference between coaching and micromanaging.
Coaches teach people how to fish so that they can do it themselves for the rest of their lives. Micromanagers are the ones who keep giving people fish without imparting any skills or knowledge that empower them.
So often, managers suffer from leadership blind spots that obscure them from seeing their own faults. It isn’t necessarily because they’re self-absorbed; a lot of the time it comes down to flawed manager-employee feedback mechanisms.
The best leaders are equally adept at giving and receiving feedback from their people. They regularly give excellent constructive criticism that allows people to pinpoint exactly what they need to improve on. Additionally, they let people know that they’re open to negative feedback so that they can improve as leaders.
But they don’t just stop there. Instead of waiting for people to give them feedback, they take the initiative to approach and ask people for it.
This is such a crucial aspect of leadership because it involves listening. A business is only as good as its employees; a manager who fails to listen to his people (including asking them for feedback) is also failing to harness their full potential.
Recognising people’s successes is a surefire way of motivating them to replicate it. To take it one step further, though, you need to be careful about how you show people appreciation.
Dropping an absent-minded “thank you” isn’t enough, and contrary to popular belief, neither is dropping bonuses. In fact, according to Daniel Pink, research has shown that financial incentives like bonuses don’t motivate people (and can even backfire) when it comes to work that requires anything more than mechanical skills.
The kind of appreciation that does motivate people, though, praising not just the result of success, but emphasising the effort expended in the process of achieving it.
This is what makes people feel genuinely valued. It lets them know that their work doesn’t go unnoticed, while also reinforcing the message that it’s what they learnt in the process of succeeding that matters the most.
For people to be able to perform at their best, they need to be clear about their individual and team goals and what they need to do to get there.
It sounds straightforward enough but is much harder than it looks. This isn’t just about setting effective and clear KPIs, although that’s obviously essential.
Good managers help people achieve their KPIs. Great managers help people understand how this all fits into the bigger picture.
They know that different people have different goals, priorities, and values in life and that all of this can change over time. Hence, they use this as a basis for helping people envision a life that they want for themselves, and how setting and achieving their goals at work feeds into this vision.
In other words, they breathe meaning, purposefulness, and resilience into the process of performance by facilitating a bird’s eye view of how each person’s career connects to their life goals.
None of this is possible without regular one-on-one communication.