The most effective leaders are the ones who relate to people in basic, sincere terms. It’s entirely too easy to get caught up in your head about whether or not you’re an effective manager. It’s much better to instead be a genuine leader who works closely with employees and makes them feel valued.
But this is not always easy. It’s hard to know how to best toe that line between colleague and superior. Ideally you’re both at once, but this is not always easy or possible. Instead, here are a few specific examples for how you can engage with your employees in ways that are both casual and merited. If you force this stuff, it’s not going to work. The key word here is “genuine.”
Recognize people for doing good work. Don’t get hung up on the format of such recognition. An email to the individual, to the group, or a shoutout moment during an in-person meeting will go far in making people feel remembered and included in your organization. As the boss, the onus is on you to find the people in your company doing the best work so that you can hold them up as examples to the others.
Make autonomy its own reward. The nature of business has changed significantly with the advent of the internet. It is no longer about who is best organized, or which leader offers the best rules. Instead, most companies operate on a “lean” principle, which means it’s all about who can provide the best results first. This means that autonomous employees are more likely to see their efforts recognized. They want the recognition, you don’t want to have to tell everyone what to do all the time, and everyone wins.
Mentorship. It might be cocky to suggest being a mentor to one of your own employees, but if it’s something that one specifically requests, then go with it. Talk and figure out what such a mentorship should look like and accomplish. And be sure not to harp too much on the job—the best mentorships are ones that give people the tools to improve their lives inside and outside the office at the same time.
Collaboration. When you team up on a project with your employees, you reinforce that what they are working on is important, and you also have the opportunity to demonstrate your own approach to problems. Whether you like it or not, they’re learning from you in moments like these. Make them good, memorable moments to get some good employee engagement out of it.
This advice all boils down to remembering to be a human and remembering to treat people like humans as well. It’s too easy to let a little power totally change the way you interact with your employees. Lead by example. Take the high road, roll up your sleeves, and get busy together.