Written by: Jas Kaur, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
“Always remember that leadership is a privilege. When you’re in a leadership role, your influence may affect the trajectories of people’s entire careers (and often their lives!)”.
Being a leader is more than just a title or position of power. Great leaders inspire their teams and are the key to current and future success of an organization. The list of qualities which inspiring leaders possess are many, but below are 5 top tips which I have learned on my own journey as a young professional aiming to lead and inspire others.
1. Know Your Team
“Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, it’s also the cause of it” ‒ Mark Manson
Leaders carry a great deal of responsibility and many new leaders in particular struggle with the transition from ‘doing the job’ to ‘being responsible for the people that do the job’. In order to motivate and inspire your team, it’s important that you know them and know how best to motivate them.
From my experience, usually there are 2 types of employees in terms of motivation: Proactive Employees and Reactive Employees.
Proactive Employees usually do a task/activity which inspires and energizes them, which in turn also motivates them. Reactive Employees usually need to feel inspired to then feel motivated and do something.
By identifying the types of employees in your team, you can ensure that the correct processes and procedures are in place to ensure your team and organization succeeds.
2. Lead By Example
“A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” ‒ John C. Maxwell
By default, leaders are looked up to and set the tone for expectations in the rest of an organization. Therefore, inspiring leaders will often embody the company values and lead by example at all times.
This can include:
Respecting the business hierarchy and chain of command, ensuring that all communication is clearly directed to the right individuals/teams, to avoid confusion and miscommunication whilst increasing transparency. Many times, the root cause of bad communication in a team is that there is an assumption that information has been communicated to the right individual when it has not. How often have you missed out on important information or updates which have impacted the end point customer service delivery?
Understanding business processes well, in order to help cover at times of peak demand (including shortages due to annual leave, unprecedented levels of staff sickness or increased service usage during promotions)
Being accountable and honest! Businesses thrive most when employees are happy. Mistakes are sometimes inevitable, and it is important for leaders to be accountable and honest to allow employees to trust their leader and create an ongoing cycle where each mistake is a learning opportunity moving forwards. By being honest and accountable as a leader, you create an open space for your teams to do the same.
Bringing teams together. For an organization to work in harmony, all areas of the business must understand the significance and contribution that each business function makes. Success is a team effort, and inspiring leaders will help their teams recognize this. If all staff do not have a common understanding of the purpose of an organization, how will customers and stakeholders?
3. Recognize and Nurture Talent
“One of the greatest talents of all is the talent to recognize and to develop talent in others” – Colin Powell
Leaders who inspire their teams will often be able to recognize employee talents and aspirations, and support this to help the individual employees and also the organization. In my previous article on Supporting Young Professionals I referenced how happier employees go hand in hand with increased job satisfaction, reduced staff turnover and enhanced productivity.
Leaders can often impact employees entire careers, and this applies to both good and bad leaders. Good leaders will identify areas of training needed, and support their teams and allow them time to train, develop and excel in their fields. They will also motivate their teams, and maintain good communication with them about their performance.
‘Bad’ leaders on the other hand will provide employees with little opportunities to train, and provide little feedback on their performance, which will prevent performance improvements and career growth.
Even if you have not experienced bad leadership yourself, it’s highly likely that you may know a friend or family member who has. This bad leadership may have impacted their confidence, work ethic and job satisfaction, and so leaders do need to be mindful of the power which they hold and how they can use it positively.
4. They Appreciate and Make Positive Interventions To Support Their Teams
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”‒ Henry Ford
A small thank you can go a long way. Often, teams will achieve great milestones together, and also navigate difficult situations together which leaders may not see day to day. An initiative which I have introduced in my workplace is ‘Employee of the Month’. This has seen very positive results, and requires minimal upkeep. I created a form which employees submit a response to once a month, and the employee with the highest number of nominations is titled ‘Employee of the Month’ and receives a certificate and also features on our social media.
My intention behind Employee of the Month was to increase team morale across the whole team, with most of us having worked from home since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore in addition to the above I also present all of the anonymous reasons for nominations and show a list of ‘runners up’. In doing so, it positively demonstrates great teamwork and inspires and encourages further positivity and hard work. Appreciation is in itself a brilliant motivator!
Whilst appreciating their teams, leaders must also make positive interventions where factors are regularly affecting team performance. For example, a team may be very short staffed regularly, but they work together to provide the same high levels of service to customers. This might involve members of the team regularly clocking into work earlier and staying back later, or working multiple job roles to help cover the shortages.
A good leader at this point may thank their team for their extra efforts at the end of the working week, to show employees that their efforts have been appreciated and have not gone unnoticed. A great leader, however would also then identify that the team is regularly short staffed, and more needs to be done to provide the teams with the resources they require, and investigations undertaken to identify improvements.
A great leader would also then likely identify possible issues with the annual leave agreements causing the team to be regularly short staffed, and also identify possible burnout issues caused by their team working extended hours and multiple job roles. Additionally, process improvements may also be identified, as increased process efficiency will allow staff to manage an increased workload better.
During my working life, I have often seen an increase in reported staff sicknesses where regular additional pressures have been put on teams for a prolonged period of time. Findings from MetLife UK suggest that the potential cost to businesses as a result of sick leave taken due to burnout is more than £700m annually, with approximately 80 million working hours lost due to absenteeism. Therefore, great leaders ensure a positive working environment which has a positive impact on employees and the business alike. Great leaders will not abuse employees goodwill to go ‘above and beyond’ at times of peak demand by allowing this to become their normal workload, which will ultimately lead to burnout.
Destructive leadership can cause decreased motivation and job satisfaction as well as destructive work performance. Therefore, it is important that leaders stay in touch with their employees to address issues as soon as possible. In doing so, you are creating a continuous culture of change and a positive working environment.
5. Display Empathy and Learn
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” ‒ Maya Angelou
For many leaders, their teams are crucial in delivering key performance objectives. These same employees however are prone to making ‘human error’ mistakes and dealing with difficult personal circumstances, and it’s important for leaders to remember this.
Mistakes happen, and as leaders it’s important that we help our teams feel comfortable being accountable and honest when this happens to help resolve mistakes more quickly and prevent them from happening in future. A good mentor of mine taught me that no one comes in to work actively seeking to do a bad job, usually it’s as a result of process or external factors. In most of the instances where I have seen underperformance, it’s been due to a lack of training, communication or personal issues which have affected work. Therefore, it’s important that leaders ask “why” an issue has occurred so we can positively deal with the root cause, as opposed to assuming that we know what the issue is.
When issues occur, usually the first question I ask my team is “are you ok?” to establish if there is anything I can do to support my team. In doing so, I have created an open dialogue whereby if something is wrong, my team often let me know immediately.
Factors outside of the workplace can also affect employee performance. In the UK, approximately 1 in 8 people are receiving help and treatment for their mental health. Leaders who can help support their employees through difficult times and display kindness and empathy are more likely to have happier and more productive teams, and loyal staff members which will often lead to a higher service level to customers. Therefore, your role as a leader can shape stakeholder relationships across the organization.
In summary, stepping into a leadership position can be both challenging and very exciting, and can have a profound impact on not only your own career but also the careers of those you lead. It is important to remember when creating leaders that great employees don’t always translate to inspiring leaders, as people management is a skill in itself. I personally believe that any individual moving into a leadership position should have a form of people management training. Many of the best leaders I have looked up to are always learning and displaying positive leadership behavior, which allows others to grow under them.
How many leaders in your organization directly manage people but have little people management skills?
The time to positively act is now to ensure happier leaders and happier teams. Leaders have an ongoing role whereby you are always learning from new experiences, and the most inspiring leaders are those who continue to learn and are keen to develop positive leadership traits.
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Jas Kaur, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Jas is a well respected, inspirational and dynamic young credit union leader. She has demonstrated resilience and determination, transitioning from an apprentice to Customer Service Supervisor, to her current role as Chief Operations Officer, all within 4 years.
Owning a growth mindset, Jas played a key role in a business transformation project which delivered efficiency, innovation and growth to the business. She has connected with professionals across the globe, enabling her to learn and share best practices.
With a first-hand understanding of the challenges that young professionals can face, she is passionate about mentoring and supporting others, to facilitate upskilling whilst increasing sector talent retention and future sustainability. She firmly believes in the Credit Union ethos of “people helping people” and applies this in all areas of her life.
Jas’s efforts and dedication have been recognised regionally, and nationally. She was the recipient of the ABCUL Tracy Slane Award in 2020 and was also a finalist for both the Black Country Chamber of Commerce ‘Young Person or Apprentice of the Year Award’ 2019, and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce ‘Employee or Team of the Year Award’ 2021.