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Leadership Development: Turn On Your Employees

The concept of leadership development is not new. Over the last few decades, many scholars and business leaders have written books, articles, and curriculum on this topic. So, why another article? Simply put, the message isn't getting to front line supervisors who can energize employees to exceed your expectations.

During the first eight months of 2005, the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness sent out surveys to 327 employees, to evaluate 117 supervisors before these supervisors attended a leadership development workshop. The employees were asked to give their opinions to what their supervisors were doing right; and in what areas could their supervisors improve. Twelve companies and agencies participated in these survey evaluations representing the fields of banking, education, government, manufacturing, and sales. The data showed a definite trend. The main categories dealt almost exclusively with how the leaders interacted with their employees. The table below represents the area of leadership the 327 employees listed as concerns.

**Topic Area **Number of Respondents listing the topic as important

Support, Respect, Trust, and Commitment- 274

Coaching, Feedback, and Training- 217

Communication- 169

Availability and Access- 104

Job Knowledge, Preparation before meetings, and Technical Skills- 103

Integrity, Work Ethic- 99

The following is a sampling of what the employees said in their written responses. Notice the emotional frustration in those employees who responded negatively.

* "He needs to work on being more sensitive to the feeling of those who work with him. He can sometimes act and speak without thinking it through, coming off to harsh. He is very good at making us feel stupid from time to time."

* "She also unintentionally will interrupt people in the middle of their sentences. Has a tendency to blame those people under her direction when mistakes happen or things aren't done the way they should have been. Blaming leads to lack of trust and respect from your employees.

* "Mr. xx could use a little more patience and understanding. He tends not to listen to your entire problem before reacting."

* [My leader needs to:] "1. Stop gossiping. 2. Respect coworkers. 3. Be more willing to listen. 4. Assist team in moving up within the company, realize nobody will be on her team forever."

* "Excludes me from meeting with peers and partners, initiates no discussion on employee work plan or any other plan of mutual design, does not promote an atmosphere of trust and honest communication, steamrolls, back-stabs and embarrasses me in long-standing relationships with others on routine business without initiation of any communication with me before hand." While we note that some employees gave their managers praise, the traits the employee deemed most important continued to be the quality of the manager's interaction with the employee, respect, support, and trust.

* "[He] is a unique manager. It is a pleasure to work for him. His style is unlike any I have previously experienced, but he is excellent at achieving goals, (his way)."

* "[She] sends follow up emails after a discussion, outlining the steps/actions we agreed upon. I find this very helpful. Her open door is always inviting. She stops working and gives her full attention during any conversation. Her calm demeanor and excellent verbal communication gives me a secure and confident feeing that she is there to help me."

* "[He] is, and should continue to be a leader on the team. During team meetings, he offers valuable opinions, realistic objections and almost always has several good suggestions for improvements. [He] is also a very humble and charismatic person. These traits help him get his points across because he is not overly dominant or forceful about his opinions. [His] motto seems to be that his way is not 'the' way, only 'another' way, which is very constructive and assuring."

* "[He] leads by example; he is energetic, positive, and inclusive. He gives and accepts constructive criticism when necessary -always in a positive manner. He is sensitive when it comes to the feelings of others and while he has high expectations of his staff, he is always available to help us meet those expectations."

* "This person maintains a level hand that is unflappable under pressure. He will help when asked and gives his training and coaching time to anyone who asks as his time allows. He asks your opinion on things that are going on, topics of interest related to our work. He is very knowledgeable about our processes and procedures and shares this knowledge on a regular basis."

So what did this survey tell us?

First, employees want to be respected, their ideas listened to, and appreciated for the work they do. They want to know that their supervisor considers them as a valuable part of the company. In other words, they want to be members of a successful team.

Secondly, people want training, feedback, and coaching on how to do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more effectively. In short, the success of the team, department, or business is very important to them. For many employees, it boils down to a sense of pride to be a viable member of a team.

Thirdly, for employee success, effective communication is not the same as being told what to do. People want to know that they will be listened to, that their ideas will be accepted or at least considered. They know the processes and probably have good ideas about streamlining work. They also need to be clear as to the nature of their tasks; they don't want to make mistakes any more than you want them to. Fourthly and finally, accessibility to their supervisor is critical for employees. Whether due to attitude, hierarchy, or too much work that impedes contact, employee can begin to feel disconnected with management or out of touch with the grand scheme of the business. They may begin to feel like commodities, bowing to unyielding management dictates rather than cooperative judgments that will make their processes easier, more efficient, and often safer. They may think that the most important task is just to get the job done, good or bad. Think how easily one disgruntled or disinterested worker can sabotage the success of the whole team. It's the little things they do either consciously or unconsciously in your department that cause expenses to rise, work to be disrupted, or even loss of customers.

These findings are not suggesting that some managers are too far away to see or listen to issues. Rather, we think this data is saying that employees want to be engaged, trusted, and responsible for their contributions. The also want to share in the benefits of being linked to a successful business. The manager, by unleashing employee motivation and ingenuity, can turn his or her attention to the future, strategic planning, and interfacing with other teams. The team member (employee), by taking ownership of his or her tasks feels he or she is an equal and important partner to the success of the team. This breeds pride and pleasure in a job well done. In other words, they want to be a part of the future.

Effective leadership development can show managers how to capitalize on these needs and guide employees into effective team members and build a strong cohesive team that can accomplish more than today's tasks, it can prepare for the future.

About the author:

Martha Rice is a design team leader for the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness. She has degrees in both English and Communication and over twenty five years experience in administration.

To learn more about how to use effective leadership development, building partnerships for success, or coaching to include your employees in the success of your department or com



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